It wasn’t an ordinary performance at the Little Theatre of Alexandria (LTA), but on Friday, September 11, the doors opened for a memorable evening of drama at a distance.
“I was anxious before I came to the theater, but everything is so well managed,” said Mary Hutzler. “It was an interesting experience. I thought the play was very powerful and I really felt engaged.”
The theater’s first show back, “Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney, was well chosen for the times. Only 40 people were allowed in the show, everyone (except the actors) wore face masks and couldn’t get up during the performance, which featured real-life married couple Nicky and Steve McDonnell reading fictional love letters to each other seated at opposite ends of the stage.
“LTA did a really smart job in planning it,” Nicky McDonnell said after the show. “We’re married, so we didn’t have to socially distance from each other.”
The couple met in New York 27 years ago, and throughout diverse acting careers that span decades never worked together until this production. Rehearsals were conducted with the director via Zoom.
“They need to connect (with the audience),” Director Joanna Henry said. “They do it brilliantly.”
The show runs until September 27. The next show, “Mixed Doubles” by LTA member Rick Lore, will run from October 2-18; followed by “Belle of Amherst” by William Luce from November 6-22; and the season will end with a COVID-friendly version of “A Christmas Carol” from November 28-December 19.
It’s not unusual for the Little Theatre of Alexandria to be bursting at the seams with a sold-out audience, as ushers, actors, assistant directors and set designers rush around to present their latest offering. Not this year.
For the first time since World War II, LTA was forced to shut down until calmer days prevail and cancelled its formal 2020-2021 season, which was supposed to open with “Sister Act” and continue through Christmas with its annual sold-out rendition of “A Christmas Carol” and into next summer.
LTA has a plan — a fall programming season with four one-act and two-act shows. The theatre will only be able to accommodate 45 audience members and the shows will be completely free of charge and not play consecutively so that staff can meet CDC and health department guidelines.
“We are going to be producing four shows with very small casts – mostly one to two people,” Rachel Alberts, the LTA governor of public relations, told ALXnow. “We are approaching this as a gift to our patrons. We know people are worried about getting in the theatre. We also know how much they miss it. That’s why we’re offering this for free.”
The first show, “Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney, will premier on September 11 and run for just over two weeks. The second show, “Mixed Doubled” by LTA member Rick Lore, will run from October 2-18; followed by “Belle of Amherst” by William Luce will run from November 6-22; and ending with a COVID-friendly version of “A Christmas Carol” from November 28-December 19.
The theatergoing experience is going to be much different, Alberts said. For one thing, there will likely be no singing in the theatre until the pandemic calms down.
“With the cast and crew there’s usually over 100 people, from designers to sound people to actors,” she said. “It’s a huge endeavor. Hopefully we’re going to be completely opening back up in January with ‘Mamma Mia!,’ but depending on what’s going on in the world we will absolutely honor all CDC and public health recommendations.”
LTA, which was founded in 1934, is now also conducting auditions via Zoom for the January show, and Alberts said that the theatre will survive the pandemic, even though it took a significant financial hit.
“LTA isn’t going anywhere,” she said. “We’re one of the oldest theatre is still in operation in the country, and we only closed once after World War II for a small period of time. We own our building and we’re financially safe.”
May 26, 2020Dear LTA Family—I hope this message finds you happy and healthy.In April 1943, The Little Theatre of…
Staff photo by James Cullum
There are Now 36 Cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria — “On March 30, the Alexandria Health Department confirmed four additional cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, bringing the total to 36. AHD is identifying and contacting individuals who came in close contact with the confirmed cases.” [City of Alexandria]
DASH Further Reduces Service — “As part of a wider effort to protect the health and safety of the Alexandria community and DASH employees, DASH implemented an Enhanced Sunday Operating Plan on weekdays and Saturdays, beginning March 30. No changes are anticipated to Sunday service; however, King Street Trolley service will discontinue until further notice.” [DASH]
Old Town Books Launches GoFundMe Campaign — “You’re making it possible for us to make ends meet while our sales floor is closed and before the new SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans roll out. I didn’t know what to expect when starting this fundraiser – crowd funding is not something I *ever* expected to do for this business. But this fundraiser is helping keep our staff working and our online store open. It’s motivating us to keep trying, to keep working despite the bleak economic projections for the year. We’re not giving up. Thank you for your support!” [Facebook]
Mason & Greens Grocer Opens in Old Town — “It’s not the grand opening they were planning, but the new bulk grocer in Old Town, Mason & Greens, is now open. For now, Mason & Greens is offering online shopping for pick-up or delivery.” [Alexandria Living]
