Jackson theatre returns for 56th season after COVID-19 shutdown

Published: Jul. 4, 2021 at 10:57 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Excitement is building at New Stage Theatre for its 56th season in Jackson.

As we turn the corner on this pandemic, the summer youth camp that was canceled last year has made a return. New Stage welcomed back dozens of students for a special camp to prepare for a show called Shrek Junior.

“I’m thrilled that we have students in the building right now,” said Sharon Miles, Education Director. “I cannot believe we’re genuinely moving forward to bring a season back. As things slowly begin to open, it’s just an exciting time to be in Jackson. It’s an exciting time to be an artist getting ready to welcome back our people.”

New Stage closed its door to the public last March to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It was a tough decision for many who love the stage and acting.

“People can’t be together in the same space as we were used to, so I would say it was devastating,” said Miles.

“We were lucky that for the season, we had two shows left and most people who had their subscriptions donated the money back to the theater, but we were disappointed that we weren’t able to finish the 2019-2020 season,” said Artistic Director Francine Reynolds.

Reynolds says they wanted to keep the public engaged and entertained as well as the staff working, so they decided to do most of the performances virtually.

“We pivoted, and we presented at virtual day-camp that summer for three weeks because we couldn’t do our in person day camp. Then in person, we did a lot of virtual play readings. We also did on-demand streaming of some one-person shows, and that one-person kept us creating, and that kept us open in a very limited capacity.”

“For me, we couldn’t be on stage, and all of a sudden, we had more time to write plays, come to think about directing plays, and think about the mission of what you’re trying to do,” said Miles.

As more people got vaccinated this year and states rolled back restrictions, New Stage began its comeback plan.

“At the beginning of the month, we finally opened for an audience. We did a musical review for a limited audience. We will finally reopen fully in October, and we are very excited about the possibility of bringing our audiences back.”

As New Stage welcomes patrons back during this pandemic, keep in mind, there will be some changes and COVID-19 protocols as they welcome patrons back during this pandemic.

“We’re asking our audiences to wear masks because that’s the Jackson mandate, and we feel that that will help create a sense of comfort for audiences.”

They will also offer hand sanitizing stations and touchless action with money and ticketing, and the theatre’s ventilation system has also been upgraded.

“But we’re all excited about theater returning,” said Miles.

“There’s this communication that happens between the people who are on the stage and a live audience. It is like an energy flow, it’s that thing that you can always describe, but it’s what people call the magic because something new happens all the time in a live performance.”

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