“Theater people are very huggy people,” says Jeannette DeAngelo, President of the Reading Civic Theater. “They’re very emotional people.”
Therefore, the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult for the Reading Civic Theater not only financially, but emotionally.
“I feel it affected us the most in that we weren’t able to come together as a theater family,” DeAngelo said. “We like being able to come together, being creative and sharing that vision with the public. We want to be around each other.”
The Reading Civic Theater and five other Berks County theater troupes joined forces Sunday night for “All Together Now!,” part of a global fundraising initiative for local theater. The concert, held at RACC’s Miller Center for the Arts, also featured Genesius Theater, the Reading Community Players, Reading Theater Project, the Yocum Institute for Arts Education and Boyertown’s 1st Street Players singing Broadway showtunes.
“All Together Now!” was the brainchild of Music Theatre International, one of the largest theater rights groups in the world. MTI offered several songs from popular musicals like “Beauty and the Beast” and “Annie” to local theater groups in all 50 states and 40 countries, free of charge.
“This is a way for theater companies to get back on their feet, in a sense,” said Maggie Angstadt, 17, who performed with the Yocum Institute. “Usually you have to pay a lot of money for songs like this, but they were given to us for free.”
It was the job of Miller Center production manager Brett Buckwalter to bring the local theater groups together for the show. MTI announced in July that it was giving songs to local theater companies for free, and when Buckwalter heard the news, he quickly got to work. He reached out to the groups that he thought would be interested. DeAngelo thought the message was “long overdue.”
“We tried to coordinate doing shows together,” she said, “but it’s very difficult. Our immediate thought was ‘Yeah, this is something we’d like to be a part of.'”
“It wasn’t hard,” Buckwalter said. “They were all interested, they’ve always been active and are great participants. I just wanted the Miller Center to be open and full of people again, and for people to know that we’re back open and doing shows again.”
“We’re in rehearsals for our own productions,” DeAngelo said, “and then trying to get together with six companies, so finding that time was not easy. We were all excited about it, and that’s half the battle, but it was hard for us to find days that we were able to rehearse together. And we did!”