A Special Backyard Production: Theatre During COVID

Art is special, it is needed, and it is needed especially during these uncertain times. It allows us to express ourselves in ways that we may not be able to do otherwise (are Jackson Pollock’s beginning to feel like everyday life to anyone else?) At Ivy Lane we have a strong passion for art as we love to feature it in the homes we design, but that passion extends to all of the arts as well.

COVID has hit us all hard, but there are certain sectors that get hit hardest when times get tough, and the arts is one of those areas. Broadway is dark, and so are many of the theatres around the country. But in those dark times, it is often those creative people that help us find the light.

My friend, Carla Crawford, is one of those creatives that is helping the theatre finds its foothold in these uncertain times. We love a great outside of the box idea, and thanks to Carla and her friends at Encore Theater Company, the theatre is coming back…although it’s going to look a little different. Let’s have Carla explain…


First, how did you get into acting? Was it something you’ve pursued a while or a newfound passion?

  • Carla: I always sang in high school and did show choir (they didn’t have a drama department at my high school), but I really fell into acting later in life. I took a chance and auditioned for a play at a small Alexandria theatre and got a role right off the bat! Things just took off from there. Honestly, it’s one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. I truly love being on stage. When I’m in a show, I’m often with a bunch of young kids, and it does make me wish I had started sooner. However, I’m so grateful to be doing it now! It’s something I’ve really enjoyed (especially as an almost empty nester with two of my three kids in college). My friends and family have also been so supportive, and that has meant so much to me as well.


Tell us about the upcoming backyard production of Next to Normal and how it came to be?

  • Carla: First, a little background, I have been involved with The Theatre Lab in D.C. for years and did a yearlong honors conservatory program with them. Through them, I met Julie Lloyd and Steve Quintilian, who recently started their own theatre company, Encore Theater Company, in January of 2020. They had already announced auditions for their first production when COVID hit, so they did a quick pivot and created a show that, while a bit different for the actors and audience, will allow us to enjoy theatre once again.
  • The production is Next to Normala Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical about a suburban family’s struggle with mental illness and grief. When COVID hit, they took things online and held auditions via Zoom. The whole process was online with video submissions first, then Zoom auditions and callbacks. All rehearsals started on Zoom as well, and we’ve had a few in-person rehearsals. We all get our temperature checked, sit six feet apart, and wear masks during any in-person rehearsals. It’s definitely been an interesting challenge to bring a show to life as everything is shut down, but we’ve done it!
  • The show itself will have a very Shakespeare in the Park kind of feel to it as it will be hosted in a backyard and will be free of charge. We’ve taken many precautions to keep the actors, crew, and audience safe. The plan is to have all of the actors and crew get tested prior to the live performance. All audience members will be masked, sit in socially distanced “pods” (you will only be sitting with the people you come with), and all tickets and programs will be contactless and on phones. Seating is limited to about 40 people that can be spaced out in the backyard. It’s definitely unorthodox, but it’ll be a beautiful performance and will hopefully help people to take their mind off of things. Due to the limited run and limited seating, these performances will be by invitation only so we can accommodate family, friends, and neighbors. We are hopeful we will be able to perform the production for a broader audience later.


Carla Crawford (standing) as Diana; Nick Brogan as Henry; Leah Reineck as Natalie


PJ Freebourn as Dan; Leah Reineck as Natalie


Music director Julie Lloyd plays for rehearsal; Leah Reineck as Natalie


Zach Rakotomaniraka as Gabe
All Rehearsal photos by Tony Richards Photography


How has COVID-19 affected you and the theatre community as a whole?

  • Carla: For me personally, all of my kids are home, so that has been nice. When this first hit, we went straight to the beach in Alabama for two months – it was a nice surprise for us to all be together again and spend some quality time together. That is the silver lining as of course it’s also been stressful and uncertain.
  • For the theatre community, it’s very difficult as everything is shut down, even Broadway. People have been getting creative though and I have seen a lot of Cabarets and Script Readings on Zoom. For this performance of Next to Normal to come about has been hard. It’s a risk for sure, but we are doing all we can to stay safe and try and bring some light to people’s lives.
  • PS -> Speaking of light, check out the cast singing “Light,” the finale of Next to Normal.


How can we help support local theatre and arts groups?

  • Carla: Most theatre companies have donation pages, so if you have the means, then a donation to your local theatre company would be a huge help. That and really just continued support of their online productions. I know The Theatre Lab and The Little Theatre of Alexandria are doing online camps this year, so attending those sessions would be a big support as well. Specifically, I know Encore Theater Company had a lot of plans for fundraisers and were counting on ticket sales, and they no longer have any of that income, so it’s been tough. So, if you can give now, then please do and be ready to buy tickets when COVID has ended!


We are thrilled that Carla and Encore Theater Company are creating new and different ways for us to still be able to enjoy the things that we once took for granted. Thank you for helping us figure out this new normal!

Ivy Lane is also using this time to create some new space to showcase some of our favorite artists. We are turning our first-floor space into a studio showroom – you might have seen a sneak peek of some of the art on our Instagram, but there is much more to come, so stay tuned. We are excited about all of the new artists we will be bringing into our updated space. Let’s all help to support the arts where and how we can!


  • The latest from Alex

Alex Deringer and Courtney Cox combine their formal training in design and fashion with their renowned sense of style in Ivy Lane, a full-service interior design firm that curates casually elegant family dwellings that are elevated by a unique spark. Whether an entire house renovation or a one-room makeover, Alex and Courtney’s extensive experience and collaborative dynamic inform a successful design philosophy: thoroughly understand the client’s lifestyle, bring a thoughtful spatial perspective, and enliven the space with the freshest aesthetic interest.

309C Cameron Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314


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