FreeFall Theatre Company was just about the only local performance venue with an occupied stage last weekend, staying open for business through the Sunday matinee of Lone Star Spirits, after most other theaters had announced immediate closure because of rapidly-spreading coronavirus fears.
Over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control were recommending no crowds of 250 people or more.
“At freeFall, we decided we wanted to keep a level head during the situation, and look directly to what the CDC was saying,” said artistic director Eric Davis. “We really trust the CDC as a group of scientists that know better than any of us what is going on with this.”
The freeFall seating configuration for Lone Star Spirits allowed for 140 patrons at a time. “We were well, well under the 250 cap,” Davis pointed out, “and we were seeing audiences of between 60 and 100. But now, of course, since the threshold has been moved lower we’re sticking to those recommendations.”
The revised CDC recommendation is to keep crowds to fewer than 50. As soon as the new guideline was announced, Davis pulled the plug on Lone Star Spirits, which had two weekends left in its run.
“I felt that as long as we stayed within the scope of what they were recommending, we would be doing the right thing,” he said.
Sunday afternoon, Davis made the announcement that he was “temporarily suspending” operations at freeFall, for a minimum of eight weeks. Like the rest of the world, he’s monitoring the ever-changing coronavirus landscape.
Scrapped entirely is Dear World, scheduled as the next-to-last production in freeFall’s 2019-2020 season. Rehearsals weren’t set to begin for another two weeks.
Ticket holders for Lone Star Spirits and Dear World, he said, are being contacted regarding refunds or exchanges. “And of course we have a plan for making all of that good.”
Still a go is Oz, written by Davis and Michael Raabe. The musical, Davis said, is “full steam ahead” and plans are for it to have its world premiere June 27.
What happens in between now and then, of course, is a question mark.
“I don’t personally believe in worry,’ said Davis. “I don’t worry. But we’re going to be presented with some financial challenges, as will all arts organizations and community organizations.
“Canceling an entire show, yes, we’re going to take a hit. I think the whole country is going to see a huge financial hit with this, in both nonprofit and for-profit business. What will remain to be seen, when all is said and done, is what we’re able to do to come back from that.”