By Anthony Kuipers
For Inland 360
COVID-19 may have temporarily shut the curtain on productions at the Regional Theatre of the Palouse, but it remains busy providing educational activities for the public.
RTOP is holding camps, workshops and study halls, while implementing safety protocols to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“We’re as busy as ever,” Executive Director John Rich said.
Rich said the theater is in the same position as theaters across the country that are trying to bring in funds and survive the pandemic.
While coronavirus may stop normal theater activities, it does not stop rent bills, utility bills and payroll, he said.
“We have cut everything we possibly can, including trash pickup,” Rich said.
He said the theater may not open its doors to live audiences for a year, depending on how the pandemic plays out.
Fortunately for the theater, Rich said, he has been able to keep its employees and instructors.
The group’s workshops, while limited to eight students, are scheduled for the rest of the year. They offer theater exercises, vocal exercises and performances that will be recorded and posted online.
People can visit RTOP’s YouTube channel to see a short musical production encouraging the public to wear their masks.
Fall workshops are 4:15-5:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays until Oct. 23. Winter workshops will take place on the same times and days from Oct. 26-Dec. 12.
Rich said the theater is doing everything it can to follow state COVID-19 guidelines during these workshops. The stage is measured out and taped off to help performers practice social distancing. Participants are required to wear masks and use hand sanitizer.
After classes, the theater is thoroughly cleaned, Rich said.
“We’re very, very, very careful,” he said.
Earlier this year, the group received some help from the Paycheck Protection Program established by the CARES Act to fund payroll, but it is constantly looking for grants and support from the community.
“We need the public support,” he said.
Rich said he believes it is important for the theater to remain open in order to keep people engaged in learning.
In addition to workshops, the group is holding study halls to provide a place for children to work on schoolwork while supervised by college graduates. Study halls also are following the same COVID-19 protocols. Parents can sign up their children for study halls any time.
More information, including how to donate to RTOP, is available online at www.rtoptheatre.org.