One of the highlights of a traditional Four County Players’ season is its annual holiday performance and even though it had to cancel its on stage performances amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the community theater group proves once again that “the show must go on.”
Launched online last Friday and continuing through Jan. 3, “Home for the Holidays” is a virtual musical revue filled with holiday songs, memories and humor.
The Barboursville-based Four County Players used a Bounce Back small business grant of federal CARES Act funds through the Orange County Economic Development Office to produce its annual holiday production.
The CARES Act, a broad economic stimulus bill passed in March 2020 offered a range of programs designed to help small businesses, non-profits and local governments affected by the pandemic. For Four County Players the funding has allowed the show to go on—in a COVID compliant manner.
Four County Players Marketing Director Edward Warwick White is thankful that the group is able to continue during the pandemic.
“The CARES Act funding made it possible for us to not only continue moving forward, but also to do so creatively and adapt to the challenging times,” he said. “We feel great in the sense that we’ve been able to keep our small staff on-deck and fully employed and able to continue making art and fulfilling our mission for the community.”
Warwick White, who is also director of “Home For the Holidays,” noted there have been some challenges associated with the new format.
“We have been strategic about our new content, choosing shows that were either written for Zoom or shows that we can create and have recorded and streamed,” he said. “Virtual shows are still staffed with a production team but in-person productions require a lot more hands on deck. Logistics are a lot easier because you aren’t dealing with elaborate sets, costumes or crying babies in the audience. However, you are at the mercy of technological challenges. If a cast member has a computer issue or Wi-Fi trouble or there’s a delay, it is a problem.”
All auditions were via pre-recorded video submissions. The cast for the musical rehearsed on Zoom and when it came time to film, each song was recorded individually to limit contact between performers.
For the actors, it’s not quite the same as an on-stage, in-person performance, though.
“We miss having the feedback of a live audience, the laughter, the applause, the gasps,” he said. “A show transforms in front of a live audience. It’s an exchange that happens; you feed the show to the audience and they feed it back to you with new energy and reactions.”
Four County Players has moved promotion online as well, concentrating on social media and their website to promote “Home For the Holidays.”
The group is planning to continue with the online programming into next season and plan to return to in-person performances after the pandemic eases.
“While none of us have a crystal ball, we are hopeful with a vaccine that we can return to normalcy next season,” said Warwick White. “Meanwhile we will be really careful and keep health and safety top of mind. Virtual programming will continue this spring with the Teen Arts Project production of “Student Council v. Andi Johnson” in February and a production of “The Laramie Project” this coming April. We are excited to incorporate all the things we’ve learned throughout the pandemic into our programming and operations once things move back to in-person, whenever that may be.”
Four County Players was founded in 1973.
Based in Barboursville, the non-profit community theater is a volunteer- based organization.
For more information about the group’s upcoming productions, or to purchase tickets for a performance, visit their website at www.fourcp.org.