By Dee Jae Cox
One of our most enduring human qualities is that we adapt to change. It has been the key to our survival. As an avid reader, I was seriously reluctant to give up my paper novels for kindle. I loved the feel of a book in my hands. But eventually I came to acknowledge how much more convenient and expansive kindle was and so gradually made the change. The same has been true for me when it comes to enjoying theatre. This past year stages across the world have been assaulted by the Coronavirus Pandemic. Forcing live performances to go dark, theatre seats to remain empty, actors and stage crew unemployed and in search of new methods of crafting their art.
March 14, 2020 was the date I last saw a live stage performance. It was Coachella Valley Repertory’s “The City of Conversation.” I loved it. The week prior I had seen a stage reading of a friend’s new script, “Broken Open,” by Isabelle Sarfati and the week before that I had the best time watching Dezart Perform’s production of Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat.” And when the stages across the desert were forced to abruptly go dark, I was devastated.
But there is a true reason why theatre has survived for thousands of years and it is because of the artists who claim the performing arts as their own and ensure it’s survival by thinking outside the box. The men and women who are seen on the stage and those who perform their magic backstage guarantee the survival of the art. When live stage productions shut down, theatres across the country and particularly here in the Coachella Valley, teamed up, put their heads together, created alliances (The Alliance of Desert Theatres,) and went to work. Theatre went primarily virtual and out into the open air, (just like the Greeks used to do it.)
Coachella Valley Repertory, (cvrep.org) hardly missed a step, as they continue to provide their “Theatre Thursday’s” in the virtual realm. Play readings that are creatively presented in compliance with today’s space and distance requirements. Musical sing-alongs, Concert performances by award winning performers, Actor’s on Actors interviews, as well as acting/singing classes.
Desert Rose Playhouse, (desertroseplayhouse.org) has moved to a beautiful new location, 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 15, Palm Springs, CA and has set up their 2021 season, hoping to sell ‘spaces’ within their theatre that will meet distancing requirements. Their first production is “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” scheduled to open March 25th, 2021.
Dezart Performs, (dezartperforms.org) like their creative brothers and sisters, has moved to the virtual world, offering conversations between actors and playwrights from their highly successful shows and currently lining up a provocative new virtual show titled, Mental Amusements, (January 13th – January 31st.) a brand new, interactive, virtual mind-reading show created and performed by award-winning mentalist Vinny DePonto.
The Improvables of the Desert, the Coachella Valley’s very own fun, quick-witted & talented improv troupe, has continued to keep their sense of humor and wits about them during this challenging time, by performing virtually. Their upcoming show will be Saturday, February 13, 2021 benefitting the Ophelia Project, which is a program of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation.
Palm Canyon Theatre (www.palmcanyontheatre.org) ended the year with their heartwarming presentation of ‘Sounds of the Season,’ featuring some of the their most talented ensemble members.
Martinis and Memoirs, is a fun online performance series, headed up by well- known actress, Patricia West Del-Ruth. Through their coordination, local actors have been presenting monologues for seasonal occasions. The next upcoming event will be on Saturday, February 13, 2021 Martinis & Memoirs & Music VALENTINES DAY EDITION.
The Coachella Valley, is blessed to have the best of the best when it comes to theatre artists. Live Theatre is at the top of my list of things I miss most. But the creative energy that continues to flow is what keeps this 2000-year-old art growing and ever changing in order to meet the needs of audiences. The performing artists of the desert have shown light through the darkness of 2020, I believe they will be the sunlight in 2021.
Here’s to stage lights shinning bright in the New Year!
Dee Jae Cox is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director of The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project.