How a local Laramie theatre company and specialty shop collaborated to create a unique experience for their customers during Covid-19.

Back in March, like many business owners, Anne Mason, the founding Artistic Director of Relative Theatrics, a Laramie based theatre company, was faced with closing the doors of her theatre, canceling upcoming live performances and postponing her annual fundraising event. Despite taking a big financial hit from these cancellations, Anne quickly organized a virtual programming series to continue to engage her subscribers during these isolated times.

What started as a cancellation of her annual fundraising event (that was to be held at Chalk N’ Cheese) turned into a collaboration with a local business to combine wine, cheese, and virtual theatre. Pairings @ Chalk N’ Cheese is a specialty shop in Laramie, WY that features cheese, foods, and wines from around the globe.

“We had initially planned a Season Announcement Fundraising Event at Chalk N’ Cheese on April 30th. When that was canceled, Misty (the owner) and I brainstormed ways that we could still support one another and create something for our customers that was both new and familiar at the same time,” Anne explained, “I had been exploring the mechanics of virtual programming for our theatrical presentations – a way to enjoy the theatre inside the home. What better way to enhance that experience than by throwing delicious wine and cheese into the mix?”

Misty Hester, the owner of Chalk N’ Cheese commented on how the collaboration with Relative Theatrics has supported her business during Covid, “It has been a great opportunity to reach a new customer. But, more importantly, it has given the audience a feeling of experience; not just watching. Anne Mason and I have discussed each reading and worked together in finding the right wine and cheese to fit.”

Anne remarked, “Through the partnership, Relative Theatrics and Chalk N’ Cheese are able to curate a unique entertainment experience that gives our community something to look forward to every week.”

One example of their weekly pairings comes from the April 17th premiere of TWO DEGREES: “On Friday, April 17th we offer you Blanc de Bleu, Cuvee Mousseax to enjoy during our reading of TWO DEGREES by Tira Palmquist. While this sparkling wine may be thought to be reserved for a prestigious celebration, we believe that in today’s world we should celebrate everyday. The winemakers dazzle the imagination with Blanc de Bleu’s seductive flavors and beautiful shade of blue; reminding us of the colors found within glaciers. This effervescent wine contains a dry, crisp finish and a hint of blueberry, perfect to pair with Delice Mon Sire Brie from France and/or Parrano Gouda from Holland. Delice Mon Sire – a triple cream cheese that is soft, yet bold – is enriched with creme fraiche adding a luscious creaminess. The Parrano, a semi-soft aged gouda, delivers a caramel/scotch-like flavor that melts in your mouth.”

Relative Theatrics has observed increased social media engagement from the wine, cheese, and theatre pairings. “It’s so much fun to see people sharing pictures of their glasses of wine and cheese boards in front of their televisions or computers with the live stream playing. The virtual programming from Relative Theatrics has allowed us to expand our reach to every corner of the state, and beyond. People are no longer restricted by geographical limits. We are reconnecting with past patrons who have moved away from Laramie. We’re also building a new virtual network of viewers that will hopefully entice folks to visit Laramie for a play and glass of wine once we’re on the other side of this pandemic!” stated Anne.

Pairings @ Chalk N’ Cheese has also seen increased revenue from the weekly pairings with the virtual readings. “Maybe 25% to 30% of the sales on the day of the event. Fluctuates with each reading.” Misty added, “The customers know that I am giving 10% of the sales to Relative Theatrics and they are very supportive! It’s pretty cool. But, even more so, we are seeing these customers return, buying more and wanting to know more about what we offer.”

Anne Mason believes the partnership between businesses is important. “We are in such uncertain times. Everyone is concerned about where their next paycheck will safely come from and how we will collectively survive these trying times. I strongly believe that the best way to ease the economic and psychological stress is to support our fellow community members. What is possible if we approach these circumstantial obstacles with a spirit of creative collaboration rather than caustic competition?”

Misty has been ‘Pairing with other Businesses’ for the past 2 years. “We have had desserts and wine with Big Hollow Co-op, International Cabernet Franc Night tasting with Sweet Melissa’s, International Merlot Night tasting with WyoColo Restaurant, a tasting with a specific winery and their representative in house to talk about their wines, etc. Customers enjoy the flavors and experience!”

The silver-lining through this has helped both Relative Theatrics and Pairings @ Chalk N’ Cheese with long-term business strategies. “I love the idea of continuing this partnership once we are all able to gather in person again. An evening at Chalk N’ Cheese before heading to the theatre sounds like a wonderful night out to me,” stated Anne, “In the meantime, we will do our best to facilitate a wonderful night in!”

Misty responded, “We are already trying to come up with ideas to keep the momentum going and always looking for ideas to keep our customers engaged. It’s about the experience and learning along the way.”

Relative Theatrics will be wrapping up their 7th Season this month with the 6th Annual PLAYWRIGHTS VOICED FESTIVAL: Featuring New Plays, May 20-23, 2020 virtually through a YouTube Live Stream. The series features 4 nights of new plays by developing playwrights.

“For both Chalk N’ Cheese and Relative Theatrics, the wine and cheese pairing with each virtual play reading is an excellent way to introduce our patrons to new stories, new flavors, new experiences.”

Relative Theatrics is a Laramie-based theatre company with a mission to bring thought-provoking, dynamic theatre to South East Wyoming.

Pairings at Chalk N’ Cheese is a specialty shop in Laramie WY offering artisan cheeses from all across the world, bottles of wines and spirits and Charcuterie and cheese dinners.

The original article can be found here.