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The show must go on … hold

Essie Ames, left, plays Marley and Andrew Scanio plays Ebeneezer Scrooge in Pendragon Theatre’s production of “Mr. Toad’s Christmas Carol” last December. Holiday shows such as this are traditions at Pendragon that must be passed over this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo provided)

SARANAC LAKE — Pendragon Theatre has furloughed three staff members, cut back on work for two subcontractors and will temporarily halt operations as it contends with financial hardship brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The nonprofit community theater, its performers and staff have entertained Saranac Lakers for more than 40 years. Board President Lonnie Ford said the decision was “taken for the survival of the Pendragon Theatre.”

“We are financially challenged, and that played into the decision,” Ford said. “It wasn’t the whole of the decision, but it is a major part of that. We’ve made it clear with the staff, with everyone, that this was an action taken for the survival of Pendragon Theatre.”

Theater companies around the country are facing financial shortfalls as restrictions imposed in multiple states force theaters to remain closed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Some have shifted to offering virtual live shows or prerecorded productions for its audiences. Pendragon Theatre did, too, but that hasn’t been enough to make up the losses incurred as the pandemic rages.

“This is a small-town theater. We live on ticket sales and donations. We had no summer season,” Ford said. “We were severely impacted around revenue. We really couldn’t go on at the staffing level we were carrying. The reality is, there are a lot of theaters that are making attempts at doing virtual theater. I would wager to guess that none of them are making much revenue at it. That was our case.”

“Our staff worked their tails off to try to learn, and they did learn. They were suddenly told we aren’t a theater company; we’re a production company,” he said. “This is part of that evolution from, in March, when we had to run prerecorded theater up to the point where we are actually becoming a somewhat adept production company. This is something Pendragon will carry on with in the future. It’s a new talent. We have done great work; however, financially, we are struggling and had to make hard decisions.”

Ford declined to say how much, specifically, the theater has lost in revenue this year while closed to live audiences.

The theater’s last production until its hiatus will be its holiday show on Dec. 18. More information about that, and the theater’s ongoing fundraiser for its relocation to Church Street, is available at pendragontheatre.org.

The Pendragon Theatre Board of Directors plans to officially consider whether to reopen again on April 1, 2021, according to Ford.

“We are going to be looking at this day to day, actually. We have set April 1 as an official reevaluation. We are going to be reexamining these things regularly, keeping an eye on developing news, hoping that a combination of therapies and vaccines will begin to change the pandemic picture and that will result in the lightening of restrictions,” he said. “Theater all over the world is closed, for the most part. We’re hoping for the best; we hope that will change.”

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