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Panhandle Players to resume live shows in February

David Adlerstein
The Apalachicola Times

The shows are back on for the Panhandle Players, beginning the first week of February.

The comedy “Dearly Departed,” which was supposed to grace the stage last March, and then perhaps in October, is happening at the Chapman Auditorium Feb. 5 to 7.

It will be the same show as what was planned for a year ago, and hopefully the same laughs, but that’s pretty much the only thing that will be the same,

Steve Allen, left, is directing "Dearly Departed," which features Royce Rolstad in the cast.
Julia Ferrell, left, a Gulf County resident, rehearses with Jeana Crozier, from Apalachicola.
Judy Loftus, from St. Joe Beach, will be directing the Panhandle Players show set for late March.

Seating is limited, masks are required, protocols are in place, temperature will be taken. And the show will go on.

“We just feel right now people need an escape, something they can get involved in onstage, watching something else besides their TV and get involved in live theatre,” said Port St. Joe resident Renee Valentine, who chairs the board that governs the non-profit community theatre group that operates out of the auditorium in the century-old Chapman School in the heart of Apalachicola.

The acting troupe also will ensure the seats are sanitized after each performance, on Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday afternoon.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make it as safe as possible to come to the show,” said Royce Rolstad, of Apalachicola, a former board president.

“We are trying to get back to some form of normalcy with health protocols in place,” he said. “Thank god we have the vaccines. Some are OK with going and feel safe; not everybody’s going to feel safe about going out right now. If you feel safe, we would love to have you.”

The cast under the direction of Carrabelle’s Steve Allen is different than the first go-round, since one male lead has moved away, and two female leads, both also board members, have opted out of both involvements.

“We want to plan to do anything but we’re not dumb, we know that can change with what happens with this pandemic,” said Rolstad. “With local laws we can be shut down tomorrow. We’re well-aware of that.

“It’s a gamble, it’s taking a chance on having the show. We may make no money at all,” he said. “It’s not about making money. There have been other theatres around the country that have done it safely.”

He noted that in Walton County, the Emerald Coast Theatre Company has resumed performing.

In addition to most of the cast, as well as the crew, the set remains unchanged, after sitting undisturbed for 10 months.

“The ushers have a different role this time,” said Rolstad. “They’re going to actually seat people so they’re going to have a bigger role.”

Confident their return next month will go well, the Panhandle Players have already cast a show tentatively set for the end of March.

This original dramatic comedy “The Corruption of Harry Finley,” is a playwriting debut for renowned nature photographer, and novelist, John B. Spohrer, a resident of St. George Island.

That show is slated for March 26 to 28.

Tickets for the show, which are $20, will only be sold online; no tickets will be sold at the door. Visit www.panhandleplayers.com for info, or visit the troupe’s Facebook page.