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Datebook: Community Players Theater Back in Spotlight With Virtual Shows

big fish performance
Community Players
"Big Fish" had just opened at the Community Players Theater when the pandemic forced the theater to close the show. Now CPT is back, but this time shows are online.

The doors to their theater may be closed, but Community Playershas declared the show must go on. 

In the face of one big event--the pandemic--Community Players Theater is presenting a series of events, all virtual and all aiming to help bring the live theater experience back to Bloomington-Normal. Dubbed “The Show Must Go On,” events kick off this month with a showcase of talent from across the community.  

Nick Benson is president of the board of Community Players Theater (CPT). He said when the organization had to prematurely shut down its production of “Big Fish” in March, theater members immediately went into a huddle to plan their return to the spotlight. 

“We knew it had to be virtual and it needed to be safe,” Benson stated emphatically. Once the idea for the series was formed, Benson said there was a definite buzz around the project: “You have the idea and it gains some traction and you can get excited about something again.” 

“The Show Must Go On” is a three-part series that will provide virtual performances through the end of the year. The showcase is the first in that series, said Benson. Community members were invited to take part (virtually, of course) for the showcase. The result was a flooded inbox of potential performers, so many that Benson thinks a second showcase may be in order. 

“We have such amazing talent in this area,” he enthused. “Even the people who don’t want to sing or perform, there’s so many that came out that are usually behind the scenes that they just want to tell people about why this is important to them, what CPT means to them as a community and just theater in general. 

“It’s just wonderful. This is something that people still need. It makes you feel good for what you’re doing, because people are responding to it.”

actors on stage
Credit Community Players Theater
"We're back!" Community Players Theatre has a trio of virtual theater offerings.


“It’s a lot of local people that you know, it’s your friends, it’s you neighbors," he added. "There’s multiple reasons to tune in and check out, “The Show Must Go On.”” 

The second part of the series is a concert version of a musical. What musical, you ask? Well, CPT doesn’t know just yet. In this new world of virtual theater performances, securing rights to shows is a tricky business. 

“All the companies that run royalties and licensing, they are inundated with requests from theaters from all over the country," said Benson. "And like most companies, they’re working on a very small number of employees, as well as working from home. 

“It’s become a big transition in the theater world. Shows were never licensed out to be live streamed. But now some are trickling in. We have our list of shows that we’d like to use, but we’re still trying to figure out which one we can do in that time frame. 

“The second we have a show picked, we are going to shout it from the rooftops,” said Benson, laughing. 

The virtual event will be concert style, with performers socially distanced on stage with their own microphones. 

Community Players Theater staged "Our Town" earlier in 2020, prior to the pandemic.

  “Everything we’re going to do is going to be safety first, then the show second," he said. "If at any point in time it becomes an unsafe situation, obviously we will stop. We love theater, but the safety of our people is the most important thing." 

The third event in the series takes place in December, appropriately called, "Home for the Holidays!” The live streamed event is a return to a CPT tradition, Benson said. 

“We used to do holiday special much more often. But the season timeframe changed and the logistics didn’t work.” 

The holiday show will be another showcase-style event, said Benson. “It gets us in the holiday spirit, giving us an excuse to decorate our stage again. And depending on how well the October musical goes, we want “Home for the Holidays” to be performed live on the stage and to be live streamed at the same time. 

“It just adds one more level of getting back to that live performance feel. But again, if it’s not safe for everyone involved, we’ll pre-record it like we’re doing for the August showcase.” 

“The Show Must Go On” is accessible through CPT’s Facebook page, as well as on the theater group's YouTube page.


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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.