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Theater Preview: Short North Stage Premieres ‘Quarantine With the Clauses’

Richard Sanford Richard Sanford Theater Preview: Short North Stage Premieres ‘Quarantine With the Clauses’Left to Right: Erin Maguire and Thom Christopher Warren as Santa and Mrs. Claus singing "Sweet As You" in Short North Stage's Virtual Production of Quarantine with the Clauses.
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The pandemic and its radiating effects are reshaping every beloved holiday tradition. The classic family shows we’re used to seeing from theatre companies are affected like everything else. Short North Stage continues their tradition of original holiday shows with a virtual twist, bringing us Quarantine With The Clauses. Director and company Artistic Director Edward Carignan chatted with me via Zoom about the play and what viewers can expect.

The seeds of Quarantine With The Clauses grew out of Short North Stage’s last virtual show When Pigs Fly. The writer, Mark Waldrop, has for many years, been the book writer for Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas extravaganza with the Rockettes.

“[After] working with him closely on that [show], we saw that we were good collaborators,” said Carignan. “So I asked him, can we commission you to write an original show for Short North Stage?”

The story sprung from an idea Carignan had been tossing around for years: “What would Santa’s second wife be?” He chuckled, “So we created these Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus characters that were maybe in their forties. They were a fun, modern couple and they wanted to host a sort of Johnny Carson/Jimmy Kimmel style, late-night television special with Rudolph playing the piano, as the bandleader.”

Carignan said, “The plot is basically that Santa’s hired these two MIT grads to develop an app that allows people to connect with Santa directly instead of writing letters.” That plot led them to create a show that’s intended to be virtual. “So, they’re quarantining together, but they’re Zooming in all these performances from all over the world and that allowed us to do all the remote work that Equity is requiring of us.”

Josh Houghton as a grown Rudolph sings "How 'bout a Walk in the Rein Dear?" in Short North Stage's Virtual Production of Quarantine with the Clauses.
Josh Houghton as a grown Rudolph sings “How ’bout a Walk in the Rein Dear?” in Short North Stage’s Virtual Production of Quarantine with the Clauses.

Working on that premise with Waldrop 14 new songs were written for the show. “A lot of the songs are based around Columbus and Columbus humor, and through that, we were able to engage a lot of local celebrities,” said Carignan. Many of the performers are local and were able to perform outside, dancing on the Vets Memorial for one of the numbers.

The humor arises from the quarantine we’re all dealing with and plays with the challenges of making this large-scale work within the safety requirements of the time. Carignan said, “It was really fun to get to do kind of a large scale musical but in a really safe and socially distant way, which was neat because those five people had to film by themselves and they never met the rest of the cast.” 

Along with the celebrity guests – Carignan teased Ann Fisher and Nina West – they also filmed their high school interns in a socially distant dance outdoor dance routine.

“We had all these people contributing to this thing and nobody knows what the other camps are doing except me,” he says.

Carignan talked a little about those students. “It was a long process but it was fun working with the kids again, it brought me some holiday cheer. I missed them and they’re usually such a big part of our season. Because of COVID, we can’t really have them performing on stage, so this was a great way to bring them together again.”

Mindful of the financial straits so many people find themselves in, including theatre companies, Short North Stage is taking a donation-only approach to tickets for Quarantine With the Clauses. Carignan said, “We’re trying to appeal to a wider group of people this year, to provide access at all points.”

Left to Right: Hunter Minor and Lisa Glover as Beau and Belle introducing their new PINECONE app server in Short North Stage's Virtual Production of Quarantine with the Clauses.
Left to Right: Hunter Minor and Lisa Glover as Beau and Belle introducing their new PINECONE app server in Short North Stage’s Virtual Production of Quarantine with the Clauses.

Carignan expounded, “I believe if we care about seeing more theater after this pandemic, we have to find ways to continue to support arts organizations even when we can’t pack houses. I am so proud of our patronage, and they’ve been so great to us. In addition, GCAC and OAC and other organizations that support us have stepped up to help Short North Stage and the other theaters in town.” 

“For all non-profits, there’s still the component of individual donors,” Carignan continued, “And I think the big idea behind our holiday campaign this year surrounds how we engage the entire community. We’re trying to encourage the idea that even for those that aren’t used to philanthropy in the arts, now is a good time to start. For people my age, in their thirties, and younger patrons in their twenties, even a $5 or $10 donation can make a difference. Small individual donations add up and help us out.”

Quarantine With The Clauses offers a fun piece of entertainment that many folks will recognize family and friends in the cast. Instead of a high ticket price, this virtual show is accessible to those who can afford a small donation, or if they have it, a larger one. Mainly, we just wanted a community event that allows us to enjoy some levity during this terrible year.”

Carignan looks toward the future with clear eyes on the precarious state of the institutions we love, but also with deep optimism. “For now, we want to show the community why Short North Stage needs to be a part of the Columbus tapestry.  We need to survive this pandemic so that on the other end, we can continue to do all the wonderful live productions that people have grown to love over the years. I think that we are just starting to find creative new ways to entertain virtually, and it’s working out better than I ever could have imagined.  We have some exciting plans for the rest of the season that should be announced soon.”

Quarantine With The Clauses is streamable from December 10 through December 27. For donation-based tickets and more info, please visit https://www.shortnorthstage.org/quarantine-with-the-clauses 

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