RCP's 2019 production of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.

The Community Theatre Thrives telethon will raise money for 14 local theaters

In an effort to help the struggling theater companies throughout the Washington, D.C. region, 14 local theaters will take part in Community Theatre Thrives, a virtual fundraising telethon held on July 17 and 18, which will raise money for those impacted by COVID-19 closures.

Reston Community Players, one of the area’s most established community theater companies, spearheaded the telethon. The theater was forced to cancel the final weekend of its production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” and shortly thereafter, cancelled the entire performance run of “Mama Mia.”

“We found our friends in other companies were facing the same circumstance,” said Kate Keifer, vice president of Reston Community Players. “For instance, our friends over at Prince William Little Theatre had to cancel their entire run of ‘Sister Act’ on opening night.”

So, suddenly all these volunteer performers and production companies had no shows to produce and no stages to perform on. 

“Our goal is to make theater accessible to the communities we serve,” Keifer said. “We operate on a shoestring, and when looking at how long this would be going on and the long-term picture, we thought it would be really great if we all came together and did some kind of fundraiser.”

A board member pitched the idea of a telethon modeled after the Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon, and community theaters quickly signed up to be part of it.

The telethon seeks to raise awareness of the incredible passion, talent, generosity, and dedication of the volunteers who make community theatre in the DC Metro region possible and will feature the voices of prominent members of the theatre industry who support community theatre in all its forms.

“With every theater in the area not being able to put on shows, theater companies have seen a big reduction in their revenue,” said Steven Yates, president of The Arlington Players. “That’s why Community Theatre Thrives present a lifeline to many groups, and can act as an investment in the future so the companies can all return to the stage, auditoriums, and theaters once it is safe and healthy to do so.”

Companies participating in the Community Theatre Thrives telethon include The City of Fairfax Theatre Company; The Arlington Players; Prince William Little Theatre in Manassas; Sterling Playmakers; Reston Community Players; Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre; The Colonial Players of Annapolis; The Hard Bargain Players; Kensington Arts Theatre; Laurel Mill Playhouse; Port Tobacco Players; Rockville Little Theatre; Silver Spring Stage; and Victorian Lyric Opera Company. In all, there will be 16 hours of programing.

“Because of rights, we’re not doing clips from past performances; it will all be cabaret style or promo video style,” Keifer said.

The Arlington Players will present a musical hour Yates hopes will delight viewers. 

“We’ll even have some surprise reprisals for those familiar with TAP shows and we’ll also hear from some members about what TAP means to them,” he said. “The arts are always important, but this health pandemic has highlighted the need for both creativity and community connection. TAP, and the other theater companies performing, are hoping to bring both of those to households while we can’t be together in person. We hope that’s a value for audiences. 

Rockville Little Theatre commissioned a Zoom play that it will perform and the Colonial Players of Annapolis will be doing some Shakespeare. 

Reston Community Players will be doing performances from past seasons as well as some of the shows the theater was forced to cancel. There will also be interviews and performances from the past two winners of its high school scholarship program.

The event will be hosted by Keifer, Reston Community Players president Jolene Vettese and actor Wayne Jacques. 100 percent of the money received will be divided up among the 14 participating organizations.

The telethon will be streaming through YouTube and also directly at TheatreThrives.org. It runs from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on July 17 and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on July 18.

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