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June and Denise Sanders are about to cross the line between appropriate movement and dancing, much to the chagrin of Reverend Oglethorpe in the 2018 Playhouse production of Smoke on the Mountain.

The Cumberland County Playhouse will soon welcome patrons back to their grounds for two special summer productions after the COVID-19 health crisis forced the theater to close in March.

“The past months have been challenging for everyone,” said Bryce McDonald, Playhouse producing director. “Some people are understandably anxious about safely returning to cultural attractions like the Playhouse. However, recent audience surveys are consistent about one thing — that a key element to making people feel safe about initially returning to entertainment venues is the ability to be outside.”

This knowledge inspired McDonald and Playhouse artistic director Britt Hancock to think outside the box — quite literally. 

“For years, we’ve had two outdoor performance spaces. The larger theater is in need of renovation, but the smaller space has been used successfully for outdoor concerts for several years. And that space has the advantage of offering more options for flexible social distancing,” Hancock said.

The first of the two productions in the series that McDonald and Hancock have dubbed “Playhouse in the Wildwoods” will likely come as music to the ears of many longtime Playhouse fans. Smoke on the Mountain will open the series on July 10 and will run through August 29. No title is more synonymous with CCP than Smoke. The Playhouse has presented more performances of it — and its Christmas sequel A Sanders Family Christmas — than any other theater in the world. 

CCP holds the world record for longest continuous runs of both, 25 years for Smoke and 20 years for Sanders. 

“In uncertain times, people often turn to simple comfort food,” said McDonald. “I can’t think of a show that embodies the theatrical equivalent of ‘comfort food’ more than Smoke on the Mountain!” 

The Playhouse last staged a production of Smoke on the Mountain in 2018. 

The show is rated G and is sponsored by Plateau Properties. 

The second offering in the series is The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, part of the Playhouse’s new Theater For Young Audiences initiative. 

“When we began the TYA program with Junie B. Jones last year, it was a phenomenal success,” said Christy Dolinich, director of marketing and business development. “The arts are a vital part of children’s education and this series is a wonderful way to introduce them to live theater. The ability to buy out a full audience at inexpensive prices has enabled individuals and smaller businesses to discover the benefits of Playhouse sponsorships.” 

The Theater for Young Audiences series is rated G and is sponsored by Cumberland Eye Care, M. Stewart Galloway, M.D.

Shows in the “Playhouse in the Wildwoods” series are general admission, but reservations are required. It is suggested that patrons arrive early to pick their spot. Parties will be seated 6 feet apart, with all areas sanitized before arrival. The Playhouse asks patrons to print their tickets beforehand or have them on their phones. Tickets or printouts will be scanned when patrons arrive. There will be no handling of physical tickets by CCP staff.  

For patrons unable to print tickets at home, CCP staff will print tickets at the Box Office window. 

Lobby restrooms will be available; staff will control the line to ensure safety. 

CCP requests that patrons do not come to the performance if they are ill or running a fever. CCP will exchange those tickets for another performance. A complete list of policies and guidelines is available at www.ccplayhouse.com. 

Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the Playhouse Box Office at (931) 484-5000. The Box Office resumed operations on Monday