Stage Left Theater adapting in wake of months-long closure

SPOKANE, Wash. — Some businesses closed down in March and have yet to reopen. 

Governor Inslee recently announced he was pausing counties’ abilities to progress under the Safe Start plan, meaning places like local theaters have no idea when they’ll be able to put on another show. 

“I think at first the hope was we’d be back to normal by May 1,” said Jeremy Whittington, the managing artistic director at Stage Left Theater. 

Posters hang in the lobby, showing what plays were supposed to go on, though all the dates have passed. 

It’s July, and not a single show played in the small theater. 

“It’s been a little bit trying to figure out when things can happen,” said Whittington. “Being a small theater like we are, to social distance we’d only be able to have probably 10 people.” 

It is possible they could reopen in phase 3, but Whittington says they’d rather wait until phase 4 because the money they’d make wouldn’t cover the productions costs. 

It takes roughly $4-5,000 to put on a show at Stage Left.  

“I know there’s been a sense of, a definite sense of loss and some grieving because this is what we do, we’re creators, we’re artists  we tell stories on stage and to not be able to do that is kind of dampening on our spirits,” said Whittington. 

Even though they can’t be here, showing off their creativity on the stage, they’ve found another way. 

“Starting next month, you’ll start seeing a lot of online zoom festivals and local playwrights and local actors,” said Whittington. 

Doing that will be a little tough, too. 

“Even if you’re doing a show on zoom, you have to pay for production rights. Weighing out the payment of production rights is going to pay off with ticket sales or donations that come with those online streaming services is a balancing act for sure,” said Whittington. 

Whittington says there are advantages and disadvantages to being a small theater. Rent at their location is low. His staff are mostly volunteers, as well. So, their overhead costs are low right now. However, they’re still paying for things with no income.

Stage Left Theater has a few corporate sponsors, Whittington said. However, they do also rely on donations to stay afloat.

Whittington says Spokane Arts and the Spokane Theatre Arts Council are hosting a fundraiser to help them next Saturday.

With fewer shows this year, the 2019/2020 season of theater at Stage Left Theater, and many others, is a smaller one compared to past seasons.

“I am confident that we’re going to weather this, even if it took another year,” said Whittington.

It just might take another year, but they’ll get by, as all artists do.

READ: Local businesses navigate ‘new normal’ under phase 2 guidelines