Actress Tori Gresham mourns for Village Theatre’s 40th anniversary season, which was cut short by the coronavirus.
Three musicals from Village Theatre’s 2019-2020 season had to be canceled because of the pandemic. This includes all performances of “Hansel & Gretl & Heidi & Günter” and “The Wedding Singer,” as well as the last two weeks of “She Loves Me.”
Gresham, 25, of Seattle, was selected for the ensemble in “The Wedding Singer,” but then COVID-19 hit. The musical based on the film of the same name had been scheduled to run June 26 through July 26 at the Everett Performing Arts Center.
But just a week before rehearsals were to start, all 75 or so shows were canceled, as Washington stayed shut down to slow the spread of the virus.
“We hadn’t even come together as a cast, which was really a bummer,” Gresham said. “We had been sent our contact list and our cast list, so we knew who was in it, but we never even got to that first day (of rehearsals). It was very, very sad, for sure.”
Gresham, who also has performed with The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, said she feels fortunate that the show was canceled before rehearsals, and not right before it was scheduled to open or in the middle of its run, as was the case with “Hansel & Gretl & Heidi & Günter” and “She Loves Me.”
“That is a much harder pill to swallow, because you’ve already immersed yourself in the world,” she said. “So I do feel grateful we weren’t already so far into it as actors, but it was really bittersweet to be one week from it.”
“The Wedding Singer” is based on the 1998 film starring Adam Sandler as a wedding singer in the 1980s and Drew Barrymore as a waitress with whom he falls in love. A romantic comedy, Village Theatre’s production was billed as a “retro gem,” “feel-good party” and a “totally radical” celebration of the ‘80s that would have you dancing in your seat.
Gresham, who holds a bachelor’s degree in musical theater from Texas State University, has been in several Village Theatre productions.
She played Amber in “Hairspray” in 2018, and was in the ensembles for 2019’s “Matilda” and 2020’s “Guys & Dolls.” She also served as the understudy for Sarah in “Guys & Dolls” and Mrs. Wormwood in “Matilda.”
Casting director Jessica Spencer said what she loves about Gresham is the performer’s unique ability to adapt between styles as a dancer, actor and singer.
“When I think about her Amber in “Hairspray,” her kid portrayal in “Matilda,” and what I saw at “The Wedding Singer” auditions, all I come back to is — there’s no one quite like Tori; I can’t draw parallels. To be unique in this industry is a great skill, but it’s all a huge testament to her heart and soul.”
Gresham said “The Wedding Singer” cancellation hit hard, but what hit even harder was that two other shows she was cast in also were called off. Acting and singing in theater is her only source of income, so Gresham has had to rely on unemployment checks during the shutdown.
“When ‘Wedding Singer’ was canceled, I was hopeful about the other two — but then, like dominos, they fell,” she said.
Without stage performance, Gresham has tapped into her creativity in other ways. She’s been doing cross-stitch and embroidery to benefit the Black Lives Matter movement. She signs up for online dance classes with her theater friends whenever they’re available. She also found a new hobby in brush lettering, although she admits she needs more practice.
“It’s been a lot of ups and downs,” Gresham said. “I try to keep myself motivated and excited about the future, but there’s nothing really to be excited about. We’re on day — I don’t even remember now — 90 something? Quarantine is hard.”
Washington is on Day 108 of the shutdown.