Drawing Back the Curtains

At long last, local theaters open their doors to live audiences

After 16 months of tiny audience numbers, virtual shows or nothing at all, Eugene-area performance venues are making a comeback.

Local theaters and their leaders are all approaching the reopening process differently, with a variety of timelines and restrictions to consider. But what they all have in common is a palpable, urgent excitement to return to audiences and to the joy of live theater.

Oregon Contemporary Theatre is hosting two performance runs this summer. Blackout: A One-Woman Show will be performed by Hailey Henderson, a Seattle-based actor and recent college graduate. The autobiographical play, which explores the consequences of sexual and emotional abuse, will run 2 pm July 17 and 2 pm and 7:30 pm July 18. An abridged Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed by the Tall Tale Players, an ensemble group of new artists, at 7:30 pm July 16, 17, 22 and 23, as well as 2 pm and 7:30 pm July 24. Tickets for both can be purchased on the OCT website or at 541-465-1506. Masks are expected for unvaccinated people.

OCT plans to announce its 2021-2022 season in the next four to six weeks. The season will start in late September and run through June.

The John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts is back to “business as usual,” according to Executive Director Jim Ralph, with several performances scheduled for 2021-2022. Coming up next is Reel Music, the 30th edition of The Shedd’s annual Oregon Festival of American Music, which will run July 22-31. The program is an exploration of music in film, and will be presented as a series of concerts, talks and film showings. Tickets can be purchased online, at 541-434-7000 or at the ticket office (9 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday).

Actors Cabaret of Eugene will reopen Sept. 10 with a three-week run of Forbidden Broadway, a spoof of big Broadway musicals such as Hello, Dolly! and Rent. Initially, ACE plans to require masks and to limit seating slightly. Tickets for Forbidden Broadway will be available at the Actors Cabaret box office at the end of July.

Very Little Theatre took the time away from the spotlight to make improvements to its 70-year-old building. The community theater expects to be back to performing in January 2022.

Cottage Theatre is also currently under construction, and will return to audiences with 50 additional seats and fresh furnishings. The Cottage Grove theater is tentatively planning to reopen in late fall. Less tentative is its plan to open with a production of Mamma Mia! Susan Goes, executive director, says it is the perfect production to celebrate the brand new space.

“We are really, really, really excited to get back in the business of producing shows and having people here to enjoy them,” Goes says.