In times of unrest and upheaval, it can be nice to escape to another world, at least for a little while.
That’s what directors JoDonn and Kirsten Chaney are encouraging people to do by heading to Stained Glass Theatre of Mid-Missouri for “Pollyanna,” opening tonight.
“Pollyanna” is the tale of a young orphan who is always able to find joy in every situation. The girl is taken in by her wealthy aunt and soon spreads her joy among the town, trying to help everyone she can. Referencing the global pandemic due to COVID-19 and the ongoing protests against racism and police violence, JoDonn Chaney said everyone could use a little extra brightness right now.
“She brightens things up,” Chaney said. “There’s so many things that can divide us. But I think ‘Pollyanna’ is just one thing that can bring us together. ‘Pollyanna’ is a story of someone bringing hope and gladness to a community, and that’s what we want to do in this production.”
JoDonn and Kirsten Chaney are a husband and wife directing team, with both saying it really only works when they take on a show together.
“I tend to be the behind the scenes communicator,” Kirsten Chaney said. “He does more of the direction on stage. It’s a happy balance and it works out really well.”
This is the first show at Stained Glass since Mid-Missouri theaters closed in mid-March due to public health concerns amid the spread of COVID-19. Auditions for the show were held in late February and rehearsals quickly began, but by mid-March, they had to move to using Zoom. When rehearsals began again, it was only with small groups at a time to comply with public health regulations. Ultimately, the show is opening about one month later than originally planned.
It all made for a more interesting process than normal.
“I’ve never directed in a pandemic before,” JoDonn Chaney said with a chuckle.
He said the cast combines many new faces to Stained Glass with some seasoned veterans, which worked well as those who are more familiar with the theater were quick to help the new people. However, the schedule changes did cause some issues, with one lead cast member having to drop out. Another had a scheduling conflict, which led to Stained Glass planning a Sunday matinee this weekend, instead of the normal Saturday show.
Sarah Little, who plays Aunt Polly, and Maria Brown, who plays Pollyanna, said the rehearsal process has been difficult but also eye-opening. They said having the play at least gave them a project while being stuck at home — they could work on lines and blocking. Plus, they were still able to socialize and meet new people through the production, albeit in digital and physically distant spaces.
For Brown, playing Pollyanna has influenced her own outlook on life.
“Pollyanna tries to find something to be glad about in every situation,” Brown said, adding how she’s started to look at life through a similar lens.
Little said the story is one of redemption and second chances, themes everyone can relate to. In playing Aunt Polly, Little said she gets to be the main villain of the story, a fun role for her.
“I don’t have to hold back all the sassy things,” Little said, laughing.
For the cast and crew, the strange rehearsal process has only strengthened their bonds with each other. Little said they’ve celebrated birthdays and anniversaries together, and they are all looking forward to finally being in front of an audience tonight.
“I just think it’s a great way to step out and un-quarantine,” Little said.
Or just escape into the world of “Pollyanna” for an evening.
“The theater is a place for people to come and maybe just take their minds off, even for just a night,” JoDonn Chaney said.
Tickets are $7 for the show at 7:30 p.m. tonight. For all other performances, tickets are $10 and a family pass is available for households of four or more for $36. Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. tonight, Friday and June 25-26, and 2 p.m. Sunday and June 27. For reservations, call 573-634-5313 or email [email protected] Stained Glass Theatre is located at 830 E. High St.