A cluttered, half-finished set lies silently in wait of the limelight that never came. Lonely Christmas decorations and miscellaneous props fill the dark corners of a cavernous, chilly space.
Cyndie Klorer and her husband, Ben, clung to their 2020 season dreams longer than most―canceling, rescheduling and refunding productions multiple times while churning out creative virtual content like “Quarantine Cabaret.” Yet nine stagnant months was too many for their blooming theater company, Fourth Wall Entertainment Troupe, to continue occupying the historic Metropolitan building they made their own just two years ago.
“This was absolutely going to be our year,” Cyndie Klorer said.
From the start, the goal had never been to get rich. Yet 2020 had promised a dozen productions prior to the pandemic, and the community was beginning to take notice. Fourth Wall at the Met was named the best entertainment venue in Calaveras County by the Ledger Dispatch, and the Klorers’ dream of sharing their love of theater with a region otherwise starved of the art was truly taking shape.
With a strong vision and many “labors of love,” the couple breathed new life into the once forgotten mid-century movie theater in San Andreas, drawing in hundreds of guests with meals made in their updated kitchen and, for a short time before the pandemic, a liquor license. Beer pong, karaoke events and chili cook-offs got people in the door, but they stayed for the drama. Soon, the Met gained a reputation for its lively murder mystery nights and catered theater productions.
“It was extremely exciting that our community did support and embrace us in theater, because that was the point of all of this,” said Cyndie Klorer, who has 30 years of theater experience and a certification in arts management. “Obviously, no one goes into theater to make money. But if I could just pay the bills and have an artistic outlet, that would be the dream.”
And that dream was a hard one to let go, even temporarily. Klorer was in denial as Broadway went dark and local theaters canceled their seasons. Unlike the others, she managed to stay afloat through some desolate months by utilizing the loophole of her business’ restaurant status.
“I was watching them drop like flies as I kept trying to stay dog paddling with my water wings going flat on me,” Klorer recalled.
It wasn’t only her own dream she was fighting for, but also those of her volunteer actors who had dedicated many hours of rehearsal and manual labor to building sets.
“We kept planning things only to have the rug ripped out from under us,” she said.
The whiplash of COVID-19 regulations was taking its toll. Klorer’s landlord was supportive, but the cost of renewing licenses and maintaining insurance became too much to bear. In early December, Fourth Wall announced that it would be out of business until the end of the pandemic, whenever that may be.
According to Calaveras County Economic and Community Director Kathryn Gallino, it is too soon to tell how many other local businesses will fall victim to the pandemic.
“It is heartbreaking to see our businesses struggle again, especially during this time of year,” Gallino said. “Cyndie and (Ben) have done an amazing job of being resilient and modifying their operations at the Met to meet the challenges this pandemic has caused. I am deeply saddened that they are closing.”
For Klorer, the most difficult part of the decision was feeling like she had failed, though she knew in her heart that she hadn’t.
“I’ve come a long way with my realization that it doesn’t really mean this is over or dead. Let’s call it a sabbatical,” Klorer said.
However, when Fourth Wall does return, the in-house restaurant and bar will not. Klorer is willing to let those perks go so long as music, laughter and play can once again fill the Met.
“I don’t want people to forget us,” Klorer said. “We were on the right track, and we were going to be OK.”