After nearly two years, Elaine Melanson is ready for the return of live theatre in Bedford again.
“We are beyond thrilled,” says the president of the Bedford Players Community Theatre. “To be back in the theatre, to be building sets, to be rehearsing, to just be moving towards building something as a team is just such a great feeling again.”
A long-established stage company of nearly 40 years, the volunteer-based Bedford Players Theatre has suffered through various lockdowns and restrictions ever since the pandemic began shutting down local arts venues in early 2020.
Forced to halt their season due to COVID-19, Melanson insists the group was still more fortunate than many in that they have very low overhead with All Saints Anglican Church as their host venue.
“We are very thankful to have that venue,” notes Melanson. “Unlike some other community theatres who (were) struggling with their own building and keeping the lights and heat on, we were not in that situation.”
As such, Bedford Players Theatre were able to manage the worst of the pandemic and managed to keep volunteers engaged through social media and with online play readings the first Tuesday of every month.
An informal event that has since returned as an in-person gathering in September, the play reading series has proven to be a successful strategy to remain relevant during challenging times for the community theatre.
“The benefit (was) keeping us a little bit in the public eye but also drawing new people into the theatre,” says Melanson, adding the community theatre group has seen a surge of new interest from residents looking for a creative outlet.
“People who have been in touch with us have said over and over again they’re just so happy to see people again — whether its been online or, in the case of the last (reading), in person,” notes Melanson. “It’s sort of getting away from the doom and gloom of news and the pandemic and that feeling of isolation.”
Now with provincial restrictions lifting and gathering limits opening up, Bedford Players Theatre is proud to announce it’s 2021-22 season featuring three plays — the first of which will launch November 4.
“We’ve got Clue for the fall show, which is going to be so much fun,” says Melanson about the stage production that was originally adapted from the popular Hasbro board game of the same name. “You’ll find all of the original characters in there — Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard.”
Indeed, the play itself has a fascinating history. Also turned into a motion picture in 1985, Clue is a farcical mystery that follows six guests that are invited to a dinner party only to find their host has turned up dead. As such, the sextet finds themselves with the dubious distinction of having to reveal the murderer among them.
Once the show ends its run on November 20, the Bedford Players Theatre will turn its focus on its winter show — The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood.
“That is a real family-friendly show,” says Melanson of the Monty Pythonesque retelling of the classic fable. “We’re hoping to have a lot of family patrons come and bring everybody.”
Finally, the 2021-22 season will wrap in the spring with a stage production of the comedy Four Weddings and an Elvis from playwright Nancy Frick.
“This is part of our line-up that would have happened last season had everything gone according to plan,” adds Melanson. “So we’re really happy to be able to put that together this year.”
In addition to bringing live theatre back to the Bedford area (patrons must show proof of vaccination), Melanson is even more thrilled to reunite the non-profit organization’s committed volunteers and tight-knit community, a joy that she insists is very much the heart of the longstanding theatre group.
“People come and go (but) it’s really that sense of community and building toward a goal and that goal is to put on a play,” says Melanson about the best part of being involved with Bedford Players Theatre. “So it’s really the people — they’re really fantastic.”
For tickets or information on Bedford Players Theatre, visit their website.