All For One Productions has canceled in-person performances of “The Dreadful Journal of Phoebe Weems,” which was supposed to open tonight. But audiences can still meet Phoebe with a streaming performance next weekend.
Phoebe Weems is a creative girl who doesn't know how to control her imagination. Her psychologist encourages her to keep a journal, but it comes back to haunt her when bullies get a hold of it and use it against her.
We're living through a time that is fearful for a lot of people, so this is a great opportunity to remind people that God is with us and there are tools to face fear, says Lauren Nichols, artistic director of All For One.
Nichols first saw the script from local playwright Michael Wilhelm in 2013, and it was added to plans for the 2020-21 season about two years ago. It has been through a couple rounds of readings for feedback, including being a part of last year's inaugural Fresh Finds festival during which the script got feedback from local teachers.
Nichols says it is a smart play appropriate for children that adults will also enjoy while it shows all members of the family that there are ways to cope with fear and anxiety.
It could inspire conversations between parents and their children.
“There's a strong element of families supporting one another,” Nichols says. “There's a strong depiction of friends sticking together and sticking up for one another.”
Nichols was initially worried that some of the elements might be too scary for young children. But she thinks they have found a way to depict Phoebe's fears without creating fear in young audience members.
“Our creative team has worked tirelessly to figure out something that would be acceptable,” she says.
In addition to being a playwright, Wilhelm is also an actor and artist. He and his daughter, Josette Wilhelm, are creating pages from Phoebe's journal to show the audience. Josette is also creating makeup effects for the play.
The production had been scheduled to be performed for in-person audiences at ArtsLab through Sept. 27 along with a streaming option. A decision was made last week to cancel in-person performances because All For One and Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne, which operates ArtsLab, couldn't find a solution that would have allowed the performances to take place without the performers wearing masks.
Masks just wouldn't have worked for this show, Nichols says. But she notes that Arts United was as accommodating as possible and she isn't upset with anyone there that a resolution couldn't be found.
All For One was slated to be the first outside organization to use ArtsLab, which features reconfigurable seating in a black-box theater format.
Because of protocols related to the pandemic, ArtsLab was only going to be able to hold about 50 to 60 audience members per performance in the seating arrangement being used for “Phoebe Weems.”
That number would fluctuate based on the size of groups that buy tickets. Social distance was to be built in around each pod of seats purchased. Larger groups meant more tickets could be sold. For example, if a family of six buys seats together, fewer empty spaces have to be used than if three groups of two people buy tickets.
To balance some of the lost seats, All For One had added 11 a.m. matinees on Saturday and Sept. 26.
In other nods to the pandemic, there had been no refreshments planned and the 90-minute drama was only to have a two-minute break to change sets instead of a longer intermission between acts.
All For One uses ArtsLab as its home stage, and Nichols says the organization is moving forward with plans for the remainder of its season “in hope and faith.” The next show on its calendar is “A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas” opening Nov. 13, and video rights recently have been made available so a streaming performance might be made for that show as well.
For “Phoebe Weems,” virtual tickets can be purchased for $15 at ArtsTix.org. A code will then be sent that gives access to a video that was professionally filmed this week in ArtsLab. The video will be available for unlimited views on YouTube to ticket holders from Sept. 25 to Oct. 4.
The cast of 13 was able to perform without masks for the video because there was no audience present. Among members of the cast are Violet Park in the title role and Violet's mother, Jill Park, playing Phoebe's mother.
The following shows have been announced by All For One Productions for the remainder of the 2020-21 season, but details are subject to change. Season and individual tickets are available now. For more information, go to AllForOneFW.org.
“A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas,” by Laurie Brooks – 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13, 14, 20, and 21; 2:30 p.m. Nov. 15 and 22
“Mary's Wedding,” by Stephen Massicotte – 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19, 20, 26 and 27; 2:30 p.m. Feb. 21 and 28
“The Charitable Sisterhood of the Second Trinity Victory Church,” by Bo Wilson – 7:30 p.m. April 23, 24 and 30 and May 1; 2:30 p.m. April 15 and May 2