Virtually Yours: Athens Theatre Held Virtual Cabaret

Nicole Rosen, Writer - The Reporter

      On Saturday, April 26, the DeLand Athens Theatre put on a virtual cabaret that was very entertaining, each performance was beautiful and exciting to watch. A ticket was $16 and it started at 7:30 p.m., but the show was streamable for a total of 24 hours. The ticket price went towards keeping Athens Theatre up and running during this pandemic. Even though the theatre can’t host any shows in person, they could at least do this show. This show, called “Virtually Yours,” was pre-recorded and well edited. All of the performers were alumni of Athens Theatre, and songs included solos, duets, and even one or two groups of three performed. Most of the songs were from musicals, ranging from more commonly known musicals like “Annie” and “Singin’ In The Rain” to lesser known musicals such as “Tick Tick Boom” and “Always Patsy Cline.

      The host of the show was Nate Elliot, an Athens Theatre alumnus who sang three different songs, including the song at the very beginning of the Cabaret, “Singin’ In The Rain” from “Singin’ In The Rain,” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from “Mary Poppins,” which was the show that Athens had to cancel when the pandemic struck. Throughout the show he would also be hosting in different places of the theatre, so it was almost like getting a tour of the inside of the theatre.

      All of the performers were very talented, and although most of them weren’t in costume, it was still interesting to see the songs performed. There were a total of 27 different songs that were performed. 

      I was able to get an interview with Craig Uppercue, who is the artistic director for Athens Theatre, he’s also a Stetson alumnus (‘04) and got a degree in music education and music performance from the School of Music. Uppercue has been working for Athens Theatre since 2011. He started out as their education director and then went on to become their artistic director. As the artistic director, he described his job as “oversee[ing] all artistic operations. All of the shows that are presented on our stage that are produced by us as a theatre company, we also have a lot of rentals, but anything that we produce is under my authority.” 

      While the performances were really entertaining, it was also sad to see that the theatre was completely empty other than the performers on stage. Of course that’s what I expected to see, considering we’re in the midst of a quarantine, but I still can’t imagine what it felt like to be up on that stage performing to the best of your ability, but hearing no applause afterwards, seeing no faces in the crowd.I t must be so strange, having no one watching your performance when you perform for a living. However, performers still knew there would be people seeing their performance later. 

      They sold 600 tickets for “Virtually Yours.” When I asked him about what it was like for the performers to be on stage but have an empty audience, Uppercue said, “A little weird but at the same time healing. Since performers love to do exactly that word—perform. So, to perform without a live audience is a little strange because you have no energy to feed off of but really at the heart of performing is exactly that—performing. So at the time that we were capturing the video they were performing to a camera which is very odd, by the way. Because you don’t hear the reactions of applause, you don’t hear the cheers. But being in the environment where they could perform, I think it was very healing for them.”

      He continued, “It was so great just to be in the theatre and make art with these artists somewhat individually. Some of them performed together and the ones that performed together were quarantined together. Like there are husband and wife couples or brother and sister couples type of thing. So we took the highest standards of safety and precaution when allowing the performances to take place or allowing them to film it in that regard.”


      Each season has six “fully professionally staged musicals each season. Our season goes between July through May each year and into the summer months I also oversee the youth division of our company. So we have classes that happen throughout the school year and in the summer months as well, so I oversee that operation as well,” Uppercue said.

      Uppercue had a big part to play in the virtual cabaret. “So for ‘Virtually Yours,’ from conception to delivery the show was under my oversight. It was really just a big collaborative effort from everyone involved. The idea originally stemmed from a conversation that my wife and I had and then from there I met with the film making company that we used, the owner of the film studio is on our board of directors as a member. From there I organized the cast that performed in this show and everybody came in and filmed their part in about 45 minutes time. We took time between each performer to clean and sanitize and move onto the next performer.” 

      He told me about how the filming process went: “All of the filming actually took place over three days and then we took about a week and a half to fully edit it with the film studio. There were about 300 plus man hours in the final edit of this show and post production at the film studio. Then about five days ahead of the release, we sat as a team and we watched and we made a few notes and a few fixes here and there and then it was ready for content delivery this past Saturday,” he said when I asked him about it.

      A lot of the performers have been working with Athens Theatre for a long time. Uppercue said, “Some of them have been involved just as long as I have. So I would say I’ve known each one of these performers at least for the past three years if not longer. Some of them have been involved in 10 plus productions with the theatre. It’s been neat to see them grow as performers. The guy who was our host, Nate Elliot, he’s been involved with the theatre since 2012. I’ve watched him grow up as a middle schooler to an adult. I think I met him when he was like, 11? He’s probably 20, 21 now. It’s been so amazing to watch him grow as a performer for the last 9 years.”

      The next season is still a little up in the air. Uppercue told me that it’s supposed to be opening “July 17with the musical ‘Mamma Mia!’ It will be entirely up to the restrictions that are provided and if they say no groups larger than 50 in a theatre it would be really hard to do a show. Our theatre seats 400, so it wouldn’t be cost effective to hold a show and to only have 50 people be able to see it at a time. We just don’t know. A lot remains to be unseen.”

      I asked him if it’s a possibility bigger productions like this will get moved to virtual spaces if Athens can’t open properly soon. “That is something that we’ve discussed, we’ll have the opportunity to look at that a little further and see how our patrons would respond to that. We’ve also looked at offering virtual tickets with a smaller audience. So if we can only do an audience say the size of 50, we could also offer virtual tickets so some people could watch from the comfort of their home. So that’s an option as well,” Uppercue stated.

      Athens is planning on having more virtual performances. Check out for more information.

      Now more than ever it is important to support our local businesses. As Uppercue put it, “Really what we aim to do is we aim to keep the theatre in operation and to provide content for our patrons.” It’s so important that we try to keep this historical theatre alive and well, even during this pandemic.