ACPS Unveils Story Hour For Younger Students — “It’s such fun to see all these famous faces reading for America’s children in this time of need and we are grateful that some publishers are allowing us to publish read-alouds on the website at this time.” [ACPS]
Little Theatre of Alexandria Issuing Refunds — “Please submit this form before Friday, April 10. For Moonlight and Magnolias and Blue Stockings, we will not be able to process refunds after Thursday, April 30.” [LTA]
Ascend Cycle Offering Virtual Classes — “Virtual high fives! While we can’t be together in person, this is the next best thing! You see us & we see you! Connect with your favorite instructor and friends live while breaking a sweat! We are offering daily live virtual classes designed to connect our community and provide personalized attention. Drop into class for just $10.” [Ascend Cycle]
Questions About Homicide Arrest at T.C. — “Because Aly’s arrest was part of an ongoing criminal investigation, Virginia State Police, the lead law enforcement agency on the case, haven’t released details about his connection to the crime. But some parents and students have sought answers to different questions: Why did the arrest take place at school, and what happened at the school that day?” [Alexandria Times]
Rec Registration Starts Next Week — “Registration for spring and summer classes and activities offered by the City of Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities will begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, March 18 for City residents and Friday, March 20 for nonresidents. Spring and summer registration applies to classes, leagues and activities occurring April through August 2020.” [City of Alexandria]
Controlled Burn Leads to Hazy Sunday — Across much of the D.C. area Sunday afternoon, smoke from a controlled burn at Marine Corps Base Quantico led to temporary hazy conditions outside and a “campfire” smell. [ARLnow]
“Moonlight and Magnolias” at Little Theatre Until March 21 — “It’s Hollywood, 1939. Legendary film producer David O. Selznick is five weeks into shooting ‘Gone with the Wind’ when he realizes the script is awful and the director doesn’t have a clue. He has a few short days to replace them and restart shooting or the production will shut down.” [Gazette]
Nominations Open For Chamber of Commerce’s 40 Under 40 — “The 40 under 40 class celebrate 40 outstanding leaders and innovators who either live or work within the city of Alexandria. The nomination period closes March 13, 2020. Go to www.thechamberalx.com/young-leaders-network.html to nominate a leader for this honor.” [Alexandria Living]
If you’ve waited until the last minute to put together your Halloween plans, here’s your guide to events around the area.
The Birchmere (3701 Mount Vernon Avenue) is planning it’s annual party called Raven’s Night on Saturday, Nov. 2. The “unique soirée” features belly dancing, live music and a pre-show carnival. This year’s theme is “Creature Feature,” an homage to classic iconic movie monsters. Tickets are $25. Doors for the show open at 5 p.m.
Other Halloween events around town include:
Tonight (Oct. 30)
- Costume Halloween Shindig in Ivy Hill Cemetery (2823 King Street): Ivy Hill Cemetery is hosting a costume party tonight at 6:30 p.m. that will include a visit to the cemetery’s vault, ghost tours, moonshine tasting and costume awards. The event is also scheduled to include a reading from Maribeth Decker, a “local intuitive animal communicator,” who will be available to check in with pets living and deceased if the attendee brings a photo of their pet. Tickets are $35 per person and include food and drink.
- The Haunting of Hill House at The Little Theater of Alexandria (600 Wolfe Street): The Little Theater of Alexandria is hosting a performance of The Haunting of Hill House, a play based on the 1959 gothic horror novel by Shirley Jackson. The plan is running every day this week starting at 8 p.m. and Wednesday (Nov. 7) through Saturday (Nov. 9).
- Halloween at Cafe 44 (44 Canal Center Plaza): Cafe 44 on the Alexandria waterfront is hosting a Halloween party tonight. The event is scheduled to include champagne, costumes, an dlive music from acoustic band Sleeper Car. Festivities are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
Tomorrow (Oct. 31)
- Halloween Bar Crawl in Carlyle: The Carlyle Council is hosting a bar crawl across the Carlyle neighborhood. Participating restaurants include Tequila & Taco, Trademark Drink and Eat, Sweet Fire Donna’s and Whiskey & Oyster. Checking into each restaurant earns a ticket to a raffle to win a dinner at Taste of Carlyle. Those who wear costumes can get discounted drinks.
- Halloween at Sonoma Cellar (207 King Street): The Sonoma Cellar is celebrating Halloween with an all-night happy hour. All night, the restaurant will have $2 off all wine and appetizers and $1 off all beers. Cigars and mulled wine in the garden are planned after 8 p.m., with blankets and patio heaters for a cozy atmosphere.
Friday (Nov. 1)
- Grief and Ghosts at the Lee-Fendall House Museum (614 Oronoco Street): This weekend, the historic Lee-Fendall House will host a series of tours on Friday and Saturday starting at 7:30 p.m. that explore death and mysteries from the home’s history, as well as a look at Victorian mourning traditions. The event page says such customs include draping the mirrors after death, hair jewelry, and séances. Tickets are $10 and frequently sell out, so advance purchase is recommended.
- 10th Annual Columbia Firehouse Halloween Bash (109 S. Saint Asaph Street): The Columbia Firehouse is hosting it’s annual party, with trick or treating for kids and prizes for the best costume.
Photo via The Birchmere/Facebook