NH Theater's Hustle to Survive the Pandemic Featured in NBC Digital Series ‘Rebound'

The head of marketing at the Seacoast Repertory Theater said he believes COVID-19 was built to kill theater, but his team is doing everything it can to make sure that doesn’t happen on their stage

NBCUniversal, Inc.

What can a business centered around the arts do to survive a pandemic that is threatening its staff, hurting its bank account and keeping its audience at home?

A lot, actually — the Seacoast Repertory Theater is doing whatever it can to keep the show going.

Nestled in the heart of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, this nonprofit, professional regional theater was having a solid year, with over 330 shows lined up, according to marketing director Brian Kelly. And then the coronavirus hit.

“It was a real decimation and it happened nearly instantly, and there is no telling when it is going to end,” Kelly said.

Their shows were put on hold, with over a hundred artists and staff cut to make ends meet. They now face hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses, with no easy way to bring in revenue.

“The entire industry evaporated overnight and that was an industry that was tough on a good day,” Kelly said. “Very high unemployment and underemployment on a good day, and this was a bad day. And it has been 150 bad days in a row.”

Kelly said he believes COVID-19 was built to kill theater, but his team is doing everything they can to make sure that doesn’t happen on their stage. 

These lovers of the arts are fighting to keep their theater running by live-streaming musicals, running digital programming and implementing entirely new strategies to run their shows.

The Seacoast Rep, as it's known, was one of the first theaters in the country to go live online amid the pandemic, with their rendition of "The Marvelous Wonderettes," and have followed that with original shows. There's a drag queen's take on Sesame Street called "Honey Punch and Pals," musical performances and even fitness classes.

With behind-the-scenes footage, exclusive interviews and more, the Seacoast Repertory Theater has adapted is one of the small business survival stories being featured in an NBC digital documentary series called “Rebound,” created by NBC Owned Television Stations and NBC LX. 

A pandemic. A social justice movement. A nationwide call for change. Small businesses in America are operating during unprecedented times - but they aren’t letting COVID-19 stop them. How are they doing it?

COVID-19 has impacted every facet of our lives. For small business owners, those impacts are even greater.

To better tell those stories, we decided to launch a series about how small businesses are faring throughout the coronavirus. But a raging pandemic presents some obstacles for traditional journalism.

Business restrictions, reduced hours of operation and social distancing guidelines have changed how journalists tell their stories. So we flipped the script and identified six small businesses across America and supplied them with a camera.

In "Rebound," these businesses take you behind the scenes during COVID-19, to show you just how much things have changed throughout the pandemic.

In this episode we take you behind the curtain to see how this small New Hampshire theater has adapted their efforts into running a digital video studio. The challenges are great but they definitely have a “the show must go on” mentality.

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