By MICHAEL FORSTER ROTHBART • Special for www.AllOTSEGO.com

Moana, right, played by Yana King, gets caught by crab Tamatoa, played by Claire Smith, with Dalilah Synan as left clamp and Taryn Brockway as right clamp, in a scene from ‘Moana Jr.’ Student actors practice during a dress rehearsal for Moana Jr., produced by Orpheus Theater’s Starstruck Players at the Foothills Performing Arts Center in Oneonta on Monday, June 14. The show, which opens on Friday, June 18, will be the first live performance of Orpheus in more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Michael Forster Rothbart / AllOTSEGO.com)

ONEONTA – It was a dark time for theater in Otsego County.

In 2020, the Glimmerglass Festival and the Fenimore Art Museum each canceled their summer performance seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Oneonta, the Foothills Performing Arts Center went 14 months without a show, according to operations director Geoff Doyle.

The high schools and the two Oneonta colleges experimented with streaming virtual theater, performed live without an audience. Local troupes such as the Catskill Puppet Theater and the Orpheus Theater have canceled shows, while Stuff of Dreams Productions has pre-recorded performances for later airing.

This summer, step by step, the lights are back on and theaters are reopening, but with a few changes for COVID security. Theaters operated at 33% capacity, with mask requirements in place, but that will change in the future, with most of the state’s pandemic requirements easing.

“The hardest part of it all has been knowing what the regulations are, being aware of when they change,” Doyle said. “Local, state and federal governments haven’t sent a unified message for a long time.”

Foothills had two small performances over the past month, a puppet show and a youth recital, as a way to get back into business. The first big show begins on Friday, June 19, when the Orpheus Theater opens its production of “Moana, Jr.” on the Bettiol stage in Foothills. The show, a one-hour musical adaptation of the 2016 Disney animated film, will be performed by Orpheus’ Starstruck Players, a children’s theater program, with a cast of twenty-five children ages 8-18.

On Monday June 14, during a full sequence of the show, an exuberant energy was visible on stage, with moments of chaos that turned into dance numbers. Even with masks on, it appeared that many of the cast were smiling as they performed.

Then the actors tried on their villager costumes and gathered on the stage for a review. Production manager Kate Simeon took notes on the changes needed as cast members serenaded her with songs from Frozen Jr., the last show the band performed, in January 2020.

Director Sarah Lynn Serafin sat down to examine the composition. “It’s a disaster,” said Serafin, who has been director of youth programming for Orpheus since 2010 and is prone to hyperbole.

“There is too much beige. After consultation, she decided to loot Orpheus’ costume warehouse for more colorful material.

That night, Serafin answered questions from his car after a late trip to the storage facility. “In November, when we started this process, we assumed we would stream it. And only a month or two ago we decided to go live, ”she said.

“You know how much people have gone nowhere. They haven’t done it for so long, ”Serafin said. “When you sit down and watch live theater… there’s so much more excitement because the audience feeds on the artists, the artists feed on the audience. You know, it’s a give-and-take relationship when you’re in a live theater environment, that can’t be replicated anywhere else. “

Aly Erario, 18, in her final year at Oneonta High School, has been on Orpheus shows since the age of 10. She starred as Elsa in “Frozen” last year. In a defining moment, she stood on top of her ice castle. When the lights went out, she ripped off her cloak; By the time the spotlight returned, moments later, she had transformed from princess to queen. Standing at the edge of the stage, the rest of the cast lined up behind her, they sang “we’ll never go back!” The past is in the past! ”And then the scene darkened.

This line now seems prophetic. Erario’s next three plays have been canceled. “Everyone says how great your senior year is and it’s the best year of your life. And you know, most of them have been canceled because of the pandemic, ”she said. As things start to reopen, “honestly any social interaction I can have is amazing because we’ve been isolated for so long.”

Last month Erario had a starring role in the OHS musical “Little Women”. His parents watched it live – each actor was entitled to two guests – but the rest of the audience was virtual.

She said she was grateful that her latest Orpheus show had people watching. “It’s really good when you have a live audience because you get the laughs and the cheers, just everything, even the smallest, it looks like someone is busy in their seat, you know, that’s just people who are there, ”Erario said.

As the last cast left the building, many greeted the directors in a good mood.

Performing theater, said Serafin, “is more than just putting on a show. I mean, you have to think about what they’re going through, in school, in life and everything in between. And so… you really want to make it a safe space, a home, if you will, for the kids.

“I cried a lot of rehearsals tonight,” Serafin admitted. “Yeah, I cried on a Monday, and it usually takes me until the performance until I really feel it. That means this show is going to be amazing.

UPCOMING SHOWS

After a year of dark theaters and streaming plays, local theater and music companies are returning to the stage. Here is the list of upcoming performances:

Orphée Theater:
“Moana, Jr.”
June 18-19 at 7:30 p.m., June 20 at 3 p.m. at the Foothills Performing Arts Center in Oneonta.
Visit www.orpheustheatre.org/moanajr for more information.

The visionary:
“Warriors”
This experimental dance and music performance is part of a series of monthly shows instead of collaborative arts. In August, they will present an experimental opera based on Ursula LeGuin’s anarchist sci-fi novel, The Dispossessed, and an interactive comedy with audiences in September.
July 3 at 8 p.m. at The Visionary in Mount Vision.
Go to www.eventbrite.com/e/warriors-tickets-150987099479.

Orphée Theater:
Mary Poppins Summer Musical Theater Workshop.
This two-week musical theater camp is for children aged 6 to 18.
July 5 to 18. Performances on July 16, 17 and 18.
Go to www.orpheustheatre.org/register.

Glimmer Globe Theater:
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield. This relentless prank combines the 37 pieces (and sonnets!) Of the bards in 100 minutes.
July 14 to August 18: Wednesdays, Thursdays and some Fridays at 7 p.m.
on the back lawn of the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown.
Go to www.shakespeareabridged.eventbrite.com.

Glimmerglass Festival:
Six different operas and musical performances were presented. The first two shows are “The Magic Flute by Mozart” and “To The World”, a popular musical theater hit review. This summer, the opera is performing outdoors, with tickets sold in blocks of four for social distancing.
From July 15 to August 17, on the Glimmerglass lawn in Cooperstown.
www.glimmerglass.org/packages/

Catskill Puppet Theater:
“The wicked mustache.” This puppet show is a suitable musical melodrama for children and adults. August 8, at the West Kortwright Center in Delaware County.
Go to www.facebook.com/Catskill-Puppet-Theater-952504898118196/.



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