In March, local theater group THEATREdART was in the process of launching an original play, Puerto Rican Nocturne, showcasing the voices of a group of people too seldom heard from in theater. COVID threw a wrench into those plans, and has since forced the cancellation of most live performances. It’s been a tough year for our favorite troupes.
Thankfully, some live theater experiences can still move forward, albeit slightly modified. TdA is back in action this week with an event that should prove to be a much-needed respite and delight for those of us who are homesick (i.e., sick of being at home).
Hosted by the Manitou Springs Heritage Center, Ghost Stories of Old Manitou Walking Tours take participants on a nighttime stroll around town, where they run into the ghosts of famous Manitou citizens — actors portraying spooky (and often hilarious) vignettes from Manitou’s colorful history. For many years, Heritage Center volunteers portrayed these ghosts, but TdA, who first partnered with Ghost Stories of Old Manitou Walking Tours in 2019, has breathed new life into this 26-year-old local tradition. Proceeds support the Heritage Center and TdA’s actors and crew.
“We had a really good time last year, so I’m glad we’re able to do it [again], with as much safety mitigation as possible,” says TdA artistic director Jonathan Andujar. “We’ve already sold quite a lot of tickets, which is really nice. There are people that really want to go see live performances again.”
The format of the event already accommodates COVID concerns: Group numbers are regulated to ensure an enjoyable performance at each stop along the 45-minute outdoor tour, so Andujar says most changes are happening behind the scenes. For instance, TdA rehearsed over video chat or outdoors wearing masks.
So when audiences show up for their tours, it should feel like the good old days for at least a little while.
“The energy has been outstanding,” Andujar says. “People are super excited about it. We’ve made some changes that make people more excited in terms of the ghost stories and some opportunities for improv ghosts as well.”
These improv ghosts, depicting recognizable characters from Manitou’s early days, should prove a hilarious addition to an already delightful set of scenes. Andujar says their newest improv ghost (Madame Jeanette Crawford, played by Gwenyth Rosenkrantz) runs spiritualism scams that are “preposterous” and “side-splitting.”
Amid a year of intense challenge, the humor will prove healing for audience and performers alike.
While TdA couldn’t stage its play in March, the “trajectory of a lot of things has changed,” according to Andujar. New partnerships are in the works and, as always, the group hopes to find a venue in which to perform.
“I’m definitely going to [continue] telling stories that aren’t typical of our city,” Andujar says.
Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 30; tours leave every 15 minutes, 5:30-8:30 p.m., manitouspringsheritagecenter.org