Eddie Vona and Kyle T. Hester rehearse for Girlfriend, the Dezart Performs production that opens Oct. 27.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CLARK DUGGER
Michael Shaw has seen many, many musicals. He’s performed in over 30 musicals. So it would only make sense that as the artistic director for the Coachella Valley’s Dezart Performs, he would have directed a musical by now.
Not so much.
But that’s about to change. After a challenging past year when all operations ceased due to the pandemic, Dezart Performs is ready to begin the theatre season with their very first musical to start off their 14th year.
“The running joke with us is that we’d never do a musical,” says Shaw, joking in regards to the troupe’s upcoming performance of Girlfriend, set to run Oct. 27-30 at the Rancho Mirage Amphitheater. This will be their only use of the outdoor venue as the rest of the season will be their usual stage at the Pearl McManus Theater inside the Palm Springs Woman’s Club.
Palm Springs Life chats more with Shaw about the impact of the past 18 months and what it means to be back.
How long has Dezart Performs been performing in the Coachella Valley?
We started 14 years ago in an art gallery, which is where the art in our name comes from. My cofounder was performing a show at an art gallery in Palm Springs, so I went to go see it. We collaborated together to create this. We were in the art gallery for three years before moving elsewhere. The art gallery has since shut down.
What has a typical week of “working” looked like for you and the theatre throughout the past year (during COVID-19)?
Applying for grants- anything to help financially. We were realizing that we didn’t know how long this was going to last and [we] were trying to keep morale up as much as possible. We did that through Zoom calls or keeping in touch with the community... the isolation made everyone struggle. I was struggling to stay focused... My job stopped. It’s the kind of stuff you’d see in movies and no one expected it. Worrying about paying the bills, rent, insurance, and staff was stressful.
How else has the pandemic influenced your decision-making this season?
In my play selection, because of protocols, and to maintain safety, we limit as few people as possible... I’m responsible for the health of the staff. We can only run the show with limited people who have to test negative every week. I have to see how many I can employ with how great the show can be.
Why was it important to have the first production in an outdoor venue?
We worked hard to get this show outside and it gave us a breath of relief... I want it to be a celebration of coming out of this pandemic, so it will be dinner and a show. You get a 3-course meal with wine, fabulous food, and get to watch a wonderful show with music.
What are you looking forward to most this theatre season?
Seeing long-missed patrons and friends. More than 30 percent of our patrons are from out of the area. I haven’t seen them and over the years they’ve become my friends. I’m looking forward to seeing everybody and welcoming everybody back. I’m looking forward to getting back to work.