A nonprofit theater organization for young actors is looking ahead to its upcoming season, which may mark a return to performances with live, in-person audiences.
The Whidbey Children’s Theatre in Langley is about a month away from the announcement of its 2021-22 theater season, known as the theater’s annual “Raise the Curtain” event.
What typically has followed a “gala” format of food, drinks and fundraising has been pared down this year to a movie format for enthusiasts of the theater to enjoy watching while at home.
The “world premiere” of the theater’s 40th anniversary season, which will be accompanied by pre-recorded performances from 17 child actors, is scheduled for noon on Saturday, May 1. Nikki Lee Enters, who is vice president of the nonprofit’s board, said the link to the show will be available on the organization’s website and social media accounts.
Although the movie is free to view, any donations to the organization are appreciated.
The theater has been quiet since February 2020, when its last production, a “Jungle Book” musical, ran. Half of the 2019-2020 season was cancelled because of COVID-19, even though the theater’s rendition of “Les Miserables” was five rehearsals away from running in March. The summer 2020 show, “Willy Wonka,” was also cancelled.
Cathleen Stewart, who is president of the nonprofit’s board, said there is no current plan to resurrect “Les Mis” for the new season. Some of the actors, who were in high school at the time, have since graduated or will within a few months.
Callum Cassee, a senior who has been part of the Whidbey Children’s Theatre for nearly a decade, said “Les Mis” was on a whole other level. His mother, Cait Cassee, was the show’s director.
“It wasn’t a big shock but it was somehow surprising at the same time,” the 18-year-old said of the show’s cancellation. “At that point I had felt like the theater was untouchable, that we could just push through anything.”
“Raise the Curtain: The Movie,” he added, gives actors the opportunity and the freedom to perform never-before-seen content of their choosing.
He is one of the 17 actors participating in the short filmed skits that will be part of this year’s event. He will be singing a duet with a fellow actor, as well as taking part in a skit centered around fight choreography, a recent passion of his.
Filming for the movie event will begin in April.
Although leaders of the theater have been tight-lipped about the theme of the new season, Enters did say it “will probably be Whidbey Island’s favorite theme.”
Live performances, which could start in the fall, will be dependent on COVID-19 guidelines. Even if every adult in the audience is vaccinated, all the kids on stage may not be. Stewart said because of this, some plays may need to be double-cast to allow for everyone to participate because of social distancing guidelines.
Enters, an alum of the theater, said she has really enjoyed getting to see it “spread its wings and fly” over the years.
Stewart said the theater has done a good job of keeping founder Martha Murphy’s legacy going.