The pandemic may keep Sandy Springs’ Act3 Productions closed throughout 2021, the board president says, as it is impossible to set up proper social distancing in its 100-seat, black box theater.

“As far as our semi-professional theater, I’m not sure any of us realistically are expecting to do anything in 2021,” said Mary Sorrel, president of the Act3 board.

Jillian Melko, an actor with Act3 Productions, performed a cover of “I Put a Spell on You” as Winifred Sanderson from “Hocus Pocus” in the fundraising campaign. (Jillian Melko)

The organization shut everything down in March 2020 including the Act3 Playhouse theater and workshops. The reopening decision will depend in part how widely the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed.

The small theater at 6285-R Roswell Road in the Sandy Springs Plaza behind Trader Joe’s has limitations large events spaces don’t have, she said.

“There are no windows or doors that could be up and during a production,” Sorrel said. “It’s virtually impossible for us to safely social-distance an audience. So we really have to factor in the limitations of our space.”

The semi-professional theatre company and arts academy’s only tentative plan for 2021 is to hold a youth workshop in late summer either inside or outside with social distancing and no audience, she said. Not every production or licensing company will allow its play to be livestreamed. Act3 is also determining how many actors and production crew could participate in the theater or even outside and remain safe.

Act3 board members and staff are watching what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends and the status of vaccinations.

Since last year’s pandemic closure, expenses were cut as much as possible.

“If we didn’t have to spend that penny, that penny did not get spent in the last year,” Sorrel said.

A small federal Payroll Protection Program loan helped prevent furloughs of the staff. Sorrel said community support is what has gotten them through the pandemic so far.

Act3 held a fundraising campaign that had many of its actors performing on social media. The Sandy Springs Art Foundation awarded a $10,000 grant that required matching funds. Between the board, donors and Act3 patrons, the $10,000 match was raised.

“That $20,000 was enough to get us through our operating costs and things like insurance that we have to pay, whether we’re doing shows or not, through the spring, Sorrel said.

Because the executive producer has watched every penny being spent, the hard decisions made by its board, they feel like Act3 will make it through this pandemic.

“We hope we will live to fight another day,” she said.

Sorrel said she has been disheartened by the messages from actors and musicians who are her friends. Many of them are saying it’s been a year since they’ve gone to a rehearsal or sung on stage.

“It’s just been heartbreaking how it literally has crushed their dreams. I mean, even beyond the financial hit,” she said. “I cannot wait until all those people can be back on our stage and we can all be part of live theater again, because I think for both the actors and the patrons it’s just such an important part of life.”

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.