Little Theatre to present 'The Little Mermaid'

Little Theatre to present 'The Little Mermaid'

The Little Theatre of Tuscarawas County, like many arts venues in the area, has been shuttered for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This summer will see the return of Little Theatre productions with “The Little Mermaid” July 8-11, though the circumstances, including the site of the five performances, will change considerably from previous seasons.

Sarah Jane Spies, Little Theatre board president, said “The Little Mermaid” is the remaining show from the 2020 season that never finished.

“‘The Little Mermaid’ was still on the schedule and the next production when we had to close the season, along with 'The Diary of Anne Frank.' We were unsure when we would be able to reopen, and when we finally learned that we would only be able to seat at 25% capacity, we realized that 25% of the seats at Little Theatre would not have been worth doing.”

The choices were to either stream the production via the internet, she said, or “move the show to a different, larger venue.”

"'The Little Mermaid' had already been cast last year, and rehearsals had begun when the theater closed,” Spies said. “We planned to keep the show intact including director Lisa Sommers. Some of the cast had moved away or had to drop out, so additional rehearsals were held April 24.”

The show is now cast, and rehearsals have begun anew.

“We have dropped ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ from the schedule,” Spies said. “We agreed with the director of the show that after being shut in at home for a year, a story about a family being hidden in a closed space might be badly timed this year.”

The show also had been in the preparatory stages when the venue was forced to close last year. Another scheduled show, ”Almost Maine,” also was canceled.

“Now we needed to solve the problem of how and where to present the show,” she said. “'The Little Mermaid' will be a really great production, so we needed the space to do it well and to seat enough people to get a good audience. We thought we might be able to use the stage at Dover High School, where 25% of capacity is actually larger than 100% seating at Little Theatre, and that’s where the show will be presented. We are very excited about that.”

The full 2021-22 season, with a new slate of shows, is scheduled to be announced in June and will open in September or October of this year at the theater in New Philadelphia. “If,” Spies said, “conditions allow us to do that and we can do so safely.”

Audiences for “The Little Mermaid” will see plenty of extra precautions when the show opens at Dover High School. “Everyone will be required to wear a mask, and we will seat people with safe separation,” Spies said.

The Little Theatre has been dark and without revenue for a year, with utilities and other expenses to keep up with each month. A recent fundraiser, Clear the Air, raised money for the installation of germ-filtering air filters in the building’s ventilation and air-conditioning system.

“We have received funding from the Tuscarawas Arts Partnership and the Convention and Visitors Bureau as well,” Spies said. “And we have applied for grants from the City of New Philadelphia. We were not qualified for federal relief funding because we have no paid staff.”

Spies said she is very excited to get “The Little Mermaid” presented before audiences who have been deprived of local live theater for so long. “I know my family and friends, and the people we talk to, are ready. We are very excited.”

"The Little Mermaid" will run July 8, 9, 10 and 11 at 7 p.m. and July 10 and 11 at 2 p.m. Watch the Little Theatre Facebook page for box office information and ticket purchasing.

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