by PAUL BICKLEY
Live theater returned to Bloomington at The Hundredth Hill, a 40-acre nonprofit artist retreat on North Fish Road, owned by singer-songwriter Krista Detor and husband, music producer David Weber.
Detor and Weber, who reside on the property, invited nine graduates of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to isolate at The Hundredth Hill’s Emerging Theatre Artist Residency for 2 1/2 months, where they wrote and rehearsed two original plays. Among the graduates was Detor’s niece Kyndall Sillanpaa, who was unable to direct her senior show in New York because of COVID-19.
In October, the residents debuted two original plays over two weekends. The shows were performed outdoors before live audiences. It was the first time live theater had been performed in Bloomington since the statewide COVID-19 lockdown in March.
“It felt important to risk this staging,” Detor says, “because we are in the single most critical juncture that I have experienced: Theaters are shuttered, music venues are shuttered, and we are all under nearly immeasurable pressure as so many systems critical to the flourishing of our species are threatened and under fire. Art is the antidote—the way we imagine our survival, the way we imagine ourselves into the future.”
In order to make the performances possible, Detor and Weber deployed CDC-guided safety measures, which were communicated to ticketholders in advance. Audiences sat in chairs or on blankets inside painted circles with at least 12 feet between circles. Up to four people who signed on together were allowed within a circle. The round stage stood 20 feet from the closest circle, and the resident artists had each been tested for COVID-19 four times.
Audience members were required to wear masks and social distance at all times when outside their circles. Inside the circles, they could be maskless to enjoy picnic dinners or food purchased onsite from Lagom Food Services.
For rural outdoor settings, the CDC limit for a gathering in October was 50. After the cast, a technician, Detor, and Weber, room was left for 38 people to attend each performance.
Detor says she feels other theater groups will follow a similar structure in the future.
“I know that the residents will carry some version of our performance model forward,” she says.
Proceeds from ticket sales were donated to local charities.
For more information, visit thehundredthhill.org.