Cloquet’s County Seat Theater to Perform Play in August

Theater will have 47 of its 140 seats available for production of 'The Boys Next Door'

CLOQUET, Minn. – Arts organizations around the Northland have shut down for months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Live theater has been especially difficult to restart because cast, crew, and audiences are all needed in venues at the same time.

But now, Cloquet’s County Seat Theater is planning to perform a live show in August.

Actors are back onstage for rehearsals, reciting lines and hitting marks for the first time in months.

“We are going to be as happy to perform for an audience as I think we could ever be on any occasion because as ready as they are to see us, boy we’re ready to perform for them,” said Ruthie Breuer, an actor who plays Sheila in the upcoming production of “The Boys Next Door.”

Breuer has been involved with the County Seat Theater for 28 years and says this is like no experience she’s had before.

She’s up for the new challenge, even if wearing a mask makes rehearsals a little tougher.

“You’re warm anyway under the lights and this just adds another dimension of heat and warmth, so you can get a little dizzy every once in a while if you’re onstage for quite a while,” explained Breuer.

The show promises to be almost the same experience, though less people will be able to see it. Only 47 of the theater’s 140 seats remain to abide by state regulations.

“This one is kind of our window of opportunity with the state allowing us to have the 25 percent capacity in our house, we thought we better do it now and get it done with because, come fall, we may not get that opportunity,” said County Seat general manager Joel Soukkala.

Soukkala is excited to bring live theater back to bring live theater back to Cloquet. He says the months-long shutdown has been tough on the non-profit organization.

“It’s going to hit our bottom line quite a bit. Probably $60,000 out of it by the end of the year,” explained Soukkala.

That’s about a third of the County Seat’s annual budget, some of which the group is hoping to make up with seven performances of “The Boys Next Door.” The group was originally planning to open the show in the spring, but it’s now scheduled to start August 7th.

“We’ve been re-learning all of our stuff,” said Soukkala. “We did a couple Zoom rehearsals which didn’t really go over well, so it was nice that we could actually start getting back in small groups.”

He doesn’t know if actors will wear masks for performances or not, but says all audience members will be required to have them on.

He hopes a couple minor inconveniences won’t stop audiences from supporting the show this summer.

“It’s going to be annoying for the 47 people that have to come and have to get their temperatures checked and wear their masks and they don’t get the goodies that we serve during intermission, but I think what they’re coming for is the theater and the joy of that live performance,” said Soukkala.

Tickets for “The Boys Next Door” are available online.

The County Seat Theater has also been performing parking lot productions that audiences can watch from their cars.

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