‘Glimmer of hope’: Woodlawn Theater, Public Theater of SA hope to reopen their doors after pandemic forces closures

The Public Theater of San Antonio producing one-person virtual plays since September

SAN ANTONIO – It’s been nearly a year since the coronavirus pandemic forced performing arts theaters to close their doors.

“The building has been closed since March 15, 2020. Crazy to believe that it’s been 11 months,” said Courtnie Mercer, the chief of staff and company manager of The Public Theater of San Antonio.

Smaller venues like The Public Theater of San Antonio were pushed to find creative ways to stay afloat. The company has been putting on one-person virtual plays since September.

“Everybody’s doing everything from home. So the stage manager is stage managing from their home, the director is directing from their home and the actors performing from their home,” Mercer said.

A mini set is set up in the actor’s home. The company sends them camera, lighting and sound equipment to provide viewers a live, theater-like performance.

“It’s really cool because we’re able to work with people in other parts of the United States that maybe wouldn’t have got this opportunity if we weren’t 100% virtual,” Mercer said.

Mercer says the company is in discussions about reopening, but it is too early to provide a date. They closely monitor the number of COVID-19 cases in Bexar County and must also follow standards placed by the Actors’ Equity Association.

“We have an amazing community here in San Antonio. And people have really come together to give the virtual performances a chance, which is really great, because as a nonprofit arts organization during a pandemic, it’s been difficult,” Mercer said.

The Woodlawn Theatre hopes to fill its empty seats in the summer.

“I think we’re not so much worried about accommodating our patrons because we can socially just skip rows for chairs in between. Our main concern is making sure that our actors feel safe,” said Chris Rodriguez, the executive and artistic director of the Woodlawn Theatre.

The theater hopes to present “On Your Feet,” which was supposed to be performed last spring before the novel coronavirus brought everything to a halt. It also hopes to put on “Cinderella” in late summer.

“A glimmer of hope that’s there. It’s within our reach, and hopefully, we can get there sooner rather than later,” Rodriguez said.

Woodlawn has opened its academy for youth and adult classes, which are available in-person and online. Rodriguez said spring break and summer camps would be offered for young performers. All classes require people to be socially distanced and wear a mask.

The Majestic Theatre has also announced it will open for the first time since March 2020 with its new season in September 2021.

“We cannot wait to open our doors and hear all of the sounds of the audience and the theater and just the energy that is missing right now,” said Emily Smith, the general manager of the Majestic Theatre.

List of upcoming shows for The Public Theater of San Antonio:

  • Feb. 25 - March 7: Empanada
  • April 8 - April 18: Golda’s Balcony
  • May 13 - May 23: I Am My Own Wife

You can also donate to The Public Theater by clicking here.

List of upcoming shows for the Woodlawn Theatre:

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About the Authors:

Brina is the Executive Producer of the NightBeat and KSAT Explains. She has been with KSAT since 2015. She is a Houston native and proud to call San Antonio home.