- Associated Press - Monday, December 14, 2020

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) - For the first time since March, the Aberdeen Community Theatre, which is celebrating its 40 years of operation put on a play, “A Christmas Carol.”

The first 39 years were quite a bit different when compared to what 2020 has brought thus far.

Even though there was a weekend performance, changes were apparent. The play was an “enhanced radio version,” which incorporated video elements. While it’s not a completely new concept, it marked the first time since 2004 that the theater hosted a radio-themed performance.

Another change that Aberdeen Community Theatre has been faced with is a lack of revenue. The theater hadn’t had an income since the beginning of the pandemic in March, according to Brian Schultz, the associate artist managing director. Since it wasn’t generating income, the theater had to get creative and deployed three avenues in order to keep the theater afloat.

One of those avenues was fundraising. Some of the fundraising efforts were through Jimmy’s Pizza, where 20% of all pizza sales went to the theater; Popcorn Pull-up events and with GoFundMe, the Aberdeen American News reported.

“It’s been continual fundraising efforts to make sure that we can pay our bills and meet all of our financial obligations,” Schultz said.

Not only has the Aberdeen Community Theatre ramped up its fundraising efforts, the staff has also taken pay cuts to make sure that the theater could survive during the pandemic.

“We all, as a staff, made sacrifices. We all pulled back to between half and three-quarters time just to make sure that the organization itself can remain viable, so that once we come on the backside of this and we’re able to resume the full-time schedule that we have something to come back to,” Schultz said.

Along with those efforts, the theater has tried to stay in the public eye by hosting various events around town. During the summer, the Aberdeen Community Theatre produced Storybook Land Theatre in conjunction with the Aberdeen Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.

The theater also hosted Rocking the Marquee events, where local musicians performed music. It also recorded and edited the recordings to make a “full-package” video, according to Schultz. And volunteers submitted performances to the theater that went out on social media accounts.

Things around the physical theater have changed, too, Schultz said.

During the pandemic, the Aberdeen Community Theatre upgraded its marquee plexiglass panel, expanded a gallery, painted and added slatwall. Slatwall is a building material with horizontal grooves - slats - that hold attachments.

Not only did the theater undergo renovations, the way it operates has also changed. It is requiring that its patrons wear masks, isn’t selling concessions and has cut its capacity from 450 to 150.

Aberdeen Community Theatre put on “A Night at the Improv,” on Nov. 7 as its first event.

While “A Christmas Carol,” was live in the theater on Dec. 4-6, viewing options are still available. The theater recorded the play and is selling digital two-day rentals for $18.

“The quality of it is more than just pointing a camera at the stage and hit record,” Schultz said. “It’s a fully produced and edited piece of art all by itself, so they definitely get their money’s worth when they watch it.”

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