Testing out the theatrical ice wasn’t something Patrick White thought he’d be doing this season.
Yet, after months of going without live theater, when the opportunity arose to present a play outside of the Spa Little Theater and in a socially distanced environment, he couldn’t say no.
White, a longtime figure in Capital Region theater, is directing a live, in-person production of “Cry It Out,” this weekend and next in partnership with Home Made Theater. The play, which is among the first live theatrical productions to be locally produced in several months, is written by Molly Smith Metzler, featuring actors Talyah Chaires, Daniel M. Perez, Elizabeth Pietrangelo and Siobhan Shea.
When he first saw it in 2017, it ticked all the theatrical boxes, White said, comedically, emotionally and spiritually. The dark comedy reflects on how class can impact parenthood in America, following new moms Jessie and Lina, who bond over the highs and lows of motherhood and grapple with returning to work.
White wanted to direct it somewhere in the Capital Region and shopped it around to a few theaters. Well before the coronavirus pandemic began impacting the area, Home Made Theater decided to take it but with the condition that it wouldn’t be presented on its main stage but in a unique location.
Turns out that the location won’t be the only unique way of presenting the show. The actors will be masked through much of the show and the audience members will be spaced apart and their temperatures will be taken upon arrival.
“We’re the first. . . when people were talking about getting back to producing [asking] ‘What’s it going to look like?’ I was like ‘I don’t want to be the first. Let someone else go.’ But we’re out there testing the ice, seeing if we can skate on this,” White said.
It certainly adds a layer of stress to the endeavor, though to be able to even get back to working in a theater environment has been refreshing.
“I look forward to when I can take my mask off but it’s a minor thing to be able to be in rehearsal. To be so fortunate to be working on this and to be in the field with actors and staging this stuff and asking for people to [try things] in three, four different ways, which you can’t do on Zoom,” White said.
Since the production will take place outside of the Spa Little Theater, they start their rehearsals there, though they usually have to move inside the theater once it gets dark. It’s a small cast so they’re easily able to maintain social distancing.
“Cry It Out” seemed relevant when White first saw it, though it’s perhaps more so when viewed through today’s lens.
“I think most of us see life differently than we did in 2017,” White said. In the play, the characters are struggling with changing priorities, sparked by the births of their children.
“The lead character in the play goes for an emergency C-section to give birth to her daughter and it’s a transformative event,” White said, “She is fighting to stay at home with her daughter rather than go back to work. That’s her struggle through the course of the play . . . Because her priorities have changed, becoming a mother, she has become a new person and to become the mother she wants to be she has to reorganize her finances, her relationship with her husband, everything.”
White said the coronavirus pandemic has challenged his priorities and guesses that is probably true of many others.
Initially, the lead characters are also lonely and begin to bond over a daily cup of coffee and that desire to connect is also relevant today, during a time when many have been cut off from each other.
“There’s a quote that I love in the play, ‘I think you’re supposed to cry when you’re all alone in a dark room. That’s what I think and I think your mom or dad — or someone who loves you — is supposed to come help you,’” White said. “For me, that’s why we’re doing the play and that’s what we’re looking for from the community and what we’re trying to give to the community. We’re all in this dark room, and we’re looking to nurture each other and grow so that we can move on and minister to others.”
To present “Cry It Out,” which is a fundraiser for Home Made Theater, organizers have had to orchestrate off-stage nearly as much as on.
“Everyone is masked until you sit down; you can take your mask off once you’re seated. There are 40 seats a night, two people are going to sit in a 10 by 10-foot square,” White said.
The stage is also 12 feet away from the audience and upon arrival, audience members’ temperature will be taken. Each person will also be required to complete a health-screening questionnaire concerning whether or not they’ve had a fever, sore throat, difficulty breathing, etc. in the last 14 days. Audience members can bring chairs, blankets, umbrellas and essential personal items with them.
Despite all the challenges that have come with being among the first to present live theater in the Capital Region, “Cry It Out” is an opportunity to return to doing what White, the actors and theater technicians love to do.
“We don’t know when we’re going to work in a theater again. So we’re just making the most of it,” White said.
“Cry It Out”
WHEN: 3 p.m. Sat. and Sun., and 3 p.m. Sat. Oct. 3 and Sun. 4
WHERE: Saratoga Spa State Park, adjacent to the Spa Little Theater
MORE INFO: Visit homemadetheater.org or call 518-587-4427
There will also be a live-streamed performance on Sun. Oct. 4. Tickets are $20