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A screenshot from Bakersfield Community Theatre's Facebook Live show.

As the longest continuously running theatre in California, soon entering its 93rd season, it is no surprise that Bakersfield Community Theatre refused to be held back due to COVID-19.

Rather than crumbling under the weight of a pandemic, BCT decided to take matters into its own hands: introducing Facebook Live one-act plays.

While the abrupt close of the theatre thrust the actors, crew and board members into a momentary panic, the loss of a once welcoming, warm and family-like atmosphere prompted immediate action because as Artistic Director Rebecca Worley states, “Our theatre is a community, we are family.”

After taking the time to research other ways to ensure that BCT had not faced its final curtain call, Worley had little success until inspiration struck thanks to fellow community theatre Empty Space. While Empty Space had taken a different approach to Facebook Live events, a light bulb went off for BCT and the idea of putting on Facebook Live shows was set in motion.

The live shows would soon become more than just a way of continuing to produce plays; this new outlet had become a space for individuals to “communicate with each other, be with each other.”

Despite the Facebook Live shows being vastly different from those that are put on on-stage, they have had quite the success. According to Worley, “There has been a really great turnout, people are enjoying it and asking for more.” The comedic one-act plays are, as Worley describes, “light, fluffy and here to entertain and get us through.”

Lasting between 10 to 20 minute and involving two to four actors per play, the live pieces are presented through Facebook and are also saved under the video tab so those who have missed out on the live version can still share in the experience. Audience members are also able to interact with the cast and crew by either leaving posts or asking questions.

While at the present time Bakersfield Community Theatre puts the focus on presenting comedic pieces, there are plans to introduce other genres, including a drama piece that will spotlight the hard-hitting issue of mental illness. To provide a bit of variety, BCT also showcases Smules, a compilation of individuals performing songs from various musicals; so, whether through lines or lyrics, BCT welcomes all with a passion to perform.

There is no limit to the number of individuals allowed to view a live show, which typically takes place 8 p.m. on a Friday. All live shows are free of charge; all one needs is a Facebook account and some free time.

Information regarding events can be found on the Bakersfield Community Theatre Facebook page, as well as at www.bctstage.org.

When browsing Facebook, events are located at the top of the page under “Events,” with saved performance videos under the “Videos” tab. Each show is posted two weeks before the act is set to go live. One can receive a reminder alert when RSVPing as “going.”

Various other information such as ways to donate, volunteer and lend a helping hand to the nonprofit organization can also be found on the theatre’s website. 

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