Empty Space town hall

The board of director for The Empty Space will hold a virtual town hall on Saturday to connect with their audience and share what's in store for the theater.

Part of the magic of live theater is connecting with the audience,  but when it's not safe to gather in person, what's the next best thing? 

For The Empty Space, it will connect with its supporters on Saturday with a virtual town hall meeting via Facebook Live.

Kristina Saldaña, the theater's financial director, said the goal of the event is to go "as face-to-face" as they possibly could, especially after such a long period of uncertainty.

She wrote in an email, "We always looked forward to seeing our regular patrons when our doors were open and we've gotten a lot of emails and messages saying that they can't wait to see us again at The Empty Space so we wanted to connect as closely and personally as we could."

The theater's new board members, who assumed their roles on July 1, will be introduced and available to answer questions about how The Empty Space plans to continue providing accessible art to the community.

One question has already been answered about when will in-person productions resume. Saldaña said the doors will remain closed to performances until next June.

"With such a small space like ours, there's no safe way to gather people until there are drastic improvements to the current health crisis," she wrote. "As it is with many theatres around the country, reopening is going to take a precise formula for not only for our patrons to feel safe, but also our actors and volunteers. A vaccine is a large part of the equation, along with near eradication.

"Of course, we're allowing ourselves to remain flexible should circumstances change quickly for either better or worse."

Speaking of flexibility, the theater, like many of its local peers, has offered online performances, including staged readings and most recently an audio play of "When We Were Young and Unafraid," which had been set to hit the stage in March.

Saldaña said the community response has been good to the online theatrical offerings.

"The donations generated through the performances are helping us remain fiscally stable and people have sent us great words of encouragement on each different medium," she wrote. "We look forward to exploring new ways to bring art and theatre to the masses."

Since the shutdown, the theater has cut all spending down to rent and utilities, which Saldaña said is about $4,500 a month. Donations and fundraisers, like a recent partnership with Tiki-Ko, go toward those bills. 

Although currently unable to bring in revenue from ticket sales, The Empty Space can rely on its core as a production company, Saldaña said.

"So, regardless of if we have our current physical space, or any permanent physical space, The Empty Space can operate as long as we have our dedicated volunteer board of directors to keep it operational and dedicated actors and artists to create the art."

Its flexible plan for the remainder of the year includes more than 10 new audio, visual and socially distanced productions, including holiday-themed pieces, along with shopping opportunities and new art exhibits. More details will be shared during Saturday's discussion.

Being in the midst of both a pandemic and a social justice revolution, Saldaña said it's an exciting time to see how live theater will evolve.

"We're dedicated to keeping it alive however we can and are ready to embrace the new digital age of live theatre," she wrote. "At the heart of it, theatre is about storytelling. That has not and will not change. Of course, live is ideal, but until that is an option again, we will continue finding new ways to tell the stories."

The town hall meeting starts at 7 p.m. Saturday on the theater's Facebook page facebook.com/theemptyspace.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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