While most performing arts organizations and venues remain dark due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilton Manors-based Island City Stage recently announced steps to safely reopen on a video conference held on Monday, Aug. 31.
The 40-minute briefing was convened by managing director Martin Childers with a special appearance by drag personality Dixie Longate, star of the Off-Broadway hit “Dixie’s Tupperware Party,” to promote her new show, “Dixie’s Happy Hour.” Longate will give a special benefit performance for the company next month in the Imax theater at the Museum of Discovery and Science in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
“All my performances have been shut down due to the corona … I was like, ooh, I could stay home with my kids, but that’s gross … so I came up with this,” said Longate in her signature Southern drawl.
Dr. Deborah Mulligan was also on hand to discuss the science behind the new safety precautions and answer both previously submitted and live questions.
At the fundraiser, which has been originally scheduled Sept. 8, attendance has been limited to 100 and all seating will be socially distanced throughout the theater. Masks will be required throughout the performance. There will be no concessions sales before the show and during intermission. The theater will also be thoroughly sanitized before the performance. The museum’s safety plan was endorsed by the Broward County health department.
Island City Stage is scheduled to resume productions at Wilton Theater Factory in Wilton Manors on Oct. 29 with Drew Droege’s one-man comedy, “Bright Lights and Bold Patterns,” but will wait out the pandemic before staging larger cast productions until next June.
Island City Stage is not the first local company to consider reopening.
Intimate Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale quickly abandoned its limited schedule of comedy and improv performances featuring Sheba Mason due to weak ticket sales.
Producer Ronnie Larsen has successfully presented two shows in the adjacent Wilton Theater Factory Foundry space since July and is also offering private performances for patrons who remain concerned about novel coronavirus exposure, despite the increased safety measures.
Childers admitted Island City’s strategy was not without risk: In a survey of current subscribers and past ticketholders, approximately 60% expressed concern about attending live arts events before an effective vaccine was developed and available.
He and the company’s board of directors remain optimistic that audiences are ready to enjoy live performances again and will do so in the safe environment they have committed to creating. A recent fundraising campaign to cover operating expenses during the shutdown exceeded goals.
Childers told the video chat audience, “We’re surviving, we’re doing well and we’re grateful to still be here,” at a time when many other nonprofit theater companies remain uncertain about their futures.
For tickets and more information, go to IslandCityStage.org.