Clear Space goes from stage to screen at Lefty’s

LEWES — In the midst of a global pandemic, local theater performances can be hard to come by in a safe and healthy environment. To solve this problem, Lefty’s Alley and Eats in Lewes has partnered with Clear Space Theatre Company in Rehoboth Beach to bring prerecorded musical performances to the restaurants new drive-in movie theater.

The drive-in theater, which opened in June, has garnered popularity for its classic movie selection, newly refurbished dining menu and roller skating servers who bring food and drinks directly to cars. So far, Lefty’s has shown Clear Space’s productions of “Footloose” and “The Little Mermaid,” then will show “Mamma Mia” and “The Wedding Singer” in the following weeks. The drive-in theater reserves Sunday nights for Clear Space musicals.

Lefty’s co-owner DJ Hill said he approached Clear Space with the potential collaboration earlier this year when trying to get the drive-in off the ground. Mr. Hill said his goal in this partnership is to offer customers more unique viewing options while mutually benefiting both businesses.

“When we started the drive-in, I was just trying to think, ‘how can we partner with some sort of nonprofit and what does that look like,’” Mr. Hill said. “Clearly, they were struggling so I thought, ‘OK, well here’s an opportunity to get some variety of content of what we’re offering at the drive-in, while at the same time benefiting one of our community partners.’”

Stephanie Whitcomb, director of Development and Outreach for Clear Space, said they have a recording archive of their previous performances, so they were happy to work with Lefty’s to bring those recordings to an audience.

“DJ Hill approached us with this idea of a way to give back to Clear Space, but they also wanted to start this drive-in,” Ms. Whitcomb said. “We are definitely hurting like everybody else during this time, and this kind of sounded like a great situation for us,” Ms. Whitcomb said.

Ms. Whitcomb clarified that all performances shown at Lefty’s are prerecorded from previous seasons, and the decision of which performances to use is based on which recordings are the highest quality.

Clear Space has never offered a prerecorded screening to audiences like this before, according to Ms. Whitcomb. She said the theatre company is still in the exploration phase with COVID-19, but they are willing to consider more unique options like this in the future.

“During this time, you really have to be creative and think outside the box, and think what can we all do that will help us all,” Ms. Whitcomb said. “So, we can get some people to come to Lefty’s, then we get some publicity, and then they’re donating back to Clear Space, so it’s fabulous.”

COVID-19 has presented challenges for most businesses, but especially for the theater industry. Clear Space Theatre Company remained closed for much of the spring season and had to cancel several performances as a result. The theatre company is now open and conducting its summer season, but Ms. Whitcomb said ticket sales simply have not been the same as previous years.

“Last summer we sold out a majority of our shows, and this summer we’re showing at less than 50% capacity. So, our budget is definitely being affected,” Ms. Whitcomb said “If there’s less people, then you know, there’s more space in the theater so we try to look at that as a blessing. If it’s filled, then we look at how we made a little bit more money. So, we’re really always just trying to look at the bright side.”

Clear Space is not alone in these financial worries. Lefty’s has also faced reduced business in the restaurant and alley, according to Mr. Hill. He also said the drive-in theater has become a surprising “lifeline” for the restaurant, selling out many of their movie screenings.

“We’ve actually only had three shows that haven’t sold out so far and they were close to selling out, so (drive-in sales) have honestly been much better than we anticipated, and quite honestly it’s been our lifeline,” Mr. Hill said. “Even though, I mean we’re still at 50% off our normal sales in general. It’s made that much of a difference for us.”

For Clear Space, this collaboration with Lefty’s gives viewers a chance to become familiarized with the theatre company, so they may feel inclined to attend one of their live shows in the future.

“It’s a nice way to let people come see theater and see Clear Space who maybe have never had the opportunity,” Ms. Whitcomb said. “Maybe they’ve been to Lefty’s for other things but never came to Clear Space. This gives them an opportunity to see what Clear Space is all about, in the hopes that someday they will then come to the theatre and see us live.”

Half of the proceeds from ticket sales to Clear Space shows will be returned to the theatre company, according to Mr. Hill. Tickets cost $25 per car and must be purchased in advance on the Drive-in section of Lefty’s website, iloveleftys.com

Mr. Hill said he would consider working with Clear Space to screen more of their shows after this summer but plans have not yet been discussed.

“They’re [Clear Space] just kind of an anchor in the community and, you know, we’re just trying to help them out,” Mr. Hill said. “It’s in these times when you don’t really have much to give but you still do it, it’s that much more rewarding.”

Ms. Whitcomb expressed similar sentiments about collaborating with Lefty’s in the future.

“We really are open to any opportunity to collaborate with anyone. As long as we’re able to fulfill our mission and helping someone else doesn’t change what we’re all about, then yes, we are open to any collaboration that is mutually beneficial,” she said.

Movie screenings at the drive-in will likely continue into the fall season on the weekends.

Lefty’s is at 36450 Plaza Drive, Lewes.

To reserve tickets for live Clear Space productions at their theater at 20 Baltimore Ave. visit their website clearspeacetheatre.org.

They are currently staging the musical acts “La Cage Aux Folles,” “Sister Act” and “Cabaret” through Aug. 29.