SOLANA BEACH — Following a season of taped performances that earned the playhouse national attention, the North Coast Repertory Theatre is ready to welcome fans back to Solana Beach for a historic 40th season of shows.
Last season did not go as expected and the theatre scrambled to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Weeks after its final live performance in March of 2020, North Coast Rep began live streaming taped production of plays for its subscribers and fans to enjoy.
Loyal fans were happy to have stage productions to enjoy.
“In the entire country, I don’t think anybody put out as much as we did,” David Ellenstein, the theatre’s artistic director, told The Coast News. “It kept our full staff employed and it kept our audience and donors engaged. It was a big win.”
According to Ellenstein, one patron of the theatre enjoyed North Coast Rep’s filmed production of “An Iliad” so much, he offered to pay to have it performed again with the same actor on stage for them to enjoy in person.
The live-streamed performances even landed North Coast Rep national attention from the New York Times after two major acting unions — SAG-AFTRA and Equity — fought over the ability of actors to perform stage productions virtually.
At least for now, filmed productions are a thing of the not-too-distant past. Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Dr. Glas,” is currently streaming for fans online through Aug. 15 as North Coast Rep’s final stage-to-film production.
On September 8, it will open its doors for theatergoers again with a production of Mark St. Germain’s “Dancing Lessons.”
Following state and local guidance, the theater will be requiring the use of masks in the audience as well as either proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.
Aside from Dancing Lessons, the rest of the shows scheduled for Season 40 are shows that were meant for last year.
“In a weird way Season 40 is Season 39 redux,” Ellenstein said. “But they are all shows we really wanted to do.”
Ellenstein says they are starting off easy with “Dancing Lessons,” a two-person play, before ramping up to a bigger musical to close out the season.
The theater has already had a dry run for the season of plays with the return of the John Denver Tribute band earlier this week.
Tuesday Night Comics also returns to North Coast Rep next week to act as preparation for the staff before the start of Season 40.
“It’s good mostly for the house management, for the ushers, we need to see how people are going to react. We don’t know,” said Ellenstein, who welcomed the audience back on stage for the John Denver Tribute show.
Ellenstein said that everyone who works for the theater, from resident set designer Marty Burnett to longtime production crew member Aaron Rumley and more, is ready and waiting.
“We’re chomping at the bit,” Ellenstein said. “We just want to get back at it. We’ve missed doing it.”