By Laura Brummett

Peggy Taphorn plans out the order of Temple Theatre’s shows almost two years in advance. She works hard with hundreds of people to create the art that so many people love to watch every season.

But now, for the first time in 35 years, Temple Theatre has gone dark.

With the spread of Covid-19, the theater’s production of Steel Magnolias was cut two weeks short, and its big production of Mamma Mia never came to fruition. Time, effort and money were lost.

Taphorn, Temple’s artistic director for the past 13 years, is now trying to rearrange plans for the summer and fall seasons, with uncertainty looming over everything. However, she’s not letting it get her down.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” she said of the theater’s upcoming plans. “We’re trying to do the best we can in a circumstance we didn’t create.”

The Temple is known for hosting children’s summer programs, usually generating excitement from both the children and the community. This summer will have to be different.

The first of the summer’s shows will actually be held online. Kids ages 8 to 18 will perform a monologue, a song or both at their own homes and record it. Then, they’ll send it to the Temple, where all of the videos will be edited together into one cohesive show that will air online. The show is, appropriately, about kids trying to save their schools, and it starts on June 8. Registration for the camp has already begun, and a few spots are still open.

Lion King, usually a big production of more than 50 children, is scheduled for the end of July and early August, pending the ability to meet in person. However, the show will consist of only about 30 kids.

Taphorn is also planning for a show called We Are Monsters to happen this July, and the annual Shakespeare performance as well. Registration will be happening online through the Temple’s website and Facebook page.

As for the fall, Taphorn is assuming that the theater will not be able to open with Mamma Mia in August, as it is too big of a production. The licensing for the show alone cost upwards of $13,000. Big productions like Mamma Mia rely heavily on ticket sales to offset costs like hiring directors, technical staff, making costumes and housing actors.

Right now, Taphorn expects the first major production to be A Christmas Carol, starting in November.

After starting off with a smaller show, the Temple expects shows like Mike Wiley’s Blood Done Sign My Name, Driving Miss Daisy and Church Basement Ladies: A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement to still go on in the fall. The season could possibly end with Mamma Mia, Taphorn said. The final two weeks of Steel Magnolias will be included in the fall season as well.

In addition to the show schedule being up in the air, finances are as well. The Temple Theatre is a non-profit, and uses money from sources like corporate sponsorships and advertising to pay their fixed costs. With the economy being unstable, those revenue streams aren’t guaranteed.

The theater also drives a lot of business to Downtown Sanford, and many restaurants and shops rely on the Temple to bring their customers to town. Since March, they haven’t brought anyone to Sanford.

Still, Taphorn holds a positive spirit, emphasizing the town’s ability to work together to make it through these times.

“When people feel safe, the Temple will be ready,” she said. “We can’t wait to open the doors and bring people back together.”