On March 14, 2020, the Lebanon Community Theater announced that the theater would be closed due to Covid-19, after only a weekend of that year’s musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Over a year later, the theater is now back in action.
The two-man play Greater Tuna, featuring long-time LCT performers Larry Sheaf and Kevin Biddle, will show July 22, 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. and July 25 at 2:30 p.m. at LCT. The one-weekend show serves both as a soft reopening for the theater and a fundraiser.
“The plan originally was to start with Forum and not do anything before that, but as things started to open up more, it sort of gave us the opportunity to take a look at ‘should we do something else,'” explained LCT president Rick Graybill. “It made sense: this is a show that we had talked about possibly doing as a fundraiser with those two individuals at another point in our season.
“It’s only a two-person cast, so not a lot of people involved from a rehearsal perspective, and just reacclimating our patrons to coming back to the theater and using that as a fundraiser as well.”
Greater Tuna is a comedy in which both actors take on 10 roles each. Audiences witness the comical happenings in the small town of Tuna, Texas, and the wacky characters who inhabit it.
“It’s definitely an actor’s show, it’s an actor’s challenge, so that’s one thing I like about it,” said Biddle. “It’s a challenge to try to come up with 10 different characters in one production.”
The show has minimum blocking or choreography, taking place with the curtain closed (preserving the Forum set still behind the curtain). In fact, Biddle and Sheaf began rehearsals outdoors and only began practicing in the theater recently, partly as a Covid-19 precaution.
“It did give us the opportunity to do a deep-cleaning of the theater a few weeks ago to prepare us for reopening,” said Graybill. “It’s a comfort to me and to our patrons.”
While Biddle is new to acting in the show, Sheaf performed in an LCT production of Greater Tuna in 1992, though he played the other set of characters then. One of his characters in the production sported false teeth and, Sheaf recollected, his friend in the audience initially thought he was a different actor.
“Coming up with new accents and things for the different characters is really challenging,” said Sheaf, adding jokingly: “I don’t like challenges in life except in play scripts.”
Read more: Larry Sheaf just keeps going and going
Tickets can be bought for $25 each on LCT’s website or by calling (717) 833-4528. Graybill anticipates that there will be extra seats, so, while seats are reserved in advance, those who feel most comfortable socially distant can move away from other audience members.
“It’s an opportunity for audiences to see two seasoned, veteran performers, both very talented, playing dozens of characters and showing how versatile they are as actors,” said Graybill. “I think it’s going to be a great deal of fun, I’m looking forward to seeing it myself and I definitely encourage people to venture out; they won’t be disappointed.”
The LCT 2021 season
From Sept. 9 to 19, LCT will put on Cheaper by the Dozen, before returning A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum to the stage Nov. 4 to 14. Most actors are reprising their roles from 2020, though some roles need filled due to availability issues.
“Most everyone was not only available but also eager to resume because it’s therapeutic in some ways,” said Graybill, who also directs Forum.
While Forum already had a weekend in 2020, LCT has decided to give it a full two-week run in 2021 because of the amount of time that has passed.
“The set’s already up, we have the costumes, we’ve rehearsed it, let’s continue to do it,” said Graybill as to why the show is returning this year. “We decided because so much time has passed, let’s do two weekends if people are available. We think we’ll be able to get people to see it.”
The reuse of the show’s costumes and sets also helps the theater financially, as it lost its main source of revenue during the pandemic. Graybill noted that soon prior to Covid-19 closures, LCT had replaced its HVAC system and were still paying for it. Community support and donations, he said, have played a large part in keeping the theater afloat.
“We really appreciate the support that our patrons in the community have given us this past year,” said Graybill, also noting the outpouring of support he has received toward LCT’s decision to start up shows again.
While most years, the following year’s season is announced at LCT’s annual Broadway at the Barn fundraiser in May, this didn’t take place last year or this year. Graybill expects that the 2022 schedule will be released in the next few months, as it is still being determined now.
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