Proud Mary Theatre Company, South Carolina’s only LGTBQ+ theatre troupe, has been busting down barriers in the arts scene in the Upstate for three years. And now the small company has again taken the road less traveled to confront the Covid-19 crisis head-on.
While all theatres are shuttered, many are producing weekly virtual offerings – such as Spartanburg Little Theatre’s concert series and “5 Til Places” interviews and Glow Lyric Theatre’s “Couch Concert Series,” or conducting summer youth camps. Others like Centre Stage and South Carolina Children’s Theatre are holding limited live outdoor performances,
Proud Mary Theatre Company, on the other hand, has gone full frontal with masks adorned with unprecedented virtual play programming.
Since early May, Proud Mary Theatre has produced nine virtual play readings of new works, many by local playwrights in its Brand Spanking New Play Series. And this week, the theatre produced its first published play, The Boys in the Band sequel as a pay-to-view special with the original 2018 cast back for The Men From the Boys.
“Proud Mary Theatre is a young company so we cannot rely on a 40, 75, or 90 year history of donors and subscribers as other established theatres,” said Artistic Director Sandy Staggs.
“Conversely, we do not have paid staff and rent on 300-500 seat theatres to pay every month irregardless of whether they sit empty or not. That has been our saving grace.”
Like many American businesses and nonprofits, Proud Mary employs the Zoom app to conduct board meetings, auditions, rehearsals, and to record plays.
“We gave up on the ‘live’ concept early on due to so many unknown variables such as unreliable Internet service or sound quality issues. Now we record and then edit out the hiccups.“
“Obviously, this is not the same as live theatre. The actors are reading from scripts, and there is no live audience to respond.,” Staggs said. “Admittedly, our earliest plays were not as polished due to the learning curve for all involved.”
The Men From the Boys been such a success, he said, that the company has shifted to an all-virtual season for 2020, including the upcoming Sordid Lives by Del Shores on August 14, The Pussy Grabber Plays on August 27, and The Laramie Project on October 6.
“And even with Boys we had internet service problems, and other factors and limitations, but we do the best with the technology we have.”
Staggs said, “We try to elevate our readings to ‘performances’ with the addition of props, costumes, sound effects, music and graphics whenever possible.”
“Actors and directors are unemployed right now and very starved for an outlet to hone their craft.”
“To be honest, we never would have gotten the Boys back together if it wasn’t for the Covid-19 virus, since some have moved to Atlanta since 2018. A silver lining? Yes.”
“And look at our cast for The Laramie Project. Under normal circumstances, these actors would be employed in professional gigs or committed to much grander productions at the larger theatres in Spartanburg and Greenville. Tehy would never have been available.”
Sordid Virtual Lives directed by Sandy Staggs will stream all weekend August 14-16 2020 on our new Virtual Vimeo PlayHouse Channel and will feature our original all-star cast members who have been waiting patiently for six months to perform this Del Shores comedy classic for you.
The Pussy Grabber Plays, our all-woman production based on the stories of Donald trump’s accusers, will premiere on Thursday, August 27 @ 8 pm just as the assaulter-in-chief accepts the GOP nomination for president.
The Laramie Project 20th Anniversary Production directed by Ben Dawkins will proceed as a video documentary and begin streaming October 6, 2020 on the 22nd anniversary of the fatal attack of gay college student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. Our cast has been announced.