Local Theater Aims to Keep in Touch
DOVER-FOXCROFT/SEBEC – Like most of us during the stay-safe-at-home closures, Patrick Myers is balancing needs at home with those of his workplace. And in Myers’ case, as executive director of the Center Theatre, that workplace is well known to anyone who enjoys taking in a movie, live music, plays or standup comedy close to home.
The theater stayed open for a time, doing extra disinfection between shows, “but it quickly became obvious we had an obligation to our staff and the public to close even before we absolutely had to by state mandate,” Myers said. “I think it was certainly the right decision, given the situation. I don’t think there’s any reason the Center Theatre should have stayed open at the risk of spreading a virus through the community. For better or worse, while the theater is vital to our wellbeing, it is not essential to our day-to-day lives.”
The first week after closing was spent scrambling to get everyone set up with the technology and a process to work from home. With those issues resolved, “we began to look outward again, at how we could contribute to the community, and what we could realistically do.”
The Center Theatre launched its Keep in Touch campaign to help folks feel more connected while also providing some revenue for the nonprofit during this downtime.
“The first thing we did was make our marquee available,” Myers said. “Folks make a donation and get a message up on the marquee for a day. We’ve had a fairly good response to that.” When sponsored messages don’t appear, the marquee displays humorous reminders to practice social distancing, or shares other community information. “We also are using our ad space in The Eastern Gazette so that folks will know where to get information or additional resources in the community,” he said.
And Keep in Touch Online is a service to create and deliver short video messages. “So folks, for a small donation, tell the theater who they want a video to go to and what they want the video to say, and we’ll connect with some of our talented actors and volunteers to record a short message that will be sent to the recipient,” Myers explained. “It’s just a fun surprise, a way to spread a little bit of joy with a birthday message, an anniversary message or just something silly to make somebody smile. It will be interesting to see what people come up with!”
The theater’s weekly e-blasts have evolved, now including free resources for online entertainment and other items of interest to help everyone beat the extended cabin fever season this spring.
“And while we’re closed, we are also making available for one week at a time videos of past performances at Center Theatre,” Myers said. “We don’t want folks to forget the great work that has gone on and will go on in the future. It’s a nice way for people to look back and see some old shows that they probably haven’t seen in quite a while.”
Work on the second screen in the former Center Coffee space has come to a halt as closures elsewhere have slowed down equipment installation and the arrival of funding. “It was supposed to be finished on Friday, April 10 with a grand opening on the 17th, but I can’t make any predictions now,” said Myers.
And what of the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival, for which the theatre is a presenting organization? “As of right now we are still hoping the festival can go on as scheduled, on June 27, but in the event it does have to be postponed, we will have a new date set shortly,” Myers said. “We definitely don’t want to cancel. It will happen one way or another!”
Myers said that to make a donation or for more information, visit centertheatre.org, call 564-8943 or mail to 20 East Main Street, Dover-Foxcroft, 04426.
Safe on the farm
Having businesses and schools closed has meant big transitions at the Myers homestead, as well. “We have two kids now doing school work from home, and both adults working from home,” Myers said. “None of us had ever had anything like this in our lives, where we now have to juggle not only family chores, but also checking in the morning to see who needs bandwidth for a conference call or school work.
“Out in the sticks there is not always great bandwidth, so we are just figuring out a new schedule and a new rhythm for every day,” he said. “We are trying to give each other space and the benefit of the doubt, knowing that it’s a new experience for everyone and it affects everyone a little bit differently.”
Teresa Myers, conservation specialist with the Maine State Museum, is working from home on projects, policies, guidelines and future exhibits.
Their daughter, Alice, 13, “is adjusting very well, keeping busy with school work, and thrives on being self-motivated,” said Myers. “She’s very good about keeping her own schedule, and is frankly enjoying having more free time to herself these days.”
The household gained a new member when Patrick’s cousin, Sami Bitat, 17, moved from Algeria to “sort of have the quintessential American high school experience – which has changed somewhat,” Myers said. “He really adjusted to school in the states very well, and then, like everyone else, had the rug pulled out from under him. He’s been through multiple transitions over the last eight months.”
Fortunately, there isn’t much livestock on the farm to care for these days, other than chickens cranking out so many eggs that Myers joked the family had a quota to eat four apiece each day. He used to sell eggs, but found it “more trouble than it was worth.” Now, excess eggs are donated to the food cupboard.
With spring in the air, there are culverts to shovel out to avoid flooding, and gardens to prepare. “There’s plenty of that work going around,” he said.
To relax, the family plays games and “tries to sit down for meals every once in a while together, but mainly just get outside to do some work or get out in the woods to just get away and have a change of scenery,” Myers said.
And finally, on the home front, he quipped, “the dog loves that we’re here all the time but I think the cat’s getting a little pissed off that we aren’t giving him half the day to be on his own in the quiet!”