The San Benito Stage Company will take its first steps in creating theater again after shelving all of their production plans for the year. It will hold open auditions for an online talent show from July 1-12.
“The pandemic threw a wrench in a lot of things,” said Derek Barnes, president of San Benito Stage Company. “We thought it was only going to be a couple months before we could get back to business but as it has worn on we realized it still has a hold on things in San Benito County.”
Taking a cue from how other performers and artists have been using the web to connect with their audiences, by presenting live concerts and film festivals, the company is working to create an online talent show for county residents.
“We were looking for a way to show San Benito County what Stage Company was all about and connect with them in a way they might not be used to,” Barnes said. “We are hoping we will get a lot of interest because it is open to acts and people of all ages. We want to see all the talent out there.”
Those selected through the audition process will be asked to record their full act. The acts will be uploaded on YouTube on July 25 at 7 p.m.
“It will be pre-recorded and put together like a professional show,” Barnes said. “We want it to look like something people would be used to seeing from us where it has been rehearsed and ready to go.”
Plans are still going forward for fundraising. Casino Night, which had been scheduled for March 24 and postponed to October, then later canceled, will be replaced by a silent auction.
“We are looking at late October or early September,” Barnes said. “There will be a dinner pick-up followed by a silent auction on Facebook Live to help us with much-needed funds for our organization.”
In the meantime, the company is looking into a version of a staged reading which would be performed live online with actors in costume performing in front of various backgrounds.
“I think there is a lot that can be done in this new normal we are in,” Barnes said. “We just need to find a way to organize it. I think we have the people that can do it and we are looking forward to the future.”
Before San Benito County was ordered to shelter-in-place, the company had been planning their annual major fundraiser, Casino Night, and rehearsals had begun for “Beauty and the Beast, Jr.,” which was set to open on April 24.
“We were working on our children’s show and we were already three weeks into production,” Barnes said. “We hoped that we could postpone it to this summer in late June or early July at San Benito High School. But they are not even running a full summer school this year and will be doing everything online.”
The uncertainty of phased reopening makes long-term planning impossible for the company.
“Based on where we stand as a live stage company, we have to reach Phase 4 before we could fully open up,” Barnes said. “We do not foresee it happening any time soon so we have canceled all the rest of our live events and shows for the year. There are just too many unknowns.”
Phase 4 of California’s Resilience Roadmap includes the gradual opening of “larger gathering venues at a pace consistent with public health and safety, such as nightclubs, concert venues and live audience sports.”
The companies which license plays for performance have allowed productions to be canceled or postponed and given leeway about when they can resume, Barnes said. The company still hopes to perform the three plays they have already purchased.
Beyond just the idea of having an audience in a theater, the pandemic has made the logistics of staging a play impossible.
“When you work in close proximity on stage you have to worry about that,” Barnes said. “And masks, no matter how useful they are in protection, certainly inhibit your ability to be understood. Things like props and set pieces, how do you clean them? And how do you keep actors six feet apart backstage? Those are problems we are not ready to tackle.”
Submit family-friendly, one-minute audition pieces to the Stage Company by email to [email protected].
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