Mical Hutson, Marketing & Communications Director
PORTLAND, MAINE, SEPTEMBER 15, 2020, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Portland Stage announces Actors’ Equity Association approval to produce its first live performance since the March 13, 2019, COVID-19 closures.
On August 25, The New York Times revealed that Actors Equity Association was allowing three theater companies to produce the first indoor professional theater since the beginning of the COVID-19. Now Portland Stage joins the lineup announcing Equity’s approval to mount the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Talley’s Folly by Landford Wilson.
“Since March 13, Portland Stage has been planning and replanning options for connecting the theater to our community. We knew we had to change our approach. Each step of the way – from putting in new HVAC and ventilation systems; researching best practices for performing arts venues; getting unions and rights’ holders permissions; reworking budgets – we kept the focus on getting Portland Stage to a place where we might be able to produce live theater safely. I knew that we needed a show that would be doable in the current conditions, and Talley’s Folly, a 90-minute play without an intermission, and cast with a couple who were already socially distancing together was the perfect place to start. As the calendar flipped from August to September, I began to lose hope it would ever happen because productions take a lot of time to organize–especially during a pandemic. Then at 5 p.m. on Friday at the start of Labor Day weekend, I spoke with AEA’s chief counsel and learned that the actor’s union was going to give us the approval to produce Talley’s Folly. The sense of relief that the months of careful planning and revising and reworking had all paid off was overwhelming. I celebrated for a moment, knowing that now the real work of pulling a production together was just starting.
Winner of a 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Talley’s Folly is a romantic comedy that takes place in 1940 when an earnest Matt Friedman travels from St. Louis to Lebanon, Missouri, to convince Sally Talley to marry him after a year of writing letters. The themes, which include family values around class politics and immigration, still resonate today, as this unlikely duo navigate the complexities of romantic love and family. The two actors in this romantic comedy, Kathy McCafferty (Sally Talley), and Dave Mason (Matt Friedman), are married and met in a 2009 Shadowland Stages production of Almost, Maine that John Cariani directed. McCafferty and Mason performed in the 2010 Portland Stage production of Last Gas by John Cariani, which Sally Wood directed and Shane Van Vliet stage-managed. “John [Cariani] was here the whole time [during Last Gas] writing right up until Opening Night. It was all amazing,” said McCafferty. “He gently nudged us together when we met at Almost, Maine, and spoke at our wedding years after.”
Sally Wood, a Portland-based director, and actor who directed Portland Stage’s highest-selling production of all time, the 2019-20 production of Almost, Maine by John Cariani, is returning to direct. Tony-award winning designer Christopher Akerlind will be the lighting designer, and Shane Van Vliet will be stage managing.
Rehearsals begin at Portland Stage October 13. Previews will begin Thursday, October 29, the opening is Sunday, November 1, and will run through Sunday, November 15. Following Maine CDC guidelines, audiences will be limited to 50 people. The box office will contact current subscribers for safe seating assignments before new tickets go on sale. For non-subscribers, a waiting list signup is available, and patrons will be served on a first-come, first-served basis after all subscribers are seated. A digital stream of the production will also be available for those who choose to view it from the safety of their own homes.
Portland Stage received Equity permission after complying with a rigorous multi-point safety plan devised by taking into consideration guidelines created in the field, including, but not limited to: ART Harvard Public Health Road to Recovery Report; Guidelines from AEA (Actors Equity Association), SDC (Stage Directors and Choreographers Society), USA (United Scenic Artists), IATSE (The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) Guidelines; Health and Safety Guidelines for Motion Picture, Television, and Streaming Productions During the COVID-19 Pandemic; The Event Safety Alliance Event Reopening Guidelines; while also addressing the State of Maine recommendations for reopening Performing Arts venues. The plan was reviewed by Stephen Sears, a clinical advisor to the Maine CDC in COVID-19 response and former Maine State Epidemiologist, as well as reviewed and accepted by artists unions AEA, SDC, and USA; and will be regularly reviewed by COVID Compliance Officers.
One of the critical safety aspects that Portland Stage was concerned about as in indoor venue was the update of the Portland Stage HVAC system. The HVAC system installed by W.H. Demmons utilizes bipolar ionization technology, which releases charged atoms that attach to and deactivate harmful substances like bacteria, mold, allergens, and viruses by pulling the hydrogen atom away, causing the harmful substances to die. Recent testing of the building’s system for effectiveness against the COVID-19 virus by two (2) different independent laboratories, Analytical Lab Group, and Innovative Bioanalysis, revealed that the level of the virus would be cut by 90% within 60 minutes.
Other safety protocols include, but are not limited to:
- The theater has also trained two COVID-19 Compliance Officers who will focus on a safe environment.
