Albright Community Theatre stage goes dark until 2021
The show must go on. Until it shouldn't.
Area community theaters are finding the coronavirus pandemic to be a foe that shatters the notion that actors, directors and stagehands can push through any challenge to put on a live show for appreciative fans.
Like many others, the Albright Community Theatre board in Batavia has decided to close operations until the 2021 season. Hopefully, the COVID-19 story will be in everyone's rearview mirror, or at least under far better control.
It marks the first time since the Batavia theater debuted in 1974 that is has gone any lengthy period of time without auditions or shows.
"A lot of our reasoning in deciding to close until at least next season was, first of all, in looking at the state guidelines for reopening it is going to take a long time before theaters are ready to do that," said Kaitlin Steele, publicity manager and board member for Albright. "The biggest concern is that, when we do reopen, it will be safe for our patrons and actors."
Albright organizers are trying to make good use of the downtime. "We can start to physically be in the theater and work on the space and make some improvements," Steele said.
The Albright Community Theater remains located in the Batavia Government Center, a good spot that places it near other community gathering places like the Riverwalk, Depot Pond, Peg Bond Center and the band shell.
The theater's last performance, "Breakfast at Tiffany's," took place in February, just before it became apparent the coronavirus was tightening its grip on the U.S.
The theater has operated in much the same manner for more than 45 years. The board determines what shows to offer and sends public announcements to seek directors and actors.
Those interested in directing or auditioning for parts in a cast mostly come from the Tri-Cities area, but could come into Batavia from across the suburbs, or even Chicago -- if it is a play individuals are passionate about. The one thing they all have in common is they are volunteers.
"Everyone has a fair shot to get involved and we want to involve as many people as we can," said Steele, herself an actress with Albright since 2012 and a board member for the past year.
And, yes, I asked if she is any relation to Donna Steele, who for years made a name for herself as the public relations and theater manager for Steel Beam in St. Charles.
"I have been asked that before, and the answer is no, I am not related," said Steele, who just graduated from Boston University last year with a master's degree in public relations.
As for the shows at Albright, patrons can expect to see plenty of people who have been involved in theater in the past. But it's essentially those who have acting and singing on stage in their blood -- whether as a fun extracurricular activity or a way to complement studying theater in college and hoping to make a living with the art form.
Even though it has to go dark for now, Albright will rise again and continue to serve the region through donations and ticket revenue for shows that bring us the joy of the arts at its grass-roots best.
"Everyone with us definitely is here because we just love it," Steele added.
A stadium tour:
It's not a bad time to use Northwestern Medicine Field as a type of tourist attraction for visitors to learn about how a baseball stadium operates. After all, the Kane County Cougars have been forced to cancel baseball during the pandemic.
At 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday through Aug. 27, the Cougars staff will take small groups through tours of the stadium, its concourse and upper deck.
Visitors will see the Cougars playing field, visiting team clubhouses, the umpires' room, batting cages, concession kitchens and dugouts.
Those interested in supporting the team in this way can register on the Cougars' website or the Geneva Chamber of Commerce site.
Cost is $20 per person, with special family rates. Information about registering and the different tour options is available by e-mailing requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other than a few steaming hot and humid days, and a couple of stormy nights, the weather has cooperated with the concept of dining outdoors during the pandemic.
It has to have more than a few restaurant owners thinking about keeping their outdoor setups in place during warm weather beyond the pandemic. Yes, you'd have to hire a few more servers if you had a booming business inside and outside, but that sounds like an OK problem to have.
Some restaurants already had nice outdoor setups, but the owners have expanded them to add more tables in any way they can.
Many good examples have unfolded, but we'll point out Villa Verone in Geneva, which already had a nice outdoor setup but owners placed seven more tables with artificial turf beneath them along the restaurant's driveway. They fit in great and have almost always been full.
It's a challenge:
Serving as an alderman is an excellent way to give back to your community and bring your skills into local government -- even if those skills are simply being eager to learn, having a level head and common sense and being willing to devote the time.
Some bring financial, management, or business skills into the role. Others bring a sense of history and understanding about how local government operates and where it has succeeded or failed in the past.
Mostly, however, in this time of social media in which people have their say with no commitment to listen to others with respect and courtesy, one must have a thick skin.
Geneva Alderman Michael Clements recently stepped down from his position, in part citing the contentious political climate. He didn't come right out and say it, but something tells me he took more grief than he cared to, or deserved, over the debate regarding the city selling a parcel of land on the west side to a developer seeking to build an affordable housing site.
In 40-plus years of covering local news and events, I can confidently say he's not the first alderman to wonder if it is worth the hassle. He's also not the first to enter the arena without fully understanding that not everyone in a bucolic little town is open-minded and can see two sides to a story -- no matter which side of a debate you fall on.
Years ago a city official might get a nasty phone call or letter from a disgruntled resident, or maybe an unpleasant confrontation in a store or at a community event. Today, it's also a series of Tweets or a Facebook thread that goes on the attack.
I would never discourage anyone from seeking a seat on a city council or school board. It's one of the most important tasks anyone can take on in addition to their family and work life.
But you have to understand this simple premise: A good portion of people, but not all, will most definitely think they know more than you or could do a better job. Yet, most would never seek your board seat.
But voicing an opinion and being active is also important to your town. Some will make well-researched arguments; others will shoot from the hip because it's easier.
In the end, an elected official has to make decisions on what they feel is the best for the community in the long term and what helps it comply with any state or federal guidelines for funding.