After months without live audiences, laughter and applause are filling the theater once again.
Centerstage Theatre has welcomed back in-person audiences with “A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol” by Walton Jones and Faye Greenberg.
“It’s nice to see the audience back,” said Artistic Director Trista Duval. The energy of a show is different when 25 people are masked and distanced, she said, compared to when 150 people are all together.
“But that sound of the applause and the laughter — the sounds of people having a joyful, shared experience after the last 18 months we’ve had is so revitalizing to me,” Duval said.
Directed by Deanna Martinez, “A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol” tells the story of a radio station staff and their adventures while broadcasting on Christmas Eve during World War II. The show features rearranged harmonies and your favorite Christmas songs with comedic commercial breaks to mimic that old school radio feel.
The show opened on July 9 and runs until Sunday, Aug. 1.
The Christmas-themed show brings the holiday spirit to July, though the show was originally planned for December 2020.
With an entire show prepped, set designed, and costumes completed, the show was canceled one week before its premiere due to rising COVID-19 rates in the area.
After a few tears, Duval said, she knew it was the right move.
“Christmas in July is fun and kitschy, Christmas in September is just, you’re really early or really late,” she said with a laugh.
With a 10-person, fully-vaccinated cast and encouraging audience members to wear their masks for the entire show, a weight has been lifted.
“The show that we’re bringing is actually able to be more relaxed and more fully realized because we’re not worried as much about [transmission],” she said.
The 1940s radio show is the first non-panto holiday show Centerstage has done in 13 years, Duval said.
A Christmas panto will make a big and triumphant return to kick off the theater group’s 2021-22 season in December, Duval said. The truncated season will feature four shows to be announced.
After losing about 92% of their income in 2020, Duval said, they’re ready to entertain in-person and give community members a space to enjoy theater.
Art should make you think and is an agent of change, she said, but it’s also a way to bring people together.
“That’s a way we connect to our humanity and, boy, has it been a rough couple of years for that,” she said.
Sitting in the audience, Duval gets excited to hear people laugh at an upcoming scene.
Sometimes she’ll turn to look at the audience as they react to a humorous part of the show, just to see their heads tossed back in laughter or eyes crinkled in a smile above their masks.
“This is a really great shot of holiday spirit in the meantime,” she said. “I feel like we inadvertently ended up with the perfect welcome back show.”
“A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol” runs through Sunday, Aug. 1 at the Knuzen Family Theatre (3200 SW Dash Point Road #2340) in Federal Way.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde, directed by John Vreeke, runs from Friday, August 27 through Sunday, September 19.
For tickets and further information, visit centerstagetheatre.com.