The Gateway in Bellport was recently able to reopen for drive-in movies and children’s acting classes, but Executive Artistic Director Paul Allan has even bigger dreams for the months ahead, with a haunted house, holiday ice spectacular and more tentatively planned for the fall and winter, as well as a stellar performing arts lineup planned for 2021.
When COVID-19 forced the East End to shut down in March, The Gateway was just finishing a run of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, and they were unsure how to proceed with their 2020 season. For two months, it was postponed until late summer/early fall, but when Allan and his team realized that live theater was a bust this summer, they moved their announced play lineup to 2021. Next year’s season will begin with Evita in May, followed by Next to Normal, Matilda: The Musical, A Gentleman’s Guide and Newsies, and tickets are on sale now. With so much of The Gateway’s annual budget offset by its summer shows, Allan asks that people consider purchasing their 2021 tickets now and having something to look forward to next year, adding, “There are several different ways to be a part of helping us get through this thing, and we appreciate anything.” Thus far, The Gateway has been able to continue operating with the help of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), 2021 season ticket sales, children’s acting program registration and donations made to the Gateway to the Future fund drive, but more support is needed.
A fun, retro way to provide support is by checking out The Gateway’s new drive-in movie series, presented six nights a week with a different theme each day of the week, including family Wednesdays, potluck Thursdays, blockbuster Fridays/Saturdays and musical Sundays. For the Tuesday night screenings, actress-filmmaker-model Isabella Rossellini will select some of her all-time favorite films, some of which were written by or star her. Movie rights have been secured with the help of Patchogue’s Plaza Cinema & Media Arts Center, with Allan noting, “Everyone thinks the studios are making a ton of money, but they’re not releasing any movies now either. They deserve their cut, as well!” The drive-in screen is one of the largest in the area—built out of a semi-trailer, standing 24 feet tall and 40 feet wide—and is paired with a powerful projector used for visual effects in The Gateway’s theatrical productions. Tickets must be purchased online in advance, with the lot maxed out at 50 vehicles per screening.
“[Operating a drive-in] is a very different business model, but it’s keeping something happening here. And it’s better than not being open at all,” Allan says. “Everything feels good about it, it’s just such a small percentage of what we need to keep the place operating and to pay the taxes and bills…It’s a small win financially, but a big win for our morale.”
Gateway’s Haunted Playhouse is expected to return this fall, depending on state approval, and Allan’s team is already hard at work figuring out how to make it both spooky and safe, with ideas including contactless haunted house tours, decreasing the numbers of actors and limiting group sizes. “There’s a way we can scare people in October without scaring them that they’re going to get coronavirus,” he jokes. Following the haunted house, the Holiday Spectacular on Ice will begin rehearsals in November and debut in December, if all goes according to plan.
The concert series scheduled to begin August 23 is currently on hold, with tickets being sold, but cancellation and refunds to be expected if New York State doesn’t lift its forced closure of indoor performing arts venues by then. “Some of the bands we’re scheduling are really just fun to see in person. I don’t think it has the same appeal in the virtual world,” Allan says, explaining why he’s holding out for live shows, rather than moving the series online.
“We’d been planning for the worst—figuring out what we can do to survive and open again in January or February of 2021—but now that we’re actually able to be somewhat open, very limited but we’re grinding back up, it does make us feel optimistic. It feels like we’re going to progress from here!”
To purchase tickets to The Gateway’s various offerings, to check out the drive-in movie schedule or to donate to the fund drive, visit thegateway.org.