After a year and a half of finding creative ways to put on their productions, Mercer Theatre is back to live performances, and this years’ selection of shows is looking to be worth the wait.
In spring 2020, the Mercer Players were forced to cancel their performances of "The Commedia Pinocchio," a family-friendly adaptation of the classic children’s story “Pinocchio."
Now, they are finally putting on the show, and a lot has changed since before the pandemic.
Mercer Theatre has spent the past year and a half adapting their productions, hosting a fully online production via Zoom in fall 2020 and a pyrotechnic and large-scale puppet performance on the historic quad in spring 2021.
“We never fully stopped productions, but we did have to find creative ways to follow social distancing guidelines to achieve it,” Laura Ashlyn Pridgen, president of the Mercer Players, said.
The pandemic has posed unique challenges for Pridgen and others working in performing arts.
“COVID-19 has been incredibly difficult on the arts, and not just because closed doors mean less funding,” Pridgen said. “Theatres are filled with incredibly talented people, and a lot of them rely on productions as a creative outlet. I know a lot of people who struggled with losing that outlet during the pandemic.”
There are two productions scheduled for the fall 2021 semester: “The Commedia Pinocchio” and “Hamlet 2020.”
Mercer alumni Charles Thomas will direct “Hamlet 2020.” According to Pridgen, Thomas edited the original script to tell the story in a modern perspective through the eyes of people of color.
Two more productions are scheduled for the spring: “The Goat (Or, ‘Who is Sylvia’)” and “Eurydice."
Mercer Theatre has implemented measures to keep in-person performances safe. Everyone involved in the production has been asked to wear masks in the theater and routine handwashes are encouraged. Audience members are encouraged to follow these same guidelines.
Pridgen is looking forward to showcasing both old and new talent this season.
“We have so many new students who are involved in our productions that are bringing their unique talents to the stage, as well as returning students who haven’t been able to do shows due to the pandemic,” she said. “Our selection of shows for the season is fantastic, and having so many invested students is going to make it an unforgettable one.”
Performances of “The Commedia Pinocchio” are free and will be held Sept. 24-25 at 10 a.m. in Tattnall Square Park. “Hamlet 2020” performances are Oct. 21-24 and 28-31.