Local theater performers ready to get back on stage

Local News

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Stages in Topeka have been empty and quiet since they closed in September, but soon they’ll look a lot different. Shows are now scheduled for June and July at Helen Hocker Theater in Gage Park and the Topeka Civic Theatre.

More than 500 volunteers help make sure productions run smoothly, but they haven’t gotten that chance for months.

“I think we’re missing that creative outlet,” said Lauren Lewis, a performer. “Without it, I think it’s safe to say, I know, that we’ve all struggled because it’s been challenging.”

On Monday, Shawnee County commissioners approved $163,372 for the Topeka Civic Theatre and Academy to manage Helen Hocker Theater for the rest of the year.

The decision came after theater leaders discussed coronavirus trends, what attendance restrictions could look like, and how comfortable people will be returning.

The timing to open up in the coming months is also due to the desire to give young people an outlet through theater.

“Most important, our kids need summer camp, they need all that provides to them, and if we were going to be open for camps, then it seemed like the right time to open for our productions,” said Topeka Civic Theatre CEO Vicki Brokke.

Camps will begin in June. Staff will continue to come back next month to make sure operations are up and running.

Getting back to a sense of normalcy is a welcome sight to those at the theater.

“Sometimes when you don’t have something, you realize how much you appreciate it,” Brokke said.

As for the performers, Lewis said everyone wants to show off what they haven’t been able to do this past year.

“It’s where we feel most at home, and it’s not just about the shows, it about the relationships that you have with the folks that you’re doing it with, cast, crew, all of it. I can’t even imagine the amount of tears that are going to flow when we get to be back together again,” Lewis said.

Final safety guidelines aren’t expected until May, but theater leaders said they should have some combination of social distancing and masks as a requirement.

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