GLENS FALLS — After a slow 2020 season, Martha Banta is determined to bring Adirondack Theatre Festival back to its full glory.
The Glens Falls organization, which is also responsible for the Adirondack Film Festival each October, announced its 2021 season last Wednesday. Banta, the interim producing artistic director, is directing two of the shows — “Slow Food” and “Traffic and Weather.” Sandwiched between the two productions is “Minding Miss Mae Mae,” directed by Tyrone Henderson, and “Cinderella Goes Disco,” directed by Marty McGuire.
“I think what we’re looking forward to is having people physically there, watching us again,” Banta said. “Theatre is social as much as performative. We thrive on responses from the audience.”
The shows scheduled for this summer are only able to fill up to 33-percent capacity, which would bring in around 90 guests. Banta and the team looked into bringing productions outdoors to have a bigger audience — she went as far as reserving space in City Park for the summer — before hearing indoor venues could begin to re-open. Despite the outdoor space of City Park, the staff felt they wouldn’t be able to really fit more than 100 people socially distanced, and for that small of an increase, the group felt indoors was a better fit for the schedule.
“Everything in this journey has been like putting together all of these puzzle pieces,” Banta said, “but it’s been a happy challenge because it means we are making steps toward bringing people back into our shows.”
The program this summer revolves around memories, light hearted banter and comedy. “Slow Food,” Banta’s first show of her run, centers around a famished couple dealing with an absurd waiter while out to dinner. By the end of the meal, not only is the couple questioning the menu, but the waiter has them questioning personal things, including their marriage. ATF’s website states the production is a “tender, uproarious comedy that delves deeply into what we hunger for.” She came across the show while looking for productions that would require a small cast and bring some light levity to a year filled with so much heartbreak.
“When I first found ‘Slow Food,’ I was cracking up reading the script, but I was really eager to hear it from an actor’s point of view,” Banta said. “I called up a few of my actor friends and we read it over Zoom; my face was in so much pain from laughing so hard. I knew it was perfect.”
Her second production, “Traffic and Weather,” deals with some of the COVID-19 heartbreak she confronted. The play is a tribute and celebration of life to Adam Schlesinger, who died in April 2020 from coronavirus. Schlesinger, a jack of all trades in the music world, was a founding member of Fountains of Wayne, the band behind the hit “Stacy’s Mom.” Schlesinger also contributed his talents in songwriting and instrumental projects through his career; Rolling Stone lovingly dubbed his accomplishments as “one of the most unique and busiest careers in pop.”
Banta and Schlesinger had been working on “Traffic and Weather,” a play centered around Schlesinger’s career, for some time. After he died, Banta channeled the loss of her friend into finishing the project and getting it on stage.
“While ‘Traffic and Weather’ predominantly utilizes songs as stories, there will be some visual effects to bring it more to the theatre,” Banta said. “Andy was a songwriter that could write under any situation — he wrote for theaters, commercials, even the Tonys — and this is my way of finishing the project we worked so hard on.”
ATF’s other two summer productions, “Minding Miss Mae Mae” and “Cinderella Goes Disco,” also bring some flavor to the hotter months. “Minding Miss Mae Mae” centers around a home health aide who is forced to reckon with her client’s son’s homecoming, which is difficult because the son is ravaged from crystal meth. The women band together to detox the man; while the home health aide believes in tough love, his mother believes in the power of religion. “Cinderella Goes Disco” is for the youngins — after Cinderella receives an invitation to go to the prince’s disco dance, she requires fairy tales from her fairy godmother to elevate her from her under-confident self.
“Each of these productions is able to shift gears if we are somehow unable to perform as planned,” Banta concluded, “and that flexibility will help us hurdle any obstacles that might come our way.”
For show dates and tickets, visit https://www.atfestival.org/.
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