Pickerington Community Theatre thespians waiting out pandemic

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Like athletes who have missed their playing seasons and people pining for social activities, the tight-knit members of the Pickerington Community Theatre company said they are feeling the void of performing on stage and with each other.

The volunteer dramatic-arts group has been – like many others – in limbo because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The organization's annual children's production, which this year was "Magic Tree House: Pirates Past Noon KIDS," was cut off after a week of performances March 6 to 8 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Since then, the theater group has been sidelined.

In addition to the children's production, the planned July 10 to 19 summer show – "Guys and Dolls" – has been sacked, as has the fall show, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," which was set for October.

The group's annual picnic, at which new board members were to be elected and 2021 and 2022 season announcements were to be made, has been postponed. It now is slated Sept. 12 in Sycamore Creek Park, 481 Hereford Drive.

"It's disappointing, but we try to keep it in perspective," said Chris Gallaugher, Pickerington Community Theatre president. "We're an amateur organization that's doing this to have fun and provide the opportunity for people to be involved in the performance arts.

"But no one gets paid for this. So, it's not like we've lost our jobs. Unless we can do things safely and have fun, we're not going to do it."

Gallaugher said the theater group has formed a pandemic committee that tries to keep up with state guidelines for gatherings and how performance groups might be able to resume activities, as well as to analyze what similar organizations are doing around the state and country.

When the group does hold its annual picnic, Gallaugher said, he expects there will be special rules in place related to social distancing and group gatherings.

Gallaugher said such traditions as a buffet-style lunch likely will be scrapped.

Information about the picnic will be posted on pickeringtoncommunitytheatre.org, he said.

"Absolutely anybody who's interested in theater can come out," Gallaugher said. "We sell season tickets, and it's just a way to get together, have fun and let people know how they can get involved."

Among the members hoping for some good news and the possible staging of a winter show is Keith Emigh, a Gahanna resident who began volunteering on the sound team for the organization in 2017 when his daughter, Charlotte, who now is 15, was part of a production of "Annie."

Since then, Emigh has been involved in nearly all of the PCT productions, either as part of technical crews for shows or as an actor.

Additionally, his wife, Autumn, creates costumes for the children's and adult productions, and his 18-year-old daughter, Madeline, joined him on stage last year when both performed in "Spamalot."

"It's gotten our whole family involved," Emigh said.

Emigh was involved in theater in high school and has worked "behind the scenes" in radio.

He said he stays involved in the theater group, not just because of his passion for performing, but because of the relationships it has allowed him to develop.

"I had fun, and it was such a great experience with 'Annie' and meeting new people," Emigh said. "We're unable to do that this summer and we're all stuck apart from each other.

"You lose that social aspect of it. Of course, we've had (videoconference) meetings, but it's not the same."

The theater troop's members said they also are excited to get back to the stage because they now have a top-notch venue with the 303-seat theater in Violet Township's Wigwam facility at 10190 Blacklick-Eastern Road NW.

Gallaugher said it is possible shows canceled this year could be staged as part of the 2021 or 2022 season, but those decisions haven't been made.

Announcements are expected to be made either at the or via the PCT website and Facebook page.

"We're very, very fortunate we have a strong board that everyone is very engaged in," Gallaugher said. "The township has been wonderful to us, and it's been a major advantage to be able to use the Wigwam.

"Our intent right now is to have a December show, 'It's a Wonderful Life,' Dec. 4 to 13. It's not a question of 'if,' it's a question of 'when' we start back up.

"Financially, we're very healthy," Gallaugher continued. "When we start it back up, we want it to be fun.

"We have to get to the point where, at least within safety provisions, we will be able to put on a show and have fun."

Emigh said he is hopeful that time will come soon because he misses the camaraderie and creativity the PCT fosters.

"We're looking forward to getting back on stage and also on stage with all our friends," he said. "Hopefully, resuming shows will help bring people to the theater."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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