‘Even a pandemic didn’t shut us down’: Carlisle Theatre preparing full 2021 season

Carlisle/West Shore
Carlisle Theatre in downtown Carlisle_310465

CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) — As with just about everything, March 2020 caused live theatre and entertainment to come to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While Carlisle Theatre never shut down completely, everyone is excited to welcome a full house this fall.

Artistic Director Ashley Byerts says the theatre has been doing classes, podcasts, and rentals throughout the pandemic, but regular season shows and movies will be coming back this summer, starting with a special outdoor 80s movie series.

“Since people might not be fully comfortable with indoor [entertainment] yet, we’re offering an 80s ‘Summer in the Park’ series starting in June,” Byerts said. She also said there would be vendors and food to go alongside the event.

Byerts also mentioned a special community variety show, titled the “Summer Follies” on July 10, to encourage people to support them and other downtown businesses.

The historic Carlisle Theatre has been offering entertainment in all forms of art, from films to musicals and concerts since its establishment in 1939. Ever since its renovation in 1993, the theatre became downtown’s treasure during the revitalization of Carlisle.

After a year-and-a-half of waiting, they’re getting the green light to begin its 2021 season at the end of August. But they want to start its community outreach with a celebration.

“We’re excited to be working with Downtown Carlisle for our August 7th reopening event,” Byerts said.

The theatre is also using its reopening event to sponsor “Operation Fill the Theatre,” a fundraiser that allows people to send a photo and pay for a cardboard cutout of them to be placed in the auditorium in any seat of their choosing. Then on August 7, people can come in and take selfies with their cutouts. All this supports Players on High, their regional theatre company.

Byerts mentioned that masking and social distancing will be used as needed, and said that thanks to high ceilings, increase in vaccinations, and sanitation systems, patrons should feel safe in the auditorium.

“We’re hoping that as vaccines roll out we’ll be able to seat [people] closer,” Byerts said. “We have 960 seats and very tall ceilings, and our [HVAC] system makes it a lot safer.”

Players on High will begin its live and in-person season with a production of “Clue,” based on the board game of the same name, in October.

Even with this excitement, Carlisle Theatre will continue to offer radio shows after their success during the pandemic.

“Our radio shows have been a big hit with our patrons,” Byerts said. “[They] give a more diverse set-up so more people can join.”

The theatre is excited to make happiness in the Midstate once again, and strives to be at full capacity for its season to keep in business.

“COVID was scary. Theatres got hit hard [during the pandemic]. We’ve been around for 80 years and even a pandemic didn’t shut us down,” Byerts said. “We’re still here. We still have people who love this theatre, but we still need help and support. We’re open to working with individuals and businesses to make a better place for the arts.”

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