Local actors are returning to the stage to deliver the fun and creative performances we’ve been missing since the pandemic closed curtains and theater doors in March.
This month, the Gilbert Theater brings “Barefoot in the Park” to stage Oct. 2-18 with limited seating and social distancing in effect. There will only be 25 seats sold per performance, in order to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines for public gatherings.
“‘Barefoot in the Park’ is a classic Neil Simon comedy,” said Larry Carlisle, the show’s director and the Artistic Director for the Gilbert. “It’s about two newlyweds who move into a tiny apartment in New York City and deal with being newlyweds, weird neighbors and mothers.”
Simon, who died in 2018, was a playwright, screenwriter and author. In his lifetime, he received more combined Oscar and Tony award nominations than any other writer. Widely considered to be a Broadway icon, Simon wrote more than 30 plays, including “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “Biloxi Blues” and “The Odd Couple.” Simon won the Pulitzer Prize for “Lost in Yonkers.”
The “Barefoot in the Park” cast includes Tanisha Johnson and Gage Long as newlyweds Corie and Paul; Deannah Robinson as Corie’s mother; Gabe Terry as neighbor Mr. Velasco; and James Merkle as the telephone repairman. Carlisle will also have a small role as a deliveryman.
Despite performing to a quarter of the theater’s capacity, Carlisle and the cast agree that producing the show is worth the effort.
“Everyone’s gotten stir crazy,” Terry said about closures due to the pandemic. “The show’s a lot of fun to do.”
Providing live entertainment is something the performers enjoy, no matter the crowd size, Carlisle said. With COVID-19 restrictions, the cast and crew have been able to explore some interesting ways to adapt their performances.
“I’m just excited to get back to stage,” Robinson said. “Granted, it will be limited capacity.”
Safety precautions in place will include masks for theater attendants, hand sanitizer stations, no-contact concessions, temperature checks upon entry and cleaning between performances.
“For all the performances we’re asking all patrons to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” Carlisle said.
Preparing for the masked performances has been a fun challenge for the cast.
“It is interesting because there’s so much (in the story) that involves intimacy,” Terry said.
Robinson added, “We’re working around it, having fun with it, even with the mask.”
The team at the Gilbert is optimistic that the audience will attend and enjoy the show, if only for a short respite from the daily headlines.
“It’s two hours to take your mind off your trouble, don’t worry about everything going on outside,” Carlisle said. “It’s a light breezy sitcom-esque
Johnson added, “Come out and laugh, have a good time.”
Recognizing that some patrons might not be comfortable even with all those precautions, Carlisle said there will be two performances where the actors will also wear masks. Those shows are scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 10, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The Gilbert Theater is located at 116 Green St. in downtown Fayetteville. There are several discounts available including student, military and first responder. Contact the box office for more info on the show or to purchase tickets at email@example.com.