With 17 years of theater experience under their belts Melody and Edward Libonati, artistic director and executive director of Summer Theatre of New Canaan (STONC) respectively, have put together three summer programs to keep theater alive and relative during COVID-19. A team of five interns who are actors along with other staff will lead the three very different programs. Though the programs are online, there’s plenty of opportunity for singing, dancing and acting in the exercises provided for the students. In other words, these programs are going to be fun-filled learning experiences.

“We’re disappointed that we won’t be outdoors this summer. Who would have thought that in July we still wouldn’t be able to produce our annual summer season?” asked Melody who has been busy planning a virtual summer lineup of programs.

She went on to say that: “In addition to our exciting programs, we have commissioned the “Peter Pan Pod Play,” a four-episode audio play based on our successful past production. When asked why an audio instead of a visual play, Melody stated that she was looking for a way to get off screen. With so much online time, this certainly is refreshing, and best of all, she pointed out that the audio opens the imagination. It allows the listener to create the scene and costumes and fill in all the colors. According to Melody, this pod play is not only going to be offered free of charge to nonprofit camps, but in the fall, the audio play will be offered to schools throughout CT.

Usually, STONC has a staff of about 100 people. “It’s disappointing not to have everyone back,” said Melody who pointed out that at this time period the actors and staff would be so energized and so eager to perform, that the theater would be bursting with amazing energy. “Nonetheless, the theater is happy to follow the state’s guidelines. We think that CT has done a fine job in regards to the coronavirus and we want to keep our staff and the community safe and well.”

The biggest challenge that these theater professionals faced in putting together the virtual programming was learning the technical aspects. “We go through the whole routine in these programs,” said Edward, who said that he has learned more about what he can’t do than what he can do. However, now that the Libonates have the virtual experience down pat, there is no limit to what they can do virtually. “It’s like the best of both worlds, film making and live theater combined,” said Edward.

The three exciting and energized summer programs feature highly talented actors, choreographers and music directors. The first program is called “DramaRamas.” This is a program uniquely designed for children with learning challenges. It will be virtual, but it will enable students to perform through various specially created online exercises.

The Junior Company (middle school students) will present a virtual production of “The Wizard of Oz.” This will be virtual and students will not only work using techniques used in theater but in film as well. It’s like two creative experiences coming together via Zoom and a streaming program as well.

The Pre-College Theatre Lab is for high school students. It offers master classes and workshops online with international theater artists as well as professionals in the field from across the country including New York and Los Angeles.

According to Melody, “We expect that Broadway will be opening in January, but for us we have to wait until next summer.”

For more information about the summer programs, visit stonc.org.

Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She was a founding member of the CT Critics Circle. She welcomes comments and can be reached at jgrochman@gmail.com.