As omicron sweeps through Fresno, a disappointed Good Company Players grapples with Covid-19-related interruptions
Dan Pessano, managing director of Good Company Players, was having a discouraging Friday night:
• Two cast members of “Months on End,” the first show of the 2022 season at 2nd Space Theatre, had already reported positive Covid-19 test results, with understudies preparing to go on before the show even opened.
• The production’s stage manager had also tested positive and required a substitute.
Related story: FOR TRACY HOSTMYER AND BRYAN BECKSTRAND, A WELCOME MIX OF GENERATIONS KEEPS THINGS INTERESTING IN GOOD COMPANY’S ‘MONTHS ON END’
• On Friday at call time, just an hour before the show, a third cast member reported a positive test result.
That third result was the tipping point. The company canceled the performance and postponed opening night until Thursday, Jan.13.
“This is the right thing to do, but it is heartbreaking,” says Pessano, whose pandemic years have been marked by struggle, heartbreak, elation, a dogged determination to remain financially afloat, and gratitude for intense support from the community to keep Fresno’s storied theater alive.
Across the street at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, the final weekend of “Elf: The Musical” is able to continue, though that show has grappled with its own cast members testing positive for Covid-19. The large cast has been able to make it through its two-month run, with at the most one or two cast members having to call out at a time. (Pessano says the cast has been diligent for the most part, with “a couple of question marks.”)
“We covered ‘Elf’ from within (using in-cast covers), and understudies covered a couple of pre-arranged conflicts,” Pessano says.
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That said, the company next week faces a particularly intense Thursday: Both “Months on End,” a medium-sized ensemble production, and GCP’s new production of “Guys and Dolls,” a large-scale musical, will open as scheduled on the same day.
The “Months on End” stage manager should be back by Thursday, and Pessano is hopeful at least one of the positive-testing cast members should be as well. The cast had been rehearsing in masks but will perform unmasked.
“There has been heroic work by out-of-cast understudies to be ready to open, but there is no compromise to keeping the cast safe and being honest with the audience,” he says.
Good Company’s omicron struggles parallel theaters across the country, especially on Broadway, where such shows as “Aladdin,” “Hamilton” and “The Lion King” have all grappled with Covid-19 cancellations. The new musical “Mrs. Doubtfire” is on a self-imposed hiatus until March 14 to keep it from closing.
To lighten the disappointment for the “Months on End” cast missing its first weekend, Pessano says the company may start the show at 7:55 p.m., five minutes before “Guys and Dolls,” so it will retain the title of the first show of the 49th season.
In a time of unparalleled events, the schedule will set its own record of sorts: It will be the first time in the company’s nearly 49-year old history that shows will open simultaneously at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater and the 2nd Space Theatre, thus setting up an interesting moment for Pessano.
“How fast can an old guy run across Olive?” he asks.