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Closing the curtain on virtual theatre -- for now

In just a few weeks, Jakespeare Virtual Theatre Company will cease operations for the foreseeable future. I made this difficult decision after much tossing and turning, since creating theatre -- especially in this new medium -- is one of the things I love most in life. But, since I've always tried to create a personalized and family feel to the group, I wanted to write this final blog post to partially explain my reasons, thank you for the support you've given, and share my thoughts on where it all might go from here.

From Day #1 (March 13, 2020 to be exact), I set out with the following goals:

  • Provide theatre to the widest number of people possible

  • Provide many different types of theatre

  • Have a good time

I feel confident that, for the most part, I was able to accomplish these goals in the 29 months Intermittent/Jakespeare has been in operation. While it's certainly been a learning curve for me, one outcome I never expected at the beginning was how many lasting relationships would be created from these little shows. I don't mean just me either; many of the cast members from past productions still keep in touch, even though most of us have never met face-to-face. This, to me, is what I'm most proud about.

Because despite the uphill climb that running a theatre company is, financially and otherwise, especially when it's in a new format most people either don't know about or are uninterested in, I find solace in the fact that we lucky few were able to come together during one of the worst chapters in American history and create some beautiful stuff. So, thank you for your part in this endeavor.

Unfortunately, dedicated passion and personal connection can't always fill the seats (even virtual ones) or pay the bills, and despite my efforts to creatively problem solve these everyday business worries, it was clear that JVTC had reached the end of its extended run. And it truly did go a lot further than I had anticipated back when The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street streamed; what I had thought would be just a one-off experience turned into a company that eventually produced 10 shows a year, plus podcasts, a blog, a seminar on Shakespeare, and many other things that would have seemed ridiculous at first.

And maybe it was too much, too fast, or any number of other causes people suggested to me, but to that, I say, "Well, that's just who I am: I love something, and I go for broke with it (literally)." Would I have done things differently if I could do it all over again? Maybe. But maybe not. Because while I'd love to have JVTC keep going, or have turned into a non-profit where others could have taken the reins, the silver lining is this: art was created. It might have made people think about something they hadn't before, or laugh, or cry, or at the very least, just shown them what virtual theatre is all about. Even if it was only for one person out there on the Internet, that is something I firmly believes makes a positive difference in the world. The amazing thing is that, while everyone involved may have been separated by a computer, in some ways, I've never felt closer to people than I have with the people I worked with through JVTC. I won't name you all here, but I hope you know who you are. Thank you for helping me realize this dream.

I'm excited that traditional theatre is (mostly) back, because it proves the aphorism that "the show must go on." I don't think any virtual theatre company intended for this format to replace the tried-and-true experience of in-person performances, and I hope that, while not the same, JVTC did serve as a bit of a Band-Aid while stages were dark.

I hate on reality TV shows where contestants who get voted off do their final confessional to the camera and say something along the lines of, "You haven't heard the last of me." While I won't make such a confident and grandiose statement here, I will say that my days as a theatre creator are far from over. How could they be? When something is so much a part of you, in your DNA, as theatre is with me, any assertion that I would walk away from it would be an outright lie. It'd be like saying I will never nap again -- everyone who knows me would laugh in my face. It's true that I already have some ideas about what my next creative project will be (after all, if you want to get anything done, you have to do it yourself), but for now, the curtain falls to thunderous applause -- even if it's only in my own head.

Be safe, be kind, and be bold.

Sincerely yours,

Jake Lewis

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