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WilsonvilleSTAGE is happy to put on two shows before virus closed the curtains

COURTESY PHOTO - WilsonvilleSTAGE performs in front of a smaller audience than normal during its abbreviated run March 14-15 at the Wilsonville Public Library.

According to Janet Carr — the director of WilsonvilleSTAGE's abbreviated production run of "The Lion in Winter" — the theater aphorism "the show must go on" simply did not apply.

But the lack of necessity didn't make the two shows that were squeezed in any less cathartic.

WilsonvilleSTAGE had spent months preparing for the production only to have nearly all of its performances canceled due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

On March 12, Charbonneau Country Club, the group's primary venue, canceled six shows, two days before the group's opening night at the Wilsonville Public Library. However, although the second weekend of shows at the library was canceled, the curtains opened for two shows March 14-15.

The audience sizes were much smaller than normal, around 15 to 20, but the cast was all smiles after the show, according to Carr.

"The work we've put in over the months, it would have been kind of devastating if we wouldn't have at least been able to prove to ourselves we were just as good as we thought we were," Carr said.

WilsonvilleSTAGE President Dave Niklas added: "The word to wrap it up was it was a 'bittersweet' experience. They got to do what they had rehearsed for for so long, but it was bittersweet they couldn't do the whole run."

The group began rehearsing for the show at venues in Tualatin and the Tauchman House in Wilsonville starting in December. And Carr said the heavy line loads and idiosyncracy of the characters made the James Goldman show challenging to execute.

"There's a tendency for actors to throw in a random 'Oh' or a 'Well' at the beginning of a sentence. James Goldman crafts everyone's lines so that each of the 'Ohs' is a specific need for that line. So when the actor says an extra 'Oh' it's like a red flag," Carr said.

They also borrowed costumes and prop items like daggers and swords from other theater groups.

Despite the Wilsonville government announcing many closures the week before opening night, the effective date for the closures began a couple days after, which allowed the shows to take place.

The group sanitized the library room prior to the performances and Niklas said the audience wound up being mostly younger adults, who are said to be less vulnerable to the disease.

Carr was grateful that the Wilsonville library still allowed them to perform and for an administrator to oversee each show.

Still, the production was a financial blow for the theater group. According to Niklas, it spent over $1,000 on the rights to put on the play, $80 for scripts, around $850 for rehearsal space, and $500 to rent venue space.

"By the time you get to a week out, you've basically spent all your money, and then you try to make it back, and we didn't have a chance to make it back," Niklas said.

The group recouped some of the money for venue use and received donations from many people who bought a ticket for a canceled show. Still, WilsonvilleSTAGE was in the red overall.

"We don't make a lot of money on a show when we run nine nights. We'll just have to be more aggressive in donation drives," Niklas said.

WilsonvilleSTAGE also is canceling its spring show and Niklas hopes it could return for a fall production.

Though Carr's first show with WilsonvilleSTAGE might also have been the craziest production of her career — she said it was even crazier than the time she broke her back on stage — Carr plans to continue to volunteer with the group moving forward.

"I love the 'feel' of the WilsonvilleSTAGE ethic. It's a small company attempting to do very wonderfully grand things. Wilsonville should be so proud that there is this ethic, this desire for quality in their community," she said.

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