SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Live entertainment has been hit hard by this year's pandemic, and that is especially true for Pacific Conservatory Theatre (PCPA).
Ongoing COVID-19 restrictions have forced it to modify its entire operation.
"I think like everybody in the community, it's changed everything. It's changed everything that we do," said PCPA's artistic director Mark Booher. "We are an organization that's built around gathering people together, and the thing that is magic about the theatre -- gathering people in the same time in the same room around a story -- is something that just can't happen for public health reasons right now."
However, the pandemic isn't stopping PCPA from performing. It's actually just the opposite.
Using its trademark flair and creativity, PCPA is continuing to thrill audiences not just locally, but now, in a new and inventive format, beyond as well.
"We pivoted to really focusing on engaging with our community in a new way, so we created all of this virtual programming," said Kitty Balay, a longtime PCPA resident artist.
Titled 'PCPA Plays On!,' the online series features a number of new ways to connect including educational workshops, play readings, talkbacks and much more.
"It's been very exciting to offer these new programs to adults, to families, to classrooms, and to get the great feedback from people who want to be connected and who want to learn about theatre in different ways, and also to hear new stories," said Balay.
Streaming performances are also happening, along with monthly holiday shows and live performances, as well such as the popular InterPlay series running in the fall, with another coming up early 2021.
Booher stressed that keeping a live element is especially important for both audience members and performers.
"One of the ways that we've been addressing this remoteness is by trying to do as many live events as possible, and so while we're not together in the same room, we're in the same moment, sharing a moment together," said Booher.
The new online format is now allowing PCPA to share its performances with an audience without boundaries.
"Not only are we able to reach out and connect with our traditional community, but we're also able to reach far beyond that, and people from all over the country have been tuning in to our events, and people from other countries as well," Balay said.
At the same time PCPA navigates its way through the pandemic, it's also looking ahead to the future, to the much-anticipated time when shows here can resume.
"Our current plan, we have a season of plays planned for the summer of '21. We are in pre-production for those shows. We are actually in the design and early build process for some of those shows that we hope to bring in the stages in Santa Maria and Solvang in the summer of '21," explained Booher.
However, as health conditions constantly change, there's no way to know exactly when live performances with audience members will return.
"We have to have other contingency plans as the reality of how general public health, how vaccinations impact that, what the state and counties are doing to keep us safe and healthy, so we're going to have to keep responding to that and adapting," said Booher.
So until the curtain rises again, PCPA plans to continue playing on in its current online format, with all eyes focused to a dramatic return.
"I just can't wait until we can all be together again and we can enjoy live theater because there's nothing like it, and it's something that keeps us all connected together through generations. It has from ancient theater, it will continue on," Balay said.
For more information on PCPA, visit www.pcpa.org