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Last spring, Hudson Stage Company (HSC) was just two weeks away from commencing rehearsals for a new production when it decided to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Undeterred by the many challenges that came with closing, the Company will now reopen its doors at Whippoorwill Theatre at North Castle Public Library this month. HSC will kick off its new season with the same production intended for last year — The October Storm, by playwright Joshua Allen, who was also a writer and co-executive producer for the Emmy Award-winning Fox TV series, Empire.
Denise Bessette, Co-Founder and Artistic Producer at HSC, recalls: “Even though we knew postponing the production would be a costly undertaking, we committed to honoring the artistic team: the director, writer and actors who had already signed on to participate and had been collaborating.”
The Company now faced a new challenge of developing the production and having rehearsals while also following COVID-19 protocols and prioritizing the safety of the actors and staff, which ultimately forced the Company’s budget and staff to increase. For instance, HSC was required by its union to hire a COVID-19 supervisor, a new role created during the pandemic that oversees the compliance and enforcement of protocols on set. The Company also needed to have an “intimacy coordinator” to observe COVID-19 prevention measures during several scenes in the show that involve kissing and fighting. Rehearsals for the production were held in a closed studio, and the actors were on-call for their scenes. In addition, all actors and staff were required to be vaccinated.
On weekends from October 8 through 23, HSC will finally premiere Allen’s new play, which follows a troubled war veteran who moves into an apartment building in 1960s Southside Chicago. This sets in motion an emotional whirlwind amongst the building’s residents. In the center of the conflict are the building’s landlady, Mrs. Elkins, and her 16-year-old granddaughter, Gloria. Directed by Cezar Williams, the play will star Patricia R. Floyd, Yvette Ganier, Trevor Latez Hayes, Philipe D. Preston and Courtney Thomas.
The Company will take strict precautions to ensure the safety of its audiences, including proper ventilation with the required air filtration system, requiring proof of vaccination at the door, and a mask mandate.
Bessette hopes these new measures will allow audience members to feel “welcome, comfortable, safe and immersed in a truly compelling evening of theater.”
Moving forward, HSC hopes to continue fostering and encouraging new emerging artists and playwrights, and plans to share “stimulating works” with local audiences. Bessette explains that the Company’s goal is to “not just survive, but thrive in the aftermath of this pandemic and be able to continue bringing original and provocative voices to [its] audiences.” HSC will continue its season through June 2022.
A version of this article first appeared in the October issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.