“It looks like a snapshot in time waiting for life again,” reflects Cohasset Dramatic Club President Lisa Pratt, as we spoke about what the future holds for live theatre and their highly-anticipated production of The Music Man. The show was supposed to take the stage in March on the weekend Covid-19 shut everything down.
Sleepless Critic spoke to Pratt about live theatre, the history of Cohasset Dramatic Club, and how art makes a new start. Cohasset Dramatic Club is hoping to present The Music Man in September 2020 to kick off its 100th season, but what it will look like still remains to be seen.
Sleepless Critic: I understand you are hoping The Music Man will arrive this fall.
Lisa Pratt: I guess I’m hopeful but realistic. From a parent’s standpoint, I only want to do what’s best and give everyone an outlet for a beautiful and wholesome show. Literally every costume is perfectly intact and every dressing room is waiting for us to come back. It looks like a snapshot in time.
Of course, there’s the financial fallout. We spent all that money to put on a show, but didn’t sell a single ticket. Not that theatre is a money-making venture. We might lose more money producing the show than not, but the art is so important to put back on its feet again that we’ll do whatever we have to do to make it happen.
It’s ironically Cohasset Dramatic Club’s 100th season this September and we had a bunch of plays in the talking stages. We are scheduled to do Our Town because Our Town author Thornton Wilder portrayed the Stage Manager when it was first being produced in summer stock on our stage which was what Cohasset Town Hall’s Theatre space was before The South Shore Music Circus became their second venue. It was necessary to have more space, so a family named Cook who owned that flat land in Cohasset, donated the land to let the people put up a tent for shows in 1950. The summer stock circuit started in the 40s. It was in and out of the Cohasset Town Hall for 10 years.
Our Town, a relatively simple show to produce, has a fairly large cast. The town election takes place in that space. It works for them and I think it is convenient to have the town officers have their own auditorium attached to them. So, we would bypass a September 1 election and have Our Town before the November 3 election. The final show and the end of our 2021 season would be in March 2021.
Sleepless Critic: I was watching the 1962 film The Music Man a few weeks ago. At one point in the movie, Robert Preston as Harold Hill was told not to go in that house and he replied, “Why? Is it in Quarantine?”
Lisa: Shut the front door! Are you kidding me? That is so funny. We want The Music Man be a live event at this point. It all depends if Covid-19 follows the right path to keep all of us safely sharing space and moving forward. As much as I want it all to happen, I would be devastated if anything came from it and someone got sick. What will it look like?
Sleepless Critic: Theatre has transformed a bit as we’ve been going through what Lin- Manuel Miranda deemed “an intermission.” Some theatres have just stopped and some have turned to other avenues.
Lisa: I feel we have stayed in touch with people who have wanted to study scene work, choreography, dance, and vocal work. In the spring, we created a program called, Live from the Living Room, a free virtual production with option to donate to Cohasset Dramatic Club and people did. We did a special theatrical makeup piece created by Lancôme’s Cara Lee Chamberlain. We have a great friend who is a professional dancer and choreographer for The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon in New York. She also choreographed a large theatrical production of Matilda which took place at the Union Theatre in Minneapolis, one of the biggest regional theatres in the country. She taught a choreography class and we had lots of young families virtually tune in. We did that for about six weeks and then took a break to settle in a bit.
This would have been our 15th consecutive year of offering that summer theater education and performance program for kids ages 8-21. One of the shows we got the rights to produce this summer is Les Miserables with age ranges from 14 to 21 years old. We are excited we are not losing the rights and doing it next year.
Cohasset Dramatic Club has been at the same place for 100 years and thankfully, I haven’t been at the helm of it that long which I think is unique. So many theatres I respect are having a hard time and I am saddened every time a theatre is selling off stuff because they can’t keep it alive anymore or however it works at a professional, regional, or local level. No one goes into this with the amount of time it takes to spend to do any less than the best they can with the resources they have. For that, I am always buoyant when I see theatres at any level doing great things.
Whether we present our work virtually, in person, or on the town green with people sitting further apart from one another, the arts community is committed and alive and it’s so important for so many people to keep it that way.
I’m so proud of this organization that has been through good times and bad whether living on a shoestring budget or having the money to pay for rights for shows before they get to deadline. We’re part of a community that I think we’ll survive. If there is ever a person looking for a rocking chair and we have one, I’ll be the first one to say that you can come get it or I can meet you somewhere. That’s the camaraderie of our combined love of art.
We can do this. Theatre can do it. It has survived through everything.
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