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Three shows in three weeks? Fire & Light runs to raise curtain

Trio of productions to open in Bluffton locale


Michele DeVinney

Whatzup Features Writer

Published May 5, 2021

For our local arts organizations, the COVID virus has been more than an inconvenience. Capacity limitations and spiking numbers led many to halt productions and rehearsals, leading to a need to plan and re-plan productions that had been in the works for months, even years.

Each organization took their own path to rescheduling productions that had been planned for the past year, but Fire & Light Productions decided to take a remarkably proactive approach to what had been the plan for their 2020-21 season.

Rather than bumping back to next year, they instead decided to perform three shows in one month’s time.

It was either a mark of genius or madness.

Method to Their Madness

“Madness,” said Lisa Ellis, director of Fire & Light and for the upcoming production of Frozen Jr. “Definitely madness.”

But logistically, it hasn’t been as chaotic as it may sound. With little overlap in cast and crew, each production was able to move forward individually with little tugging from other productions. For Ellis, the madness was still the only real answer.

“In our situation, we felt like we needed to get everything done for the year for our students’ sake,” she said. “We halted in November as numbers started going up again because we didn’t want to be part of that situation. So we started doing small things with in-person audiences and online, and we had some high school workshops. To do all of these in a month is madness, but we felt we needed closure.”

For Fire & Light it’s more than just cranking out plays. With classes for children until the age of 18, this was a chance for the younger students to experience the stage and for the older students to get in one last show before heading on to college and the adult world.

And the extra time hasn’t hurt in terms of preparation.

“This does make us really ready for production,” Ellis said. “We’ve rehearsed certain scenes so much, and we’ve used the extra time to create and have fun with the show. The Frozen set has been redesigned three times already.”

Partnerships Opening Up

In addition to Frozen Jr., Fire & Light’s May schedule includes a musical version of Little Women as well as the typically holiday-themed but always timely It’s a Wonderful Life.

Having each team working independently is the only reason it seemed feasible to attempt such a plan.

“We have three separate casts, separate costuming leads, and we’re lucky to have a team of volunteers and staff to make it possible,” Ellis said. “Nonetheless, the next few weeks are going to be crazy.”

Also coming in the midst of this busy schedule is the news that Fire & Light will be teaming with the University of Saint Francis in the future, a plan that had been in the works but only recently came to fruition.

“There’s been the suggestion of that for years,” Ellis said. “It takes time to get the 501 status and get all of that in order. But COVID gave us time to stabilize and get things in order. I think this time has allowed for many organizations to rethink partnerships, and this time Saint Francis came to us. This allows their students to work with our students and our students to be mentored by their students. We have a mutual interest in providing wholesome, family-oriented productions for the area.”

Another plus will be the use, when available, of the university’s beautiful Performing Arts Center in the heart of downtown.

For the productions in May, Fire & Light will be using the Life Community Church in Bluffton.

“We can limit ticket sales to 200 to 275 to allow for distancing since the facility holds 400,” Ellis said. “We want to make sure we maintain social distancing, and while masks are optional, they are encouraged. My kids are all still wearing masks and social distancing.”

Looking to Next Season

After pulling off three big-time shows in as many weekends, there will be a very short window to exhale before the company prepares for summer and its first collaboration with Saint Francis, the August production of Newsies which opens its next season.

Several excellent productions will be part of its 2021-22 season, including Little Mermaid Jr., The Wizard of Oz, and Around the World in 80 Days.

Tickets for May’s productions are available online and at the door, though Ellis reports that Frozen Jr. tickets are selling briskly. So the early bird will likely want to visit fireandlightproductions.com as soon as possible.

Given the popularity of all three shows, and the eagerness that audiences feel about getting back into the theater, pounce quickly to make sure you don’t miss the madness.

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