First Look at Palm Beach Dramaworks/Actors’ Playhouse Coproduction of The Belle of Amherst
Streaming Online April 2-6
For the first time in over a year, Palm Beach Dramaworks is in rehearsal for a production on its mainstage. The play is William Luce’s The Belle of Amherst sponsored by Sandra and Bernie Meyer, a one-woman show based on the life of poet Emily Dickinson, which PBD is co-producing with Actors’ Playhouse. Admittedly, the theatre has not yet reopened – the show, starring Margery Lowe and directed by PBD Producing Artistic Director William Hayes – will be filmed without the presence of an audience, and streamed online from April 2-6. But it’s the first step on the journey back to live theatre.
“It’s a big deal for us, and very exciting,” said Managing Director Sue Ellen Beryl. “To see our rehearsal space, our costume shop, our scenic shop, and our mainstage alive with activity is really quite moving. We exist to put on shows for a live audience. Although we can’t do that right now, watching The Belle of Amherst come to life gives us a sense of normalcy and reminds us that there are better days ahead. Of course, ‘normalcy’ is relative, as we’re following stringent safety rules and procedures required by Actors’ Equity Association. And when we finally do open our doors to the public, we will continue to maintain strict safety protocols.”
In order to get the green light to produce The Belle of Amherst, PBD spent thousands of dollars to purchase special union-approved filters that will purify the air in the theatre. Everyone involved in the production wears a mask (or two), practices social distancing, and is regularly tested for covid-19. There are even designated bathrooms. Cleaning practices and products follow CDC guidelines.
When the 2021-2022 season begins, PBD will adhere to the most advanced and comprehensive sanitation practices available, in order to comply with new safety guidelines. The company will have installed a new HVAC system and upgraded its facilities and ticketing procedures to allow for as much of a touch-free patron experience as possible.
Reopening is scheduled for October. The season will be announced in the coming weeks, but here’s a teaser: The second production will be the world premiere of Michael McKeever’s much-anticipated The People Downstairs, commissioned by PBD and developed by The Dramaworkshop. The play, about the people who hid and took care of Anne Frank and seven others during the Holocaust, has received two public readings: It was first done during the 2020 New Year/New Plays Festival, and received a second reading on Zoom in June.
PBD has been extremely active online since the theatre shut down on March 16, 2020. Just over a month later, on April 27, the company did its first Drama(in the)works play reading via Zoom, and it’s anticipated that through the end of August 2021, PBD will have offered more than 100 virtual programs. With the exception of The Belle of Amherst, all online content has been free of charge.
Tickets to The Belle of Amherst sponsored by Sandra and Bernie Meyer are $30, and all proceeds benefit PBD and Actors' Playhouse, supplying much-needed revenue at a time when the theatres are earning no income. Once a ticket is purchased, the play can be viewed at the ticket holder’s convenience any time from April 2-6. As a thank you to those who subscribed to the 2020-2021 season of either company and did not ask for a refund, rolling over their subscription to the 2021-2022 season, tickets are free.
Palm Beach Dramaworks is a professional, nonprofit theatre company founded in 2000 and located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach. Each season, the award-winning company produces five mainstage shows and offers a wide variety of programs for students at the theatre, in schools, and online. Committed to fostering the future of theatre, PBD has become a hub for playwrights in Florida and around the country to nurture their work through initiatives including Drama(in the)works and the annual New Year/New Plays Festival. PBD is a member of Theatre Communications Group, Florida Professional Theatres Association, and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County. www.palmbeachdramaworks.org