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Arts and Entertainment

Springfield Contemporary Theatre Returns--Virtually--With "SCT Sings"

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(Poster design courtesy Springfield Contemporary Theatre)
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Springfield Contemporary Theatre is coming back virtually with an online presentation of their “SCT Sings” series that has featured many of the company’s most popular singers and performers in concert settings since 2018. SCT Managing Artistic Director Rick Dines visited with me live in the studio during Friday’s “Arts News” to talk about their upcoming online presentation: “Fascinating Rhythms: A Taste of SCT Sings.”                                                                              

“About three or four weeks ago we went into the theater on stage and filmed a concert, with each individual performer coming in separately. Over the course of two days, we filmed 14, 15 songs. And so those have been put together into what we're calling ‘Fascinating Rhythms: A Taste of SCT Sings,’” Dines said. SCT presents four or five of these concerts each season during the runs of other productions, on Sunday evenings when SCT Center Stage would otherwise be dark.  The concerts generally highlight specific composers, he added, “and so we’ve kind of taken numbers from some of those concerts with the people who performed them, and revived those.  And also the ‘SCT Sings Burt Bacharach’ concert we had scheduled for March that got canceled. We have all five singers each doing a number by Bacharach as a part of this.  It’s been pre-recorded and edited, and it looks and sounds great. We’re very pleased with the quality of the concert.”

There is a large list of performers participating in this special video concert, including Kelly Osbourne, Carol Reinert, Todd and Ali Smith, Derrick DeVonne King, Johnnie Angelia King, Dylan Savage, Renee Elkady, Erin Schiebe, Lavelle Johnston, and Darby Vincent. They were accompanied by a four-member band: Casey Smith, Kirsten Weiss, Riley Robinson and Alex Huff. “So it's it's a great group of people.” And there are a couple of special video performances from out-of-state: Kassie Carroll Downey from Norman, Oklahoma, and Erica Spyres sent a video from New York.

Jeff and Donna Carney helped underwrite the program, along with Missouri Arts Council funds.

Like most all performing organizations, Springfield Contemporary Theatre has had a tough time during the pandemic. Considering the small space in which they perform—SCT Center Stage in Wilhoit Plaza seats fewer than 100—it hasn’t been “financially viable,” said Rick Dines, for the theatre to re-open and maintain social distancing. “I could maybe put twenty people in the audience. And so now, as we're looking into the fall at this point, I'm still kind of hammering out the details.” And that fall season will be, like this Sunday’s concert, virtual. “I think we're going to at this point do a series, probably, of three productions. And they will be full,” realized productions, but will be virtually produced. We're working very much to keep them highly theatrical, even though people are going to be able to watch them on their (electronic) devices.  I think people will be pleased with what we're able to put together.” In addition to dealing with the technical hurdles of video production, Dines said they are working hard to “keep it ‘theatrical,’ and not just some video stream on YouTube that’s like any other video you stream on YouTube. How do you keep it a uniquely theatrical experience outside of (actually) being within the theater? But the great thing is that we're working with our artists and I'm consulting with friends that are have been working in this kind of virtual theatrical medium in New York before this pandemic, and trying to figure out the best way to do everything.”

There’s no subscription or admission charge to view “Fascinating Rhythms: A Taste of SCT Sings,” Dines said. “We’re not charging people to watch it up front. We're putting it out free as a thank you for those who've helped support us through the pandemic so far. But to weather through, we're going to continue to need support.” So, he added, anyone who “feels inspired” after seeing the performances is more than welcome to make a donation to SCT.

“Fascinating Rhythms” debuts this Sunday evening, August 9, at 7:30pm on SCT’s YouTube channel (go to https://www.tube.com and enter “Springfield Contemporary Theatre” in the search box).  That is the normal time when the live “SCT Sings” concerts take place. The video should be available for some time after that on YouTube, but Dines said, “we do hope people join us for the initial premiere.” You’ll be able to comment and chat with SCT personnel while the video is playing by going to the SCT Facebook page.  “So it'll start to feel, hopefully, a little bit more like an experience of communally seeing something.”

Also on the SCT main website (https://www.sgftheatre.org) and their Facebook page will be a re-opening survey they hope people will take a few minutes to fill out and provide some feedback to the theater, “which will greatly help us as we prepare for the next many months now.”  

As of right now, SCT’s offices are still closed, but Dines says they intend to re-open at reduced hours, Tuesdays through Thursdays from 11:00am to 4:00pm, starting August 11th.

And he had another message for arts patrons: “Support the arts as much as you can. Yeah, it's a tough time in this industry, and it's going to be (for) a while.” In conversations with friends in the theater business in New York, Dines said they agreed that the basic financial model for both professional/commercial theater companies and the not-for-profits like SCT and Springfield Little Theatre, is actually quite similar.  “It takes anywhere from 65 to 80 percent seating capacity to break even. That's not turning a profit. Even on Broadway, it takes 70 to 80 percent capacity to break even. What I think a lot of people don't understand is a lot of the professional theater and, you know, Broadway theater and stuff, can't come back until seating can be done at FULL capacity, because there is no model by which they can stay afloat at reduced capacity. And so it's going to take a while for our industry to really come back. And that's a lot of jobs and a lot of people's livelihoods. And so we, on behalf of many other arts organizations are saying: please reach out. Reach out to your Congresspeople, tell them we need any relief we can get, because we would like to come back to a world where there still is the performing arts.” For more information visit www.sgftheatre.org or, until their box office reopens next Tuesday, send an email to SCTheatreMO@gmail.com.