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Looking ahead to local theater: Lucky Penny has a plan for the future

Looking ahead to local theater: Lucky Penny has a plan for the future

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Since its inception in 2009, Barry Martin and Taylor Bartolucci’s Lucky Penny Productions has become a cornerstone of the Napa Valley performing arts community. The consistently stellar quality of their shows has brought joy and laughter to thousands. But given the restrictions on the size of gatherings brought about by the pandemic, Lucky Penny’s operations have been suspended.

While Bartolucci and Martin are grappling with the uncertainty we all are experiencing, their spirits are optimistic. They are determined, resourceful and ultimately hopeful that this will pass and they will once again present heartwarming, vibrant theater.

Regarding the current season, out of the 12 shows scheduled, only three have been canceled. For the next two shows that would have been performed in their theater on Industrial Way—“Always...Patsy Cline” and “The Wizard of Oz”—they are finding an outdoor venue with more room for social distancing. The rest of the shows are either currently set for the scheduled time, or moved into 2021.

All of the tickets purchased will be good for the rescheduled shows. Canceled shows will be turned into a gift card for 20% more than the price of the ticket that can be used at a future performance. If you really want a refund, one can be given under the extenuating circumstances. But Lucky Penny says the best option is to donate your ticket to the theater.

For now, Lucky Penny’s finances are stable. They’ve requested and received refunds for the rights to shows that won’t be performed. Their landlord has been understanding, as overhead is their largest expense. But on the whole, Bartolucci and Martin are frugal, so the straits are not dire. Neither Bartolucci nor Martin take a salary.

While staging “Always...Patsy Cline” and “The Wizard of Oz” outdoors was not what they had planned, Bartolucci found the prospect of finding an outdoor venue exciting. “It brings us back to our roots when we were a nomad company who had to envision shows in different locations all the time,” she said. “But first and foremost, the health and safety of everyone in the Lucky Penny family is our priority.”

An enthusiastic camaraderie is cultivated when actors, the director and producers create a show. This family-like feeling of cohesion and mutual respect is something of which is hard to let go. They were a week from opening “Sweeney Todd” when things closed down and the cast still got together on Zoom every week when they would have been performing. “Sweeney Todd” has been moved to March of 2021.

This sense of fellowship is not limited to their current production. “We have been blessed to work with people who truly have become like family to us,” Bartolucci said. “Everyone in our network has been checking in, asking what they can do to help, brainstorming ideas and sending positivity our way.”

She added, “While we value the connection and intimacy the theater allows, we are also extremely concerned and mindful of the safety of everyone within the Lucky Penny family. So while we continue to adapt and evolve into our new normal, whatever that may be, we are going to do so with caution, respect, care and gratitude. We will continue to be grateful for the incredible support we have received and will do everything within our power to continue to produce quality entertainment for those who want to join us at the theater.”

Bartolucci explained the essence of what she and Martin do. “To us, the theater is an avenue to help others to see different perspectives on life, to promote truth, take risks and to put ourselves into emotional, physical or intellectual situations that may never arise in our real life. Theater is always evolving, asking us to collaborate, and think outside the box. And most importantly, theater reminds us that we are not alone. The theater brings people together to share a common experience.”

Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu are having a heyday now because we are all stuck at home, but Bartolucci says, “I know there are many who are sick of their television screens. They did a study years ago that said when an audience is together in the same room or location watching a live stage performance, their hearts start beating collectively together. That’s the power of being among people, enjoying a shared experience, and something that cannot be replicated watching a movie in your home.”

Bartolucci said she is looking forward to “the hush that falls over the audience, the thrill and anticipation when a show is about to begin. The excitement of the first rehearsal and the collaboration among our casts and teams. The buzz in the lobby at intermission. The creation process and the feeling of exhaustion after a challenging and successful rehearsal. Seeing the smiles on our patrons’ faces. I could go on and on. It’s almost as if I’ve been mourning the loss of theater in my life, as this is the longest break I’ve ever had, and I’m ready to celebrate again.”

She continued, “We will continue to be grateful for the incredible support we have received, and will do everything within our power to continue to produce quality entertainment for those who want to join us at the theater.”

Martin chimed in, “We founded this company in 2009 during the worst economy since the 1930s. We rode out the 2014 earthquake and only missed our opening date by three months, so what’s a little pandemic?”

For more information and to buy tickets to upcoming shows, go to luckypennynapa.com.

“We founded this company in 2009 during the worst economy since the 1930s. We rode out the 2014 earthquake and only missed our opening date by three months, so what’s a little pandemic?” Barry Martin

John Henry Martin mourns the loss of theater in his life as well. If you do too, let him know at jhm@johnhenrymartin.com.

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Here is information about Lucky Penny’s shows from the shutdown date in March through the end of the 2020-21 season next June.

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