- No more than 50 people will be in the audience at any time.
- Everyone who enters Portland Stage must be masked and keep their masks on while in the building with very few specific and detailed exceptions.
- Talley’s Folly has no intermissions, and runtime is under 90 minutes to limit the time people are together in an indoor space, and concessions will not be served.
- The new daily cleaning regimen uses EPA N cleaning materials with a particular focus on high touch areas in addition to minimizing the need to touch shared objects.
- The two two-show days per week are scheduled further apart, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., to allow for appropriate cleaning of both circulating air and the physical space.
- Access to a video of productions will be available to audience members who do not feel comfortable attending the theater in person. These videos will be able to be accessed through standard ticketing software and, once purchased, will be available to be viewed immediately, or whenever the purchaser would like within the two-week window, the video will be live.
- Actors and crew are receiving COVID-19 tests weekly through the generous support of our COVID-19 testing partner, North Light Mercy Hospital.
- In the theater, audience “pods” will be socially distanced between groups–A “pod” is a friend/family group who feel comfortable sitting next to one another while wearing a mask. The Box Office will work with patrons to make sure they know who is in each pod, and each night’s seating chart will be based on providing the best safe seating for the varied size of the pods attending.
- During ticket purchasing, the Box Office will remind patrons of the rules for entry and the refund policy. Those feeling sick will be refunded in full.
- Modified building/venue traffic flow will minimize contact between people, with high visibility traffic flow markers.
- Highly visible hand sanitizing stations will be in the lobby.
- Open doors, paperless tickets, digital playbills available on smartphones will reduce shared surfaces.
- Staff and artists entering the building will submit a daily self-assessment health check that is submitted to supervisors and returned to the COVID Compliance officers. These assessments are done daily, tracked, and stored for 14 days beyond the run of each production.
- All staff and artists will participate in COVID-19 training before entering our building.
- All staff will be required to follow protocols, including masking and cleaning protocols.
- Actors, guest artists, and crew involved with rehearsals and performances are tested weekly for COVID-19 through a generous partnership with North Light Mercy Hospital.
- Staff is encouraged to work from home when possible, and office rotations will be established to limit the use of shared space.
- Rehearsal and tech schedules have been shifted to allow greater social distancing during work calls.
CAST & ARTISTS OF TALLEY’S FOLLY by Landford Wilson
Sally Talley Kathy McCafferty*
Matt Friedman Dave Mason*
Director Sally Wood
Scenic Designer Anita Stewart**
Costume Designer Kathleen Brown
Lighting Designer Christopher Akerlind **
Sound Designer Seth Asa Sengel
Stage Manager Shane Van Vliet*
* Denotes Member of Actors Equity Association
** Denotes Member of United Scenic Arts
***Denotes Member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society
Dates: Previews start Thu, Oct. 29. Opening is Sun, Nov. 1, and runs through Sun, Nov. 15.
Run Time: Approximately 1 hour 30 minutes with no intermission
Box Office Hours: Noon to 6 p.m., Tue – Sun.
Box Office Phone: 207.774.0465
Box Office Email: [email protected]
Subscriber Tickets: Box office will be contacting subscribers to seat subscribers first
Sign up for Tickets Online: www.PortlandStage.org The box office will reach out to those who signed to purchase tickets on a first-come/first-served basis.
Digital Streaming: Nov. 9 to Nov. 22.
Previews $38.00 | Weekday & Saturday PM $47.00 | Weekend Matinee $53.00 |
Senior Discount 65+: $4 off
Walk-in Purchase Discounts on Day of Show – based on availability:
Rush35 Members: $15
Pay-What-You-Can: Previews Only & Thursday, Nov 12 @ 2 p.m.
Digital Streaming: $25 online, or call the box office for Pay-What-You-Can.
ABOUT PORTLAND STAGE COMPANY
47th season Portland Stage offers Mainstage performances, New Works, and Education programs. The 2020-21 Mainstage season is trying to maintain its regular schedule as safety and artists’ unions permit, which is one co-production musical with Maine State Music Theatre (already canceled), six Mainstage Productions, Staged Readings of its commissions, and Studio Series productions. PSC promotes and celebrates the creation of new plays with an environment that supports the region’s playwrights, builds bridges between its theater and national writers, and builds awareness of theater with three exciting initiatives: The Clauder Competition, the Little Festival of the Unexpected, as well as From Away, a festival in collaboration with the International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa. This year, Portland Stage also celebrates its 11th season of the Susie Konkel Theater for Kids and the 100,000 student experiences it has provided in the last decade through the Theater for Kids. Memberships to Portland Stage are available. More than just a seat in the house, members gain insider access, significant savings, and flexibility. Visit portlandstage.org to learn more.