Eric Woodall – Artistic Director, North Carolina Theatre in Raleigh
[Interview Date: November 2, 2020]
Where were you on March 12, 2020? And what was the week leading up to it like?
We were in rehearsals for Memphis at North Carolina Theatre in Raleigh. We had just run-thru the first act. At first, we made the decision to continue rehearsing until the 17th, but it became clear we had to shut down before that.
Did you anticipate Broadway and other theatre productions would be closed for this long?
At first, no. We thought we would be pushing the show back a few months. Our first big shift involved moving the season “as is” back a few months.
Did you initially think your theatre would be able to produce some semblance of a season when the shutdown first began?
No. With the size and scale of the shows we produce at North Carolina Theatre, I knew that we would be following Broadway’s lead.
What is the biggest way to support local theatre companies right now? Donations? Is there anything else citizens can do to help their local theatre companies to ensure they’ll be able to come back safely and successfully from this time?
Yes, donations and, if possible, don’t seek refunds.
What precautions have you discussed, in regard to innovating ways to come back to safe rehearsals and performances?
We will be following AEA and state guidelines, which are extensive. That is if/when AEA grants permission to perform. We will be doing much smaller projects, with reduced casts. Little to no scenery, props and costumes. Social distancing onstage and backstage is actually much more difficult than planning for audiences to attend.
What have you, personally, been doing over the past year or so to stay sane? What has helped you the most?
Bike riding and socially distanced walks with friends.
What has been the hardest thing about the past months since the shutdown?
Lack of connection- in every sense of the word.
What positives, if any, do you think have come out of this time of quarantine?
Zoom meetings have proven how much can be accomplished when it isn’t possible to be “in-person,” which is great. And I believe “talk backs” could remain virtual, so many more people can participate.
What is your biggest worry right now?
I worry about how we are going to come back financially. And I worry about young college students training to be performers. I’m sad for them. It’s going to be years before there is a great deal of theatrical work.
What do you miss the most about theatre/your job/the arts?
The connection with artistic people; brainstorming, dreaming, and then making things happen. I feel like someone has clipped my wings.
What is the first thing you’re going to do when theatre is back?
- Attend a great production of a musical, where I can rejoice and weep.
-Create! Make plans!
What advice do you have for young Broadway hopefuls during this time?
Hang on. Don’t give up, but be ready to think differently about the business.
Favorite Broadway Musical Dreamgirls
Favorite Broadway Play? Our Town
Favorite Movie Musical? Mary Poppins
Favorite Theatre Ritual? Walking to the front of the stage at intermission of a Broadway show and looking back at the theater. The whole place feels like a giant, beating heart. Magical.