Historic Swift Creek Mill Theatre has announced plans to offer digital youth performances beginning this fall. The theatre, known locally as “the People’s Playhouse,” will launch its “Young People’s Playhouse” productions in October.
In addition to five MainStage productions each year, the theatre has produced live, youth-focused performances for decades. The plays combine performing arts and education, making the Mill a popular field trip destination for local educators and children alike.
The theatre’s forced closure since mid-March, due to the pandemic, coupled with an unprecedented flood in August, prompted the staff to look for other ways to reach audiences.
“The pandemic has forced theatres around the world to think outside the box when it comes to fulfilling our missions and generating revenue,” said the Mill’s Managing Director Steven Koehler. “The closure has been difficult, to say the least, and the flood could not have come at a worse time. Still, we resolved to approach these challenges with a determination to look for opportunities to adapt and explore non-traditional options. We thought, if the students can’t come here, we’ll bring the theatre to them.”
The Mill’s digital performances will be filmed by award-winning filmmaker Martin Montgomery and will be available for rental this fall, beginning with “Chicken Little on the Farm,” by Paul Deiss and the Mill’s Artistic Director Tom Width. The play was originally scheduled for production in April, with much of the set design having already been completed when the pandemic hit.
“Fortunately, our stage and audience seating were not affected by the flood,” said Koehler.
“We’re going to be able to do some wonderful things in this brave new world of digital education and entertainment,” said Width. “For instance, everyone gets a great seat, close to the action onstage. We can actually zoom in for terrific closeups of the characters and the scenery so our viewers will feel as if they’re right in the middle of the action. We will have a teacher introduce each video and then, afterwards, review the lessons taught in the story.”
According to Width, the productions will also feature special ‘”bonus tracks” that will extend the fun well beyond the play itself, with special guests demonstrating activities that students can do at home or in the classroom.
Plans are also underway to film the Mill’s beloved “Drifty the Snowman” character in “A Drifty Holiday,” by Paul Deiss. Two additional productions are in the planning stages.
“We plan to resume MainStage performances as soon as possible when we are certain we can ensure the health and safety of our audiences, artists and staff, as long as we are financially able to do so” said Koehler. “Until then, we are presented with an exciting opportunity to branch out to a broader audience with digital performances while maintaining our historic ties to the community.”
“We’ll really miss having audiences right here in the theater, but we’re really excited about making digital entertainment come alive in schools and homes anywhere,” said Width.
For more information, visit swiftcreekmill.com.