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Local theater is ‘all together now’

A collaborative production between four local theater companies raises funds for community theater projects affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

By Erin Hunsader

All Together Now! cast members rehearse at the Green Bay Community Theater ahead of the Nov. 12 premiere. Photo courtesy of Rochelle Van Erem

After (roughly) 500,025,600 minutes of waiting for live theater to come back in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Green Bay community theater groups are ready to strike.

Since going dark in March 2020, Green Bay Community Theater (GBCT) Manager Patricia Grimm has been waiting to raise the current for local thespians. “All Together Now!” is a collaborative effort from local production companies Evergreen Productions, Play-by-Play Theatre Company, Theatre Z Incorporated and GBCT.

Grimm said the idea came to her while she was attending a bi-annual American Association of Community Theatres (AACT) training session. Music Theatre International (MTI) announced a musical theater review called “All Together Now!” that provides a simple way for theaters hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic to raise funds for their programming.

The review show provides schools and theatres around the globe songs from MTI’s canon free of charge with a few caveats. The shows have to be performed live over the same four days, (Nov. 12 – 15) and the proceeds from ticket sales are to be used as a fundraiser for the theatres to recoup some of the revenue lost during the 2020-21 seasons.

Grimm said she knew the Green Bay Community Theatre stage would be the perfect setting for the show.

“I’m listening to him and I’m thinking ‘Oh, this is so cool,’” Grimm said. “We know singers. We could do this. We have space.”

Grimm said she eventually realized it could be an opportunity for all local theater groups to collaborate.

This is a first for the groups involved, but Grimm said many of them have been sharing resources all along and the joint collaboration just makes sense.

“From the very beginning,” Grimm said, “we all shared things (with the motto) lend, borrow, give back at least as good as you borrowed it. Actors go back and forth from company to company. So after what was the worst 18 months any of us have gone through and to see that what came out of that was this willingness to collaborate, to share, to say, ‘What can we do together to make us all better.’”

Grimm said when she presented the idea to the other theater companies, everybody was immediately on board. To save on costs and cover all of the roles and responsibilities, the theatre groups simply combined their strengths.

“At GBCT, we’re providing the theatre space,” Grimm said. “Evergreen Community Theatre Company provided props and sets and is doing all of the behind-the-scenes work – setting up ushers, arranging a stage manager. Play-by-Play had so many singers and our Music Director is Mary Ehlinger (from Play-by-Play) and Theatre Z has Rochelle Van Erem directing. So everything was covered simply by celebrating each company’s strengths.”

The show itself celebrates the rise of the curtain and theatre coming back, filled with musical numbers all in the spirit of this theme Grimm said.

Some of the musical theater numbers featured include “Pure Imagination” from the 1971 film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Tomorrow” from the 1977 classic “Annie,” “Spread the Love Around” from “Sister Act,” and “Seasons of Love” from Jonathan Larson’s “RENT.”

Evergreen Productions Director Rochelle Van Erem, who has on-stage experience with three of the four theater groups involved, said she was thrilled to get the chance to direct this.

“I was really grateful when Stephen (Rupsch of Theatre Z) offered it to me,” Van Erem said.

Van Erem said the COVID-19 virus still played a factor in whether or not the production would be coming together.

“You know, we did have concerns about Covid, like, is this really going to happen,” Van Erem said. “Are we going to have to push it out and stream it last minute?”

Van Erem said everyone has been wearing masks during rehearsals. Grimm also said the audience will be masked. Performers are masked until they go on stage and temperatures of performers will also be taken.

“We’re taking every precaution that we can,” said Van Erem. “It’s the art form itself that provides that shared experience people are missing out on.”

Van Erem said the collaborative production will be a beautiful moment for all the players involved and all of the anticipation and time away from the stage has made onstage moments that much sweeter.

“I‘ve missed this,” Van Erem said.

Erin Hunsader is Editor of Healthy Living and Wellness magazine. She has been freelance writing for newspapers and magazines for over 10 years as well as having articles published in magazines like Guideposts Mysterious Ways and writing educational materials for TheatreWorksUSA (New York City, NY). She received her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and her Master’s degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2010.

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