StageDoor Theatre

Finding Ways to Meet the Challenges of the COVID-19 Shutdown

Gavin Maurer has served on StageDoor Theatre’s board of directors since 2009. He has appeared in many shows presented at the theater, the most recent of which was “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.” In addition to “playing” with his friends at the theatre, he is a singer/songwriter and has appeared at many venues throughout the area. Our sincere thanks to Gavin for describing for us how a nonprofit, live performance theater presentation company addresses the needs of its members for the betterment of the young participants associated with the theater and the entire community.

Senior blankets. Each year, StageDoor Theatre ( honors its high school seniors with a blanket to commemorate their StageDoor career, and especially to thank each of them for being such a large part of the StageDoor family over the years.

“Typically, on closing night of the final show, we give each senior a blanket and a wooden board with a collage of photos and performance programs,” says Beth Campbell, StageDoor Theatre board member and one of the directors of StageDoor’s education program. “With this year’s extraordinary events, we have had to be very creative. Due to the COVID-19 virus, our Senior Company (high school) production of Sweeney Todd had to be postponed, and one of the impacts was that there was no closing night. So, the day of graduation, as the kids finished the graduation parade, we asked them to do a curbside visit, where each student was given a red rose, and we will send a blanket to each senior.”

But what this year’s collage will not be able to communicate is the enormous impact felt by each senior, and all the students in the program.

In most years, this article would be about StageDoor’s upcoming season. And while we are excited about what is coming, the uncertainties of being able to rehearse and perform are an ever-present shadow. Like so many theaters and performing arts organizations, StageDoor Theatre has been handicapped by the shutdown. The theatre, now in its 30th year, has been a huge part of the mountain community scene, providing thousands of students, adult actors and patrons with educational programs and a dozen productions each year.

“Our survival is on the line,” says Dean Arniotes, president of StageDoor’s board. “We can’t overstate the shutdown’s impact on StageDoor and so many other performing arts organizations. We have always felt our responsibility to provide a safe and nurturing place for our students and adult performers. But this year, we have had to face tough challenges that we never anticipated. We know that at some point, we will be able to open our doors.

“The biggest challenges are to think about the safety of our actors, singers, tech crews and audience members, and to assess the point at which it’s worth doing financially. There is a risk of putting on a production and not knowing the returns, and there is no way to know how it will turn out until the time comes to try it. This is by far the biggest challenge our theatre has faced in its 30 years.”

Ella Spoor, Conifer HS 2020 graduate and a student at StageDoor since the sixth grade, talked about how the shutdown and isolation has affected her and her fellow students. In addition to doing her final classwork, she has “been watching baking videos, doing jigsaw puzzles, and taking hikes.” She is also staying involved in StageDoor’s upcoming production of “She Kills Monsters.” “We do Zoom rehearsals, and because we won’t be able to perform it live, we’re doing a Podcast—kind of a modern take on a radio show,” says Ella.

“The pandemic has caused people to reevaluate what’s important to them. People are closer to siblings. I do not remember the last time I had dinner with my family three nights in row. Now it happens all the time,” Ella states. When asked how she and her friends are coping, she says, “Some days we thrive. Other days, getting out of bed and taking a shower is an accomplishment.”

So, what is StageDoor Theatre doing to keep the ball rolling? Beth Campbell talked about balancing her role as a mom and a producer at StageDoor. “My daughter will be a senior. She misses her time on stage, and she misses her friends, but I am seeing all these kids support each other and make the best of it. They are doing Zoom projects. Some work beautifully, others not quite in sync and not as planned, but isn’t that an analogy for life? We’ll be sharing those zoom projects in an online, live-stream fundraiser showcasing the students on June 28.”

Says Campbell, “I’m so proud of the way the creative teams stepped up. Even though they are furloughed, they show up.”

One of those creative professionals is Tracy Doty, board member and longtime choreographer at the high school, college and professional levels. “I love and adore StageDoor and the people there. The high schoolers light up my life. High school is a hard time, particularly this year. Our StageDoor education team is working its tail off to come up with ideas. There is a lot of love at the theatre, and a lot of love keeping it viable. It is my happy place. I want to be there.”

Dean Arniotes, when asked about what the future holds for the theatre, says, “It’s all about our people. We have the people and resources to pull through, and we are so fortunate to have gifted people who bring in expertise, commitment and passion to learn from this year’s events, and move ahead to our next 30 years.”