At noon on March 13, 2020, I was in the car running errands. We had just finished our final dress rehearsal that morning for our production that was to open the following week, THE ANTS GO MARCHING. Our set, our props, our costumes were all set up in our rehearsal space ready to go to the theatre early on Monday morning. That was the moment everything for Pollyanna Theatre Company changed. The phone rang. Everything was closing and there would not even be a way to go back into our rehearsal space or office. We remained locked out of those spaces for the next 4 months and we now work from our homes with that beautiful set in storage, waiting to come out and play.
Looking back at that day from the vantage point of March, 2021, there is no way to really explain the changes this scrappy little arts education company has made in order to continue to serve our child audience. The word that kept coming into conversation and news stories in the days right after the closing was "pivot". However, when I think of that physical action, I picture one foot firmly planted on the ground while the other shifts, turns, moves the direction of the rest of the body. But where do you put your foot "firmly"? Where do you "plant" that one foot that keeps you stable while you pivot your non-profit group into a global pandemic?
In the weeks that followed, the answer to that question was clear. You place that foot down beside the foot of your creative and administrative team and you lean into each other and begin the delicate dance of the big pivot of programming. Pollyanna Theatre is blessed with creativity and collaboration. I called upon our amazing Company Stage Manager to help figure out new ways to create video for our parents and teachers to use with children. I called upon our talented actors to find their favorite stories that they would like to record and share with our patrons. I called upon our outstanding group of playwrights and began to listen to them talk about new ways to tell stories that teach and engage young imaginations at a distance. And I called upon our administrative team and asked them to find new ways to get the word out about all this new work. What has come of that pivot is a very large body of new work for young people audiences.
To date, Pollyanna has performed for the public and for school audiences in real time, online, over 120 times. These have been dramatized stories for preschoolers and scripted work for children in grades 2 - 5 that invites them to play roles alongside professional actors. These performances have been a celebration of the passing of the 19th Amendment that culminate in children writing to their Congress Representatives about the concerns that matter most to them. And at the heart of it all is a respect for the children we serve and the brave spirits that they bring to an all new art form based online. And we are not stopping our pivot anytime soon.
While we long to return to the stage and be in the same space with our young audience, we know that we are months away from the opening of venues that make that possible. We insist upon the safety of our audience. So we continue to collaborate and find new ways to invite the young audience into the dramatic space with us.
But this is a pivot that comes with a price. We can't do this alone. We ask you to visit our pollyannatheatrecompany.org website and hit that donate button and join your steady foot beside ours as we continue the twists and turns and bends that are just around the corner. We welcome you to join us in this wild ride.