Tri-Cities performers gearing up for a return to the stage

Regional News

TRI-CITIES, Tenn./Va. (WJHL) — A year after the coronavirus pandemic canceled almost every live entertainment event in our region, performers are gearing up for a return to the stage.

The local arts scene is planning a revival and expecting big crowds. Thursday, the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre announced their anticipated 2021-2022 schedule.

“We’ve lost 75% of our income so that was really really hard. We had done really well the year before we closed down. It was our best year in the history of this theatre,” said Jennifer Ross Bernhardt, the theatre’s artistic director.

The announcement came on the same day the Jackson Theatre’s marquee sign went up.

“We are renovating the back half of the theater everything just rebuilt from the ground up and so we have a new green room two new bathrooms and two new dressing rooms and a new lobby,” said Bernhardt. She anticipates the main portion of the Jackson Theatre isn’t expected to be ready for at least another year.

Many productions are living the mantra that “the show must go on.”

“People talk about regionalism. This is regionalism, this is what regionalism is. These are the ties that bind these are the very threads of our culture,” said Vicki Shell, the vice president of the Boones Creek Historical Association that puts on the Boones Creek Opry. “That’s what this is and to bring it back together like this it’s tattered and fragmented from the virus but it’s all going to weave back together.”

The Boones Creek Opry‘s opening show for the season is April 24. Soon, they’ll have a new barn for performances.

“There’s been a real venue shortage and all of my musician friends, they’ve got the itch to play so bad. We can’t wait to get back at it.” said Shell. “We didn’t know we were going to get this place we didn’t know we were going to get a building. We didn’t know all this was going to happen. It’s been blessings from the Lord that’s where it’s come from. We’ve prayed and prayers of been answered and we’re just thankful.”

Many, like the Barter Theatre, are moving performances outside. Their productions have been outside at the Moonlite Drive-in for the past year.

“At this point, we could not break even on a show inside of the theatre because of the mandates that are in place. So when it is safe and when it is economically feasible, that is when we will move that direction,” said Barter Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director, Katie Brown. “People still aren’t back at work. We are about a third of the size that we usually are and just trying to make sure that we continue to serve no matter what.”

Those in charge are doing it whatever it takes to step on stage this year.

“We had a ‘quaranteam’ of actors who lived and worked only with each other. They weren’t able to get close to anybody else. They made a lot of sacrifices to do that. It was definitely different for the audience. We had a lot of people in cars, in outdoors, in places that are safer,” said Brown.

As decisions are made on a weekly and sometimes daily basis, directors are more hopeful than last year.

“We’ve been rehearsing in masks, we take all the precautions to make sure everyone is safe,” said Ross.

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