This past summer, with the lights out on Broadway due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a theater in the rural Berkshires decided that the world, or at least western Massachusetts, needed live theater now more than ever.
“I think Kate Maguire said it best in the New York Times article,” Amanda Warriner ’11, a graduate of the University of Lynchburg’s theatre program, said of Berkshire Theatre Group’s artistic director and CEO. “‘At this time in history, someone had to begin to tell the stories again.’ I think, for me, it’s also hope.”
Warriner, production coordinator and props master for Berkshire Theatre Group, helped the theater present a sold-out run of “Godspell.” The musical, which tells the story of the Gospel of Matthew in a series of parables, was featured in The New York Times and also on the newspaper’s radio show, “The Daily.”
“I think ‘Godspell’ has a lot of themes that really resonate right now, the main one being about coming together,” Warriner said. “[It’s] something we need to do as a community, as well as desperately want to be able to do, but can’t due to COVID.”
As one might imagine, serious safety precautions were taken, including thrice-weekly testing for the quarantined actors, extra sanitizing of props, and a specially designed, outdoor set that kept everyone socially distanced. As Warriner described it, making ‘Godspell’ happen was a “heck of a process” for everyone involved.
“The actors are actually on stage with vinyl screens that are in front of the back row of actors, when they are singing, so they don’t spray onto anyone in front or beside them,” she said in mid-September. “They also each have their own home base area, with a seat of some sort. The set was designed by Randall Parsons to keep each actor 10 feet away from the closest actor.”
With a successful run of “Godspell” behind them, Warriner and Berkshire Theatre Group have moved on to a series of outdoor concerts. “I’m proud to work for a company and with a group of people that never gave up hope and kept pushing and brainstorming to get something done,” Warriner said.
“I also hope that what we have been able to do has brought hope to some others in our industry, that was the first to be shut down by the pandemic and has yet to return. Broadway, regional theaters, tours, etc., are still dark and sadly a lot of smaller theaters have begun to close and many professionals are still out of work for the foreseeable future.”