The Harrell Theatre in Collierville, TN was already a creative place, but the Collierville Arts Council has had to perform its best show yet to navigate certain, unique challenges. Terry Dean, Executive Director of the Collierville Arts Council joins the Main and Mulberry Podcast to discuss the Harrell Theatre’s upcoming season, video auditions, and this year’s Christmas Cabaret!
See the transcript below.
Anna Bell: Hello everyone. I’m Anna Bell. Today I’m thankful to have Collierville Arts Council, Executive Director, Terry Dean, on the phone with us today to talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Herald theater and if the sun will indeed come out tomorrow. Terry, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today.
Terry Dean: Absolutely. Glad to be here.
AB: Yeah, so how are you in the family doing Terry? I know you’ve got kids in different parts of the country right now. How is the Dean family?
TD: The Dean family is good. My husband is working at FedEx. He’s one of those essential workers working in global ops. So he’s staying busy and the girls are too, so we cannot complain.
AB: Good. Is he flying often, I guess?
TD: He is actually a flight dispatcher. He works out by the airport. He kind of dispatches a lot of different flights for shifts. So he’s kind of working a regular schedule now. So it’s busy with the airlines, not flying a lot of freight FedEx as far as some of that stuff, but they are still staying busy, so that’s a good thing.
AB: That is a good thing. Now for those who might be new to the area or learning more about local organizations, due to kind of this extra time we’ve got on our hands, can you tell us about the Collierville Arts Council and a little about your role and responsibilities as the Executive Director?
TD: Sure. I started out probably six, seven years ago volunteering with the summer show and then got on the Arts Council as a volunteer and everybody on the Council was a volunteer. We didn’t have an Executive Director. As we started to raise a little more money through our programs and some of our fundraising, we were able to hire someone and I ended up getting that job. So I helped fundraise and coordinate what shows we’re going to do and hire staff for shows. I’ve been the Executive Director for a little over three years now. But we’ve been around for I think 32 years as an Arts Council.
AB: Yeah. I mean if you’ve been in the community for some time, you’ve heard through one way or another of the Collierville Arts Council, you guys put on a lot of events and are very involved in the community.
TD: We did. For 10 years, we did a symphony event in the spring and then we added five years ago Collierville Arts in the Alley just off the square, in the fall. So those are a couple of fun events besides our shows.
AB: Very fun. Kind of take me back to the start of the shelter at home mandate. Terry, what was it like when you had to close the Harold theater and notify everyone where you guys, you know, in the middle of auditions or a show what was going on?
TD: Fortunately, we had had our additions for our summer show, which was Mamma Mia, which we have now had to postpone because we’re just not sure with all the different phases when we’re going to be able to fill the theater with an audience. Yeah. So we’ve actually, it was going to be Mamma Mia so we’re going to postpone, we had had that all casts and we have set and everything and we’re disappointed to have to postpone it, but we’re just going to postpone it to next summer. So that’s kind of affecting our next season. But I think it’s going to work out better for us. And then we also had a symphony event that we were going to have on May 17th on that Sunday afternoon. And we’ve also canceled that because of the, um, not being able to gather that many people together. So that’s kind of, well we had to start doing was thinking through okay. Going forward. You know, cause we’ve all been going through this together, not knowing what the next the stage was going to be. So we thought it was best to postpone those events. But now we’re just having to get creative on what were we going to do going forward fundraising wise.
AB: Sure, sure. I know, for so many kids and young adults in the community, the Herald theater is their extracurricular, you know, it’s like a common place for them to meet with their friends. How are you staying connected with the theater family kind of during the quarantine time?
TD: Well we did with new day children’s theater, we did a, kind of a ‘quarantine cabaret’ type thing on YouTube where people could post some of their videos of different songs that they wanted to sing from different shows. So we’re trying to stay connected that way. And I’m not sure how it’s going to affect is new day children’s theater does the summer camps and I’m hoping that those can still go on, cause those are in June and July. But I’m not quite sure how that’s gonna work yet. But we try and work together with them too because they ended up, they were doing Cinderella and they had also postpone that show. And I think that might be postponed until next spring also. So we’re both just kind of staying in contact with each other and trying to promote things as well as in just doing, trying to get creative and doing things on social media that you didn’t do before, but just giving some of these kids and adults an Avenue and a lot of the theaters are doing that. Giving them avenues for ways to still perform, you know, and stay sharp in their craft.
AB: Yeah. So that is what I was really wondering. Have you been worried about your kids? What have you been giving them to work on?
TD: They just kind of work on.. especially some of the high school kids that were going to be in Mamma Mia, they kind of have things that they work on themselves. And I think they’ve been doing some of this through school too, through zoom and different avenues to get on a post music. But we, we just try and be another Avenue where they can do that. I’m kind of hoping that we’re doing, our fall call show, which we’re doing auditions for that via video that they’re sending them videos for legally Blonde. And, our director, Whitney Brandon is, she’s also going to direct it and choreograph it. And so we have to get creative on how you do auditions too, which I’ve never done this doing it video wise. And she even did a video of a dance number that she wanted them to learn and then they could send that into. So that’s even been different. But I think it’s good practice for all of these, both kids, teens and adults to have to do that because maybe they’re going to do that for especially high school kids. They will do that for college audition too. So it’s everybody’s, I think going forward, we may do some of this stuff in the future too, which a lot of people are saying too with meetings, you know, doing zoom meetings. I mean it’s so easy. A lot of times you get more people on the zoom meeting that you might have a luncheon or that kind of thing. So we’re all kind of have to learn how to do things differently. I think some of it will continue going forward.
