WILMINGTON, N.C. — The Thalian Association Community Theatre in Wilmington is premiering its first in person show since the pandemic began in March, and Artistic Director Chandler Davis is encouraging people not to give up on live theater just yet.

This show happens to be a youth musical, and the theater staff has taken every precaution to keep the actors safe during the rehearsal process. Davis says both the kids and parents have been understanding of the new restrictions that are in place and have adapted wonderfully.

“I can just tell they've missed it, I know the adults have missed it as well,” Davis says. “The kids have been really good about wearing their masks, making sure no hugs happen has been more difficult, but I think they were just really excited to be back on stage.”

Even though it's not easy or comfortable to sing in a mask, they are mandatory at rehearsals, and during the performance itself, clear face shields will be worn instead. The theater refuses to take any chances with the health of the actors. If any member of the cast or crew is exposed to the virus, the entire production would shut down for three weeks and resume again after a quarantine.

The Thalian Association did just call off its in-person holiday show but felt like this musical would be able to continue safely. The in-person shows are sold out entirely, but that doesn't mean what it used to. Only 25 tickets were available for each show. Any patrons who couldn't get in-person tickets are able to watch the performance online as a virtual show instead.

“Honestly, I feel like it's a little soon for a 100-person indoor theater, and so we just decided we're gonna wait, and that's OK, and we'll do our online virtual show,” Davis says.

Rehearsals have been a bit of a challenge for Davis, who is also the choreographer. She's had to rearrange placement onstage and interactions between characters to ensure that actors can maintain a safe distance.

“It's just trying to stay apart, and you always touch each other on stage, always,” Davis says. “You just naturally do. We'll block a dance number, and be like 'Nope, do it again but space out and you go over here.'”

She says this production will be a test of what they can manage in the future, and whether the community is ready to come out to the theater again.

“We're just trying to keep everybody safe and happy to do what we need to do to make that happen,” Davis says.