MMT Keeps Theatre Alive With Digital Production of Polkadots


Mill Mountain Theatre is among the many regional theatres across the country that have had to make difficult programming decisions due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In adapting to the recommended safety precautions, the theatre’s education department has successfully delivered theatre instruction to over 600 students around the globe through virtual masterclasses and online summer camps since March.

In addition to summer camps, MMT delights families every year by performing a free touring show at libraries, schools, parks, and neighborhood venues across the region, reaching over 4,500 patrons for this production annually. Former touring shows include A Peter Rabbit Tale: AChildren’s Musical?, A Year with Frog and Toad?,? TYA, The Jungle Book  and more. This year, due to COVID-19, the theatre was concerned that it could not produce this touring production in-person while ensuring the safety of its staff, actors, and patrons.

Fortunately, Mill Mountain has been granted permission by the writers of Polkadots: The Cool Kids? Musical? (Melvin Tunstall III, Greg Borowsky & Douglas Lyons) and Broadway Licensing to produce a digital version of the production that will be streamed to MMT’s patrons and to community partners through Broadway on Demand. “We are grateful to the writers and Broadway Licensing for this permission. This will be not only a unique process for us but also the most important production we present in 2020. Polkadots?? will be our connection to our audiences, sponsors, and community partners during these challenging times,” says Ginger Poole, Producing Artistic Director.

After consultation with leading health officials in the Roanoke Valley, and in conjunction with CDC and VDH recommendations, the theatre has developed safety protocols that will help keep staff & performers safe throughout the process. These protocols include but are not limited to the following: MMT will be bringing in five Non-Equity actors to rehearse and perform the show, which will be recorded on the Trinkle MainStage without an audience.

The actors and production creatives will be tested for COVID-19 and quarantined for two weeks upon arrival, will participate in virtual rehearsals during this time, and be tested for COVID-19 again before in-person rehearsals. In order to begin in-person rehearsals, the tests must all provide negative results. If these conditions are met, they will begin working in-person using this small cast & creative team, and all physical rehearsals will be done in masks with all participants also practicing safe social distancing and handwashing.

Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical ?is about 8-year-old Lily Polkadot, who has just moved to the “Squares Only” small town of Rockaway, and is the first Polkadot in an all Square school. Experiencing everything from daily bullying to segregated drinking fountains, Lily feels hopeless until she meets Sky, a shy Square boy whose curiosity for her unique polkadot skin blooms into an unexpected friendship. Inspired by Civil Rights pioneers Ruby Bridges and The Little Rock Nine, Polkadots serves as a colorful history lesson, reminding us that our differences make us special, not outcasts.

Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical?? is exactly what the world needs right now,” says director Christopher Castanho. “I could not be more excited to share this story of inclusion and love with our patrons. Through this digital distribution, we hope to still reach all of the families and communities who would’ve seen the show in person. Major thanks to the writers, Melvin Tunstall III, Greg Borowsky & Douglas Lyons, who have granted us this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to produce their beautiful show when the world needs it most.”