San Benito Stage Company adapts to era of Covid-19

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FUNDRAISING IN LEAN TIMES San Benito Stage Company’s take-out Spaghetti Dinner in August is one way the organization has raised funds during Covid-19 closures. Submitted photo

The year 2020 was supposed to be a celebratory one for San Benito Stage Company. 

Its 20th revival season had already begun in February with performances of its adult show, “California Suite,” and was gearing up for its children’s musical, “Beauty and the Beast Jr.”—already in rehearsals. Next on the season’s line-up was its third annual Casino Night fundraiser, ready to go with dozens of silent auction baskets and a lineup of entertainment. 

But the rampant spread of Covid-19 in early March had SBSC Board President Derek Barnes convinced a change of schedule was on the horizon. 

“As we got closer to [Casino Night], and things started to unfold with Covid, we realized that it was not looking good,” Barnes said.

The California health guidelines soon confirmed his suspicions: SBSC’s annual fundraiser would need to be indefinitely postponed. As the pandemic progressed, the SBSC board of directors decided three months later to cancel the remainder of the 2020 season; its spring children’s production, youth summer theater camp, summer family musical and teen musical were all postponed. Barnes said he hopes that the revival season will pick up where it left off in the spring of 2021.  

However, SBSC will by no means cease performances or fundraising. 

For instance, on July 25, SBSC hosted its first virtual talent show on YouTube, complete with 18 talented acts. 

And on Aug. 29, the organization held a pick-up spaghetti dinner and hosted a Facebook Live virtual auction in efforts to raise funds for the organization. The fundraiser raised more than $4,000, which according to SBSC Board member Brian Murphy, is greatly appreciated after this year’s financial strain. 

“We have set pieces, costumes, props, lighting and sound equipment that costs money to store,” Murphy said. “Probably like many nonprofits, whatever money we make pays our bills and pays the upfront money for the next show. When you aren’t doing shows and having audiences buying tickets, that rent becomes significant.”

To further alleviate that financial strain, Barnes said SBSC is now using technology in this “new normal” to reach the community.

“Our next goal for the rest of 2020 is to produce digital shows that our community can watch,” he said.

SBSC Board member Adrienne Summers is currently researching options to bring such a virtual production to the community by the end of this year; one that will serve both the performers of the stage company, as well as its audiences.

These kinds of performances, however, will take some time to get used to. Summers explained that the world of technology and virtual live performances are not quite the same as stage performances.

Barnes is thankful for the support the community has given to the organization, especially in this year of uncertainty. But he said SBSC can still use help from the community. 

“Since SBSC is non-profit, we are dependent on memberships, sponsorships and donations to keep us going,” he said. “Covid has caused some financial strains on our organization and we appreciate any and all help we can get.”

San Benito Stage Company is now selling face masks, printed with its logo. For information on these, how to donate, view past virtual events, or to find out more about SBSC’s upcoming events, visit sanbenitostage.org or call 831.636.0122.