AB: I think you’re right. We’ve all had to get creative. So Terry, we know that Shelby County leaders recently unveiled a three phase plan for reopening businesses and I know that entertainment and performance venues are part of the third phase of this back to business plan. So in the event it’ll be a little while longer before you reopen, what ideas do you have to continue the progress of the arts in Collierville?
TD: Well, one thing with theater, it’s really hard to, um, do a live performance without an audience.
TD: So we may end up, it’s like if Legally Blonde, if we can’t fill the seats, you know, we could be doing it by video and posting it and have it having a donation type setup. That’s an option. But we’re, we’re kind of hoping since it’s not super clear, I was reading all those phases too and we may still have the social distance in the theater and that was part of why we postponed Mamma Mia because that’s such a fun sing along show. We didn’t want to have to use that option.
AB: You want everyone in the community to be at that one for sure!
TD: Right, exactly. And so we may have to get a little bit creative on if it’s going to be every other row in the theater, how you have to separate adding a couple of dates to make up for that maybe. So we’re, we’re kind of playing that by ear and I’ve been kind of talking to a few people on the, um, mayor and board of all the men about, you know, cause nobody really knows going forward. We’re all kind of trying to figure it out. And it’s all been, at least now we all know that it’s all based on data. So it’s going to be, okay, where are numbers now and how can we do this going forward? And we just have to be flexible because, you know, there’s nothing we can do about it. We’re living in a different world. It’s frustrating. But I think in a lot of ways people are going to be ready for theaters. They’re going to be ready for some entertainment that people miss it. And I think we’re going to want to get out and you know, be together again. So hopefully it’s going to work out. But if we have to get creative and do video something, but we’ll, we’ll do that too. Cause we want to at least be able to offer something to our community.
AB: Oh yeah. Everybody’s looking for an outlet right now. I mean, in one thing that helped me get through this time and being at home is having something to look forward to, you know? And so what are the plans for the Herald theater to finish out the 2019, 2020 season?
TD: Well this Mamma Mia was the last show in this season. So since we postponed that, we just are kind of going forward and promoting the new season, starting with Legally Blonde and hoping that we’re going to be able to do that. And then also we’re doing something different for our Christmas show. We’re just, we’re doing one weekend and we’re doing a Christmas cabaret, which is, we’re going to bring in some local actors and actresses to come and sing some of their favorite numbers. And Jason Eschhofen is going to music director for me, and he’s a wonderful music director. So we decided to do something a little bit different this year. And I think actually it’s going to be probably a pretty good venue for people. And once again, if we can’t fill the theater, that might be something that we’re going to end up video taping and putting it out on our YouTube channel, that sort of thing. Or all of our social media.
AB: Christmas and Collierville is already such a fun time, but add a cabaret to that! Fun!
TD: So we thought that would be fun. And then we’re doing, in February we’re doing The Foreigner, which is a play about, it’s a really funny place about a crazy family. And then next summer we’ll be doing Mamma Mia and now, so we were going to be doing The Adams Family, so we’ll push that into the next season. So we’re just, we’re trying to be flexible. And the one thing that we’re also doing, which is as everybody’s going through this and businesses being closed, how does the nonprofit theater fundraise? And so we’re doing a ‘Save My Seat’ program, which is kind of a name your seat while we’re together apart and during this intermission maybe you’d like to support us with that. And so we’ve got the name, your seat campaign where they can put a pack on a seat for $250. And that may be something that people that really enjoy theater kind of want to do. And then when they come back they could sit in their seat for a show.
AB: I’m so glad you mentioned that because you know, sometimes and these hard times people do feel more generous and they are wanting to support the local organizations like Collierville Arts Council or the Herald theater, you know. And so tell us more where would somebody need to go to be able to do something like that?
TD:We are about to put that on our website and we’ve had a name your seat campaign cause a couple of years ago the Herald theaters is the Town’s facility, the town of Collierville lets us use that because we are a service provided to them to provide four shows a year and they recently replaced all the seats. So when they did that, we did a name your seat campaign and have had some of those sold than we thought that we were just, you know, circle back around and make it a, now it’s a savior seat for this intermission. We just thought that local people that have supported us in the past would be interested in doing that. Knowing that we are going to open back up, then it’s not going to be too long, but we need your help, because ticket sales are great, but they don’t always cover all the costs for some of these bigger musicals. So every little bit helps.
AB: It sure does. And it sounds like sunny sending your days are ahead!
TD: That’s right!
AB: So Terry, thank you for your time and your insight today. We really do appreciate it.
TD: Absolutely! I’m glad to be here.
AB: For all who are listening, I’d like to send well wishes from my home to yours. Until next time. I’m Anna Bell.