Glenview's Oil Lamp Theater records one-woman comedy 'Bad Dates' for drive-in, online viewing
Like many theater-makers whose stages went dark this spring in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oil Lamp Theater executive director Jay Pastucha and associate artistic director Stephen Smith had to think fast.
The Glenview theater's artists wanted to get to back to work, says Pastucha, and they wanted to do so safely. Pastucha knew they had to be nimble and find a way they could produce within Illinois Department of Public Health safety guidelines.
They came up with Theresa Rebeck's one-woman comedy, "Bad Dates," starring Lisa Dawn of Lisle as a divorced, 30-something mom who shares the professional, personal and romantic challenges she encounters as she dips her toes back into the dating pool.
The production, which was filmed earlier this week in Oil Lamp's empty theater, opens Friday, Aug. 7, as a drive-in screening sponsored by Aston Martin Glenview and Gusto Italiano Restaurant and held in the parking lot of Glenview's Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church. Beginning Saturday, Aug. 8, the production will stream online through Aug. 23 at oillamptheater.org.
Depending on how audiences respond, "Bad Dates" could "pave the way" for other coronavirus-era adaptations, Pastucha said.
Pastucha says director Elizabeth Mazur Levin already had the script "in her back pocket" for a while last May when he discussed the possibility of Oil Lamp filming a production and streaming it online.
Getting the rights for the revival took five weeks, Pastucha said. That hurdle cleared, they had to establish a streaming platform. Rehearsals began about a month ago and filming took place earlier this week with safety protocols including temperature checks, mandatory face coverings and physical distancing, Pastucha said. They installed new filters in the theater, opened doors and limited the capacity to only four people in the space at a time.
Getting back to work has been a pleasure, "even under these insane circumstances," Pastucha said, adding everyone is doing his or her best to "make things work during this time as best as we can."
"We take this very seriously," said Pastucha, who approached Lisa Dawn, of the Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, about playing the role of Haley. After reading the script, Dawn accepted.
Safety has been a priority from the start, she said.
"There were a lot of guidelines before we moved into the theater and began rehearsing," she said.
Dawn, the crew and the creative team entered the theater separately and submitted to temperature checks and screenings upon entering. There were sanitizer pumps and wipes everywhere, Dawn said, and everyone was more or less confined to his or her own area.
Hers was the stage.
"I'm only unmasked when we run scenes," she said.
To minimize contact with crew members, Dawn reset and replaced props herself, and everything was sanitized repeatedly.
Interviewed before the filming, Dawn said they intended to film the play straight through, without stopping for any mishaps or miscues.
"We want to give it the feel of live theater even though it's being recorded," she said. "That's been a big challenge for me. Live theater depends upon an audience's reaction. I'm not going to have any of that."
Dawn says Levin told her to trust the laughs will occur where they're supposed to occur.
"The show itself is really funny," Dawn said. "Haley and her story of finding love is reminiscent of simpler times, but it's something we can all relate to."
Most importantly, the play concludes on a hopeful note, said Dawn. "I think that's something everybody needs right now."
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Drive-in screening: 6 and 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7, sponsored by Aston Martin Glenview and Gusto Italiano Restaurant
Where: Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church parking lot, the north side of the 1800 block of Glenview Road, Glenview
Tickets: $25 per car general admission; $40 general admission with snacks; $50 general admission, first row with snacks
Online streaming: 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday; from Aug. 8-23
Tickets: $25-$50 (24-hour access with purchase); (847) 834-0738 or oillamptheater.org