By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
The Dover Foundation is a community institution. Founded in 1947 to honor victims of a tragic car accident, the Foundation has built community spirit by performing theatrical productions. As a way of giving back to the community, the Dover Foundation awards graduating Dover residents with scholarship money. “We’re a philanthropic organization that gets most of our money through theatrical productions and donations,” says Foundation President Karen Pierce.
This year, though, all of that is at risk due to the coronavirus.
This year’s show, the comedy "Leading Ladies" by Ken Ludwig, is the first the Foundation has ever had to cancel in its 73 year history. “This year, we had a great show. It was in production, they had started rehearsals, everybody was off book, all the costuming was done. It was supposed to be presented the last weekend of April into the first weekend of May,” says Pierce.
Social distancing restrictions and safety concerns led to the decision to cancel the show. "It became obvious in March that it was not going to be a realistic or responsible thing to do, so we decided to postpone it until the fall," recalls Pierce. Though it was initially postponed, members of the foundation met and made the difficult decision to cancel the production entirely. "I hope someday we will be able to do it. Nobody is going to be ready to gather in groups, even if it's legally allowed, until there's a vaccine or a good treatment. It just doesn't make sense for us to be planning anything. In fact, we have already voted not to go forward with our 2021 musical,” says Pierce.
The 2021 musical was going to be the biggest and most expensive musical the Dover Foundation ever produced. “We had invested a ton of time and energy into it already, but it just doesn't make sense to move forward. Even if we could do it, there would be social distancing measures - like rows where people couldn't sit. We would need to have seats filled in order to make it financially worth doing,” explains Pierce. As of now, both the 2020 and 2021 productions are tabled indefinitely.
The theatrical productions provide the funds for the Dover Foundation’s causes. “Our biggest concern with not being able to do our shows is not being able to fund our programs,” says Pierce. This year, the Dover Foundation gave away $6,900 in combined scholarships for Dover residents. “For the first time ever, when we sent them their congratulation letters, we said we recognize that due to COVID-19, your plans might change and you might decide to take a year off or wait a semester, and we wanted to let them know that that money would still be available to them,” says Pierce. More than ever before, the Dover Foundation will be relying on donations from townspeople and supporters to help ensure that they can fund future scholarships.
For now, the Dover Foundation’s members are doing their best to ensure that the tradition of Dover theater continues, even if they have to wait a while before resuming their normal productions.