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Places! Theatre Charlotte To Stage City's First Outdoor Production Since Pandemic

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Nick de la Canal
/
WFAE

Charlotte's first live theater production since March will open at Theatre Charlotte this week, though the experience will be markedly different from what local theatergoers were used to pre-pandemic.

The audience will not be in the 300-seat auditorium, but rather outside in the theater's parking lot, with family groups kept six feet apart. In addition, tickets will only be sold virtually, face masks will be required and attendance will be capped at 50 people.

The theater also will not sell concessions, and while audience members are encouraged to bring their own food and drink, they're advised not to bring too much to drink, as access to the indoor bathrooms will be restricted.

The show itself will be "What I Did Last Summer," a 90-minute play by A.G. Gurney. Set in 1945, it's a coming-of-age story of a rebellious 14-year-old boy who befriends an older, Bohemian art teacher while summering with his mother and sister at Lake Erie.

Director Ron Law selected the show in part because it requires a small cast -- just six actors -- and can be staged with minimal set pieces and props. He's also blocked the show in a way that keeps actors six feet apart as much as possible during the performance.

The staged production will be the city's first to have a live audience since the coronavirus pandemic shut down theaters and other venues in March, cutting deep into their pocketbooks. Some local theaters, including Theatre Charlotte, have made limited revenue through online fundraisers and other virtual programs, although budget cuts have been inevitable.

This production will be a test of whether audiences are ready to return to live theater and to what extent a piece of theater can still engage under current health limitations. If the show succeeds, it could be viewed as a model for how to safely perform under a pandemic.

"What I Did Last Summer" runs at Theatre Charlotte from Sept. 24-27 and Oct. 1-4. The play will also be filmed and streamed to an online audience later in October. Streaming dates are pending.

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