The coronavirus pandemic will eventually come to an end. And when it does, a local theater owner has a fitting plan to celebrate the community’s recovery.
Edward Felty and his wife, Sue, have been the owners of the 25-year-old Allen Theatre and Backstage Cafe in Annville for about two years. The theater has been closed since March 16 in compliance with the state’s stay-at-home orders.
But when it’s safe to go to the theater again, Felty has planned an evening of celebrating that he’s calling, “Together, We Did It!” It will be a free, public event inspired by the plethora of TV commercials that have been airing during the pandemic.
“I was watching TV and saw all the commercials [showing] healthcare workers and the struggles they were having with the supplies, and businesses were closing, and all of the deaths continuing to rise throughout the world,” Felty said. “I was thinking, boy it’s going to be great when we can see commercials that are a little more uplifting, how people are overcoming all of this. Everybody has their own story to tell [about] their journey through COVID-19—and that’s when the light came on.
“We have the perfect venue for the event, [for] people that want to show their story to the public. Before all of this ever even happened and before we had to close our doors, I was thinking about having a short film festival of some sort,” he added.
In the submissions, Felty is looking for “things that people have been doing within their family—[like] meetings that they’re doing, the different social distancing, creating masks.”
“It could be done in pictures, like a slideshow with music, kind of like what you see on TV, [of our] struggles through COVID-19,” he said. “And then as it progresses, our eventual taking care of this awful situation. I’m hoping we can show that we are relying on each other to do our own little bit to get through it.”
Submissions have been limited to-date, but the reaction on social media has been encouraging.
There is no specific deadline for submissions. Once Felty receives a re-opening date for the theatre, he will post the deadline, which will be two weeks after that. The event itself would then be held two weeks after the deadline.
“I’m sure there’s going to be some social distancing still involved,” he said. “The theater can hold 300, so even if 100 show up, there’s still space to spread out. [It would involve] people who would like to spend a little bit of time introducing their submission and then show it, that kind of deal.”
The Backstage Cafe would also be open during the event, he said.
It’s been a tough time for the theater during the closing. Felty had applied for the first round of PPP loans and received a payment from that on May 4. He wouldn’t disclose the amount, but he said the loan allows businesses to borrow up to two and a half months of payroll. They can also use a quarter of it to pay utility bills.
Two weeks prior, he received a federal disaster relief loan of $10,000, which again will go toward payroll and utilities.
“It came through when it was starting to look desperate,” he said of the loan. The theater has 10 employees, three of whom are managers.
“We absolutely have no money coming in, but we still have expenses in terms of utilities and other loans,” Felty said. “[And] we want to start paying our employees with the loan money, which is what it was designed to do—we want to follow through with that and be helpful to them.”
More details of the video submission are on the theater’s website, but here are the basics:
- The film must be a movie, a slideshow, or a combination of both, and it must be your own creation
- It must be in a digital format, submitted on USB or DVD and titled “Together, We Did It!”
- It must be three to five minutes in length, including credits
There is no cost to participate. Anyone interested can mail their entries to the Allen Theatre, 36 E. Main St., Annville, PA 17003, or drop them in the mail slot of the Backstage Cafe. If you have additional questions, you can reach Felty via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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