Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The show that almost was

Staff Writer | December 10, 2020 1:08 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — A North Idaho holiday tradition has been forced to bow out because of the re-tightening of COVID restrictions.

"Traditions of Christmas," which would have been in its ninth season, will not ring in the yuletide spirit in Coeur d'Alene this year.

"Yes, it's definitely been canceled," executive producer Laura Little said Wednesday.

"It's extremely disappointing because we’ve been getting email after email from people who were so looking forward to this tradition," she said. "They bring their grandkids or they come with their spouses. One woman comes with her husband every year. He died in January and this was the one thing she was going to do in memory of him."

Staged in the Kroc Center Theater, "Traditions of Christmas" is a family-friendly show in the style of Radio City Music Hall, complete with choreographed kickline tap numbers, a military tribute, Santa's workshop and a grand nativity scene.

It normally features a cast of 70 to 80 performers with hundreds of dazzling costumes.

With the COVID pandemic in mind, Little and team reduced the cast to 35 people and prepared to have only 50 people in the audience each performance. Everyone wore masks 100% of the time during rehearsals and no transmission occurred among the cast and crew.

Then Gov. Brad Little moved Idaho back to Stage 2 in November, prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people.

Rehearsals for "Traditions" began in September, so the show was too far along to pivot to a live stream or alternative form of production.

"We were just far enough along that it would have been a pretty big ship to steer a different direction," director Marie Hunt said. "Just respecting the governor’s mandate of no more than 10 people, there was no way we could pull it off."

It's a dark time for performance arts, as COVID continues to prevent gatherings for live events.

"The actors, they've had nothing to do all year," Little said. "They were looking forward to being on that stage and sharing their gifts this year. I’m really disappointed, on so many levels."

Hunt, who co-produced the show and performed as a toy soldier last year, said the theater world is "in survival mode" at this point.

"This is my passion and my career, and my heart is in theater. I think any other theater person would agree that we’re all connected in that passion," she said. "I'd be lying if I said we weren't in danger."

Although many are requesting refunds for the show, a number of ticket-holders are moving tickets to next year's production or donating tickets back to the theater company to give their support.

"It’s very encouraging to keep going," Hunt said. "Not everyone is doing so hot right now, so when people show their generosity, it means that much more."

She said from day one, no one thought the pandemic would be as bad as it is now, so multiple plans were drafted without a thought of "Traditions" actually being canceled.

Even if North Idaho is in a similar situation in 2021, Hunt is confident "Traditions" will once again take the stage. It just might be different from years past.

"We’re going to be able to bring a show next year, one way or another," she said.