A visitor to Redwood City will encounter signs proudly proclaiming its Theater District, but the two resident companies that locate theater in the neighborhood do not operate from downtown buildings.
Game presenter Dragon Productions is closing its physical doors at 2120 Broadway at the end of the month and will live nomadic. Broadway by the Bay, at the historic Fox Theater since 2011, last performed there in November 2019.
Producer of popular, blockbuster musicals since the 1960s, Broadway by the Bay — BBBay to friends and fans — saw its most recent production, “The Sound of Music,” literally shut down the day before it opened at a venue temporary at the College of San Mateo, when new then-COVID regulations suspended all public gatherings in March 2020.
“Our long-term partnership ended because the new owners (of Fox) have different priorities for their venue,” BBBay executive creative director Alicia Jeffrey said in retrospect of the unexpected location change.
During the COVID-enforced hiatus, Jeffrey reviewed and refined his own and BBBay’s priorities.
“We just hit the brakes. The combination of the impacts of both the pandemic and all the heightened awareness of racial justice prompted us to take this opportunity to completely rewrite the purpose of the company.
Freed from overhead and moving from a small paid staff to an all-volunteer model opened up new possibilities.
She describes BBBay as having “always operated as a for-profit company on a not-for-profit model. We didn’t own our theater, we don’t have municipal partnerships, and we don’t have many of the core resources that other community theater companies have that offset their costs or allow them to monetize in a different way.
More personally, she said, “I learned that I no longer wanted my passion and my salary to live in one place. Doing theater as my paid job shifted the paradigm from “It’s your job and you have to do it” to “It’s your passion and you want to do it”. Disconnecting these factors really invigorated my passion, literally to the point of decision.
Now, with the evolving news on the COVID continuum, BBBay likely won’t reappear in any meaningful way until 2022.
“I’ve revised my risk profile, and trying to create a theater on a main stage at this point, with all the unknowns we have, feels like mismanagement of the donations we’ve received.”
Finding the right venue will be key to BBBay’s future. “We’re working on establishing a new venue partnership with a community organization that is serious about partnering with us on the impact our presence can have on a community,” says Jeffrey, adding, “I don’t feel like we have to solve this, however, before it’s the right time to solve it.
For more information on Broadway by the Bay, visit bbbay.org.