Monday, June 1, 2020
Company of Fools Pushes 'Educating Rita' Back as It Readies Pandemic Theater
Scott Palmer is telling people that the Company of Fools’ 25th anniversary season will be historic in more ways than one, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
Wednesday, May 6, 2020


Company of Fools is turning inward, calling on some of the Fools’ favorite actors within the Wood River Valley to deliver the laughs in the year of the coronavirus.

Get ready to see Jana Arnold, Chris Carwithen, Andrew Alburger, and Aly Wepplo on the stage as the Fools present their 25th season.

“It’s an opportunity,” said the Fools’ Artistic Director Scott Palmer. “Because of concerns about inviting artists outside the valley to come in, we decided to focus our attention on actors and artists in the valley, such as Melodie Taylor-Mauldin, who will serve as costume designer.”

Company of Fools has pushed back its summer repertory to fall because of the pandemic.

  • “Educating Rita”is scheduled from Sept. 7 through 20. One of the most popular comedies written in the last 50 years, it was written by British playwright Willy Russell, who wrote the popular “Shirley Valentine” starring Fools co-founder Denise Simone.

    It follows the relationship between a 26-year-old Liverpool hairdresser and a middle-aged alcoholic university lecturer whose course she takes to seek inner growth. It will feature Andrew Alburger and Audra Honacker, who took part in “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine.”

  • “Bad Dates” by Theresa Rebeck will take the stage Sept. 28 to Oct. 11.

    “It is a wonderfully, funny insightful comedy--a feel-good examination of a women’s bad dates told through the shoes she wore on each of those dates,” said Palmer.

  • “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde is a world premiere holiday adaptation scheduled from Dec. 9 through 27. First performed in 1895, It’s a farcical comedy, in which the characters maintain fictitious personae to escape social obligations.

    Palmer, who has written “a bazillion adaptations,” took the opportunity to set it in the English countryside during the Roaring ‘20s.

    “It’s a great classic—something not done in the valley in a while. And it gave me the chance to adapt the characters to the personalities of our wonderfully foolish actors,” he said.

  • “Balloonacy” by Barry Kornhauser will take the stage Feb. 8 through 12. An actor has not been cast yet.

    Designed for young children and families, the very physical comedy revolves around a solitary old man who on his birthday finds a red balloon and develops a friendship with that balloon. The takeaway: Companionship can be found in the most unlikely of places.

    “There are no words—it’s a silent performance. So, there will be no barriers to young kids who may have English as a second language,” said Palmer.

  • “The Gun Show,” by E.M. Lewis will take place from March 8 to 20, 2021, and will star Chris Carwithen.

This show by a Portland playwright explores the different facets of the gun control debate in the United States without taking political sides.

“It’s a brilliant script that has been around a couple years ago,” said Palmer.

Social distancing during rehearsals should not be a problem since all the casts except for the Christmas show are small, said Palmer.

“But we have Plan A through Z for everything else, with the safety of our patrons and our staff being the No. 1 concern,” he added.

It’s possible for instance, that the theater could pare the number of theatergoers from about 200 when full to 50, leaving six to eight theater seats in between people.

The Fools will encourage people to purchase their tickets online or by phone using credit card to pare interaction at the box office. There will not be a paper program but rather an opportunity to read it online, reducing the need for volunteers to hand off the programs and recycle them.

And the Fools are exploring ways for patrons to purchase refreshments in advance online or by phone, with the refreshments delivered to their seats.

It goes without saying there’ll be hand sanitizer and the theater will be sanitized after each performance.

“It’s going to be a fun season, a challenging season. But theater people are the type you want when it comes to responding to challenges because of their creativity,” Palmer said.

Palmer has been talking to colleagues across the country to find out how they’re responding to the pandemic.

William Shakespeare, he said, lived through multiple pandemics, during which theaters shut down and actors sometimes left London to go to smaller towns where the virus was not so prevalent.

“William Shakespeare wrote ‘King Lear’ during one pandemic, so he spent his time wisely writing one of the greatest drama/tragedies ever written,” Palmer said.

Palmer himself has spent time while sheltering-in-place interviewing local actors and artistic directors throughout the nation about what the pandemic means to the future of arts which are aired on podcasts available in its “Behind the Curtain” performances on the Company of Fools website at

“One thing I know is that during the lockdown everyone is tuning to Netflix or reading books as they turn to the arts for comfort and connection,” he said. “And what I also know is what’s missing is community. So, we want to focus on ways to provide a communal experience when we’re able to again.

Palmer noted that the pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone from businesses to people who have been sickened by the virus, as well as nonprofit organizations like Sun Valley Museum of the Arts and Company of Fools.

“We just hope people will think of this as a vital institution that needs their support now more than ever,” he said. “We’re being thoughtful about our budget, expecting that the pandemic will have a significant impact on our ticket sales. So, we hope people will be mindful of that so we can come out of this strong and healthy.”





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