Although COVID-19 has affected almost every aspect of daily life over the past 15 months, the New Horizon Theater has continued to perform during the 2020-21 season with six regular shows. New Horizon Artistic Director Bill Nixon, who has worked with the theater since its inception 36 years ago, was the guest speaker at the West Point Lions Club reunion on Wednesday.
Nixon has spoken about the New Horizon Theater debut, upcoming shows, and a camp he will perform in the 2021-22 season.
In 1986, New Horizon’s first performance was a one-hour performance of “No, No, a Million Times No” at the Langdale Auditorium before its restoration. There were 150 people present. The lighting for the show consisted of three lights rented from Atlanta, where the stagehand attached them to the stage rail and ran extension cords around the theater for the performance.
“It was June 1986,” Nixon said. “Since then, we have made 161 productions. The last one we did was ‘Grease’ in April. We’ve been doing it for a long time and it’s going strong. Like everyone else, we had a bit of a fight last year. Despite COVID, we produced six shows last season. “
Although the New Horizon Theater has had to postpone some shows, six is still the normal number it presents in a normal season. The shows were “Bee Hive”, “Mary Poppins”, “Dracula the Musical”, “Once upon a December”, “Very Beloved” and “Grease”.
The first three shows of the 2021-22 season have been postponed due to COVID-19.
The first show of the 2021-22 season, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, will be presented from September 9 to 11.
“For those who bought season tickets, Joseph is the first show and it is typically our children’s show. This year it will be children and adults, ”Nixon said. “We are not going to have a show that is strictly for children. The will be two or three shows in which children will be involved.
“A Barrell Full of Pennies” will be played October 21-23. “Big: the Musical”, on which Tom Hanks’ movie “Big” was based, will play from December 9 to 11. “Barefoot in the Park” will be the first show of 2022, taking place February 24-26.
“The Hobbit,” which will be the only non-musical performance, will be performed April 21-23.
Nixon said New Horizon has only dealt with COVID-19 once so far. This happened in early December just before the first “Dearly Beloved” show was originally scheduled for 8:00 pm on December 10th. At 6:15 p.m. Thursday, one of the actors called to let the team know he had COVID-19 symptoms.
“We are all in the green room except one of our actors. He called and said ‘I think I have COVID,’ ”Nixon said. “It was too late to pitch someone else, so we called people up and told them not to come tonight. We took the 12 and 8 crew, sent them home and quarantined them for a week. No one else had it, which is a miracle. We called all of our subscribers and anyone who had pre-ordered tickets and reached out to everyone but six people. Six people showed up, so we took them on a tour of the theater, costume shop, and a tour of the bell museum.
During the 2020-21 season, Nixon said attendance has dropped significantly. In a typical year, the New Horizon Theater accommodates approximately 2,600 in a season. Last season, attendance was 1,400 people. Although attendance declined, each show broke financially. Although each show broke even, which is normally budgeted, the New Horizon Theater suffered a loss of funds due to a lack of donations and the difference in taxes.
“We budget each show to break even or make $ 1,000, which we did last year. We haven’t wasted any money on shows, ”Nixon said. “Our general budget, which does not include shows, is 59,000, and it is based on $ 59,000 in income from patrons. We brought in $ 33,000, and it’s COVID. There is no doubt in my mind.
To help with the loss of income, the group that was assembled from “Grease” will be hosting a benefit for the theater on Friday, June 11 at 7 pm EST. The group will perform several different genres of music and the show is free.
“One thing we have in this theater is amazing voices,” Nixon said. “There are about twenty singers. This is a fundraiser for the theater. There is no admission, we just ask for donations at the door. If you think it’s worth a dollar, leave a dollar. It’s only one night [event]. It will be a concert of about two hours. There will be music for everyone. There is [Frank] Sinatra songs, Led Zeplin songs and everything in between.