The cast for You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown includes (from left) in the front: Leslie Benjamin (Lucy), David Brooks (Schroeder), Allegra Angelo (Sally), Paul Grant (Snoopy), and Keith Alexander (Linus). Back: J.W. Layne (Charlie Brown.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY PALM CANYON THEATRE
Palm Canyon Theatre becomes the first Coachella Valley playhouse to welcome an in-person audience since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered performance venues around the globe. With its production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, opening July 9, producers hope to showcase the power of live performance while also kicking off the theater’s 25th anniversary season.
Safety does come first, however. For this season, the theater chose productions with smaller casts, maximizing their working space and minimizing potential contact between the actors and crew. “We usually put on shows with around 25 to 45 cast members,” says co-artistic director Se Layne, who’s also the choreographer on “Charlie Brown.” “The pandemic challenged us to come up with more character-focused stories.”
In addition to smaller productions, the theater follows CDC, state, and local guidelines, such as offering hand sanitizing stations throughout the building.
In You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which continues through July 18, all the familiar characters — Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, Snoopy, and “blockhead” Charlie Brown — ponder life’s greatest questions in poignant, funny, and toe-tapping fashion.
J.W. Layne, co-founder and co-artistic director at Palm Canyon Theatre, will tackle the role of Charlie Brown.
Layne’s father, Bill Layne, is the show’s director, and her brother, J.W., plays the lead role and doubles as the production’s set and lighting designer.
Following “Charlie Brown,” Palm Canyon Theatre will produce 11 more shows, including The Guys (Sept. 11-12); Sordid Lives (Sept. 23-Oct 3); Shrek (Oct. 22-Nov.7); This Side of Crazy (Nov. 18-21), and The Sound of Music (Dec. 3-19). After the New Year, the season continues with Les Miserables (Jan. 21-Feb. 13); Palm Springs Getaway (Feb. 25-Mar. 13); Spamalot (April 22-May 1); Into the Woods (May 13-22), and Godspell (July 8-17).
Surviving the pandemic was a drama unto itself for Palm Canyon Theatre. Since 1997, it has produced many shows every year — until it closed in March 2020 as the pandemic turned the world upside down.
For more than year, Se Layne says, the theater “has had zero income, which has been terribly difficult since [it] is mainly a volunteer-run nonprofit organization.” The theater received financial assistance from the government, and stayed connected to its audience throughout the pandemic by producing streaming shows with smaller casts and providing kids with summer camp, which is running again this year at full capacity.