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New Stage offers streaming events to continue traditions, survive COVID-19

New Stage Theatre offering online promotions to survive COVID-19, share the arts.
New Stage Theatre offering online promotions to survive COVID-19, share the arts.(New Stage Theatre)
Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 11:22 AM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A recording session on Wednesday night filled the now-empty New Stage Theatre with the sounds of Christmas – and reminded Francine Reynolds of what she had been missing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Singers and camera crews descended on the theater recently to record a series of holiday songs, all of which will be streamed Friday as part of the theater’s Holiday Cabaret.

The theater has gone dark since the outbreak began, and Reynolds, New Stage’s artistic director, was excited to again have performers gracing the facility.

“We had to do so much cleaning in between songs,” she said. “We used our large Hewes Room lobby. We had a Christmas set on one side of the room and one on the other, and we’d use one and then we’d alternate and use the other.

“(But) it was great to have everybody back in, and it sounded great,” she said. “It was really inspiring and made me realize how much we’re missing right now.”

Reynolds believes the theater’s patrons are also missing out and said that Friday’s web event could go a long way into filling people’s longing for stage shows.

The cabaret, which will be free to the public, will cap a 12-day fundraising event called “The 12 Days of New Stage Virtual Benefit.”

The virtual silent auction began on December 1 and runs through December 12.

Proceeds will benefit the theater, which had to cancel its spring fundraiser and its spring and fall seasons.

A large portion of New Stage’s annual revenue comes from ticket sales for plays. However, in the spring, three scheduled performances were postponed.

Meanwhile, with the virus still going strong and with state-mandated limits on attendance, it could not move forward with a fall season.

Adding another blow, New Stage also had to postpone its major spring fundraiser, “A Toast of Broadway,” due to the virus.

That event features a dinner theater-type program, coupled with a silent auction, typically brings in around $30,000, Reynolds said.

The theater’s board of directors had been working to compile silent auction items months prior to the cancellation.

“We had all of these auction items, so we decided to do a virtual auction,” Reynolds said. “The virtual auction is a nice way to present the items and it gives you more than a night to bid on them.

“You can go in a bid, and you can get a text if someone outbids you.”

The holiday cabaret and silent auction aside, a partnership between the theater, TBD Pictures, La Jolla Playhouse and On the Stage, is helping keep one of New Stages’ most popular holiday traditions alive.

Through January 3, New Stage will be offering a livestream of a one-man version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The show is being offered on-demand, and patrons can purchase a ticket that will give them 24 hours to view it.

The production, which stars Tony Award winner Jefferson Mays, is being offered to theaters across the country to help them during the pandemic.

“It’s more of a Christmas Carol for people who enjoy the story, but who are really enjoying seeing the virtuosity of somebody playing all these roles,” Reynolds said. “I knew it would be great because I’ve gotten to see this actor (on Broadway).”

A portion of proceeds from livestream purchases will go to New Stage, in addition to the companies offering the production.

Said Reynolds, “Their goal in this was to help theaters around the country. Yes, they’re making money, too, but a large portion comes back to the theaters.”

For more information on upcoming events, click here.

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