Port Ludlow theater group plans future after COVID-forced cancellation

Luciano Marano
lmarano@ptleader.com
Posted 9/16/20

Despite being forced to call off their last production, and an increasingly lengthy reluctant absence from the stage, the Ludlow Village Players will certainly see the spotlight again. Longtime …

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Port Ludlow theater group plans future after COVID-forced cancellation

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Despite being forced to call off their last production, and an increasingly lengthy reluctant absence from the stage, the Ludlow Village Players will certainly see the spotlight again. Longtime artistic director Vallery “Val” Durling isn’t worried.

“The community supports us really well,” she said.

“I’m not at all worried about the group. I think it will continue; it’s just the older all of us get we’ll have to be replaced. We’ll just hope there will be those who will replace us. I’m always optimistic.”

The group’s previously slated production, “The Outsider,” by Paul Slade Smith, had to be called off in April when venues closed and gatherings were warned against. A revelation not without warning, perhaps, but it all seemed very sudden to those involved. 

“We were financially involved and had a month’s rehearsals into a play, ready to go, and of course the venue closed. And that was it,” Durling said.

Though she called the impact of the coronavirus epidemic unprecedented, Durling noted the Ludlow Village Players have gotten through hardships before. 

“One time we had a play that was six weeks into rehearsal and we lost the leading man and were unable to replace him, so we replaced the play and performed anyway,” she recalled.

The show, as everyone knows, must go on.

But when?

“We’ve never had anything like this; we’ve never closed a play,” Durling said. “There is just no way around this one.”

Ludlow Village Players is a nonprofit, all-volunteer performing arts association dedicated to providing live theater for the entertainment and enrichment of the local community. They encourage public participation by providing education and skill-development opportunities through a variety of theatrical experiences, both on and off the stage.

The group is the unofficial hybrid heir of two now-defunct groups, Durling explained, called into existence by popular demand.

“There were two theater groups here, but this group formed because the directors of both those groups left and there was no theater for a year or two,” she said. “Then, we formed this group. It was sort of formed from the other groups because people requested it — ‘We’d love to have theater again’ — but it really isn’t because of those two groups.”

Durling, who has been the group’s artistic director since its formation in 2007, said there is no official roster.

“We don’t have a membership per se, just anyone who has been involved with Ludlow Village Players is family,” she said.

While many musicians, artists and performers have found at least a limited outlet via virtual events and shows, Durling said initiating something similar has proven difficult so far for the Ludlow Village Players.

“Our community here is largely 60 and older, and most of them don’t do Zoom that well, or are even interested, so I don’t know how successful it would be,” she said.

Plus, there’s nothing quite like the real, live thing, which Durling said the group’s core members are eager to return to — just as soon as they can, that is.

“First of all, you can’t put an audience together,” she said. “It’s difficult, you can, but a very small one. But any royalties or fees you would have to pay for performers or plays, you couldn’t afford them. So you’d either have to do things that were public domain or write your own. Or I don’t know how you would do it; it’s difficult.”

Still, hope springs eternal in Port Ludlow and the performing group is not exactly sitting still.

“We keep our finger in,” Durling said. “I sort of am doing a fairly casual, without a deadline, selection committee — where we look for plays to perform.”

Stories with smaller casts are being marked as likely favorites, Durling said, as when/if the group is again able to perform they don’t yet know what the restrictions might be.

“It’s just all up in the air,” she said. “We’re looking at maybe one or two people in a cast or things like that, that can be socially distanced and have smaller audiences.” 

To learn more about the Ludlow Village Players and future events and performances, visit www.ludlowvillageplayers.org or search “Ludlow Village Players” on Facebook.

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