Our Coronavirus Response
An update on 5/28/2020
As we enter into a third month of lockdown, with the situation changing daily, we thought we would offer a little by way of update on the COVID-19 crisis for our supporters and those that might be learning about us for the first time. We hope that we can provide some clarity, and maybe even a little hope in what is proving to be one of the most profound crises our industry has faced in its history.
As of today it will have been 76 days since we have hosted a live audience in the theatre. Since that day we have streamed live more than 100 times between live video broadcast, classes and radio. To our knowledge we were the first and one of the only theatres in the United States to stream a live musical during the crisis.
Getting to this point required the creation of precautions from scratch – utilizing often incomplete, rapidly changing, and sometimes conflicting information.
What do those precautions look like?
There are many precautions and more than we can enumerate here, but at a glance:
Everyone entering the theatre, every day, is screened with a questionnaire and have their temperatures taken. Performers enter from their own entrance, and come into contact with only the stage manager and one another. Musicians enter separately, are screened, are located in another part of the building, are spaced six feet apart, and are masked except when absolutely impractical. Crew have similar procedures. Their spaces, tools, props, and costumes are cleaned regularly. Hand sanitizer, soap, and PPE are available at no cost.
We have a policy of strict isolation. As we have a resident company this has been easier. Their shopping is done for them by our company manager. They have voluntarily given up seeing friends and family. Members of our resident company that cannot practically, or do not wish, to do this have kept their full wages and have provided content from home.
Personnel in the theatre is kept to a minimum. Some traditional roles have been doubled and tripled for crew.
We have had no cases of COVID that we are aware of, and all tests have come back negative. Testing in our area is free and available without symptoms. We are aware that we can never eliminate risk, but between our preventive and detection measures we think we have minimized the hazard to a similar level to other risks theatres face.
What about the future?
At some point we will all have to be together again. We are working on procedures for re-introducing both audiences and workers that very much want to return to the work that they love.
We’re not entirely certain when we will be able to resume traditional operations and at what capacity. We’ve set August 1st as an anticipated target date. Obviously when we do so it will be in compliance with local, state, and federal law and following the strictest guidance. The most important thing for us is the safety of anyone who crosses our threshold to work.
As we re-open, seating may be limited and we may have to adjust seating with those who already have tickets to ensure distance. Audiences should expect to be screened for temperature and exposure before entering. Our duty is to accurately communicate the risks and provide as much safety as possible. We likely will never be able to reduce risk to zero, but our promise is that it will be as close to zero as we can get it. We promise we will give enough information that people can make an informed decision about when they return to theatre. We appreciate patience as we move forward.
A note on cancellations, re-opening, and our plans for the future after this whole thing passes from our executive director, Kathleen Cavalaro:
“As soon as we saw the writing on the wall regarding Coronavirus, we canceled our productions of A Chorus Line and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. We quickly pivoted to producing online performances and classes, re-adjusted our budgets as much as we could without knowing a re-open date, applied for relief, and have been patiently waiting for more information on when we could open, and what that might look like. Even with more information on Friday from our Governor, it is still largely unclear to us.
During this waiting period, we continued to run the numbers. Getting a production on its feet takes time and resources. You need to rehearse, build sets, advertise. If, by some miracle, we were allowed to put small groups of performers into rehearsal starting May 5th and open Urinetown on schedule on May 21st, we didn’t think it would be the safe or responsible path forward, even if it were possible. I, for one, did not want to invite out-of-town performers into a strange new environment and try to convince our host homes to take in strangers. Could we cast the entire show locally? Perhaps. But even then it would be a risk to our staff and audiences. We made the decision to cancel Urinetown.
Which brings us to Hello Dolly!, one of the most grand and expensive shows we’ve ever had in a season since I’ve been here. We had big plans for this one. We had been searching for the right cast all year and we found the perfect Dolly Levi. This was to be our jaw dropping, next-level production that left you talking about it for years after. Is it possible if they allowed us to re-open the beginning of June to make this production happen the way we wanted to present it to you? Possibly, but not without putting enormous additional stress on our theater, remaining resources, and production team.
Keeping open has been a struggle enough. Even paying our staff would not have been possible without government assistance, so raising an additional $90,000 that would be necessary to re-open with Hello Dolly – hire the performers, build the set, pay for the rights – would be daunting, especially since donations have already slowed down.
We’re not unique in this experience. Non-profits everywhere are fighting for every dollar in donations. Every theater is in the same predicament, and there’s not enough assistance to go around. Even if we were successful in raising the funds to mount this beast of a show, we’re not confident enough that enough people will be willing, or even allowed, to sit in a theater so soon. We ran the numbers assuming selling just half of our tickets, and determined we would be losing money. So, we have decided to cancel Hello Dolly.
So, when can we re-open. Our plan, knowing what we know now, is to re-open our mainstage season to live audiences with Cabaret on August 1st. We are able to cast this show with all local performers and the production requirements are much more manageable. We still don’t have enough information from experts to know what gathering numbers will be like, but this is a show that will allow us to limit ticket sales and still break even or even make a small profit.
If we are safely allowed to re-open before August 1st, we have a few titles we have applied for and been given the rights to fully produce and offer as a combination in-person and livestreamed show, with a small audience in the theatre (appropriately distanced) and available at home for ticketed attendees. If we are not allowed to re-open to live audiences, we will offer only livestreamed performances. We are pleased to share we will be presenting at least four shows – The Marvelous Wonderettes; The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps & Gowns; The Marvelous Wonderettes: Dream On; and The Andrews Brothers, all written and created by Roger Bean.
This sort of arrangement is new to this industry and we are very lucky to have found a licensing company and an author willing to work with us on this. We’re very excited to share these shows with you and hope you come along with us on this new theater journey, as we will be one of the first theaters in the country, other than Broadway, that will be livestreaming fully produced musicals.
To Our Ticketholders
We are blessed to have such a supportive and understanding community. Our patrons have been with us through ups and downs and we can’t thank you enough for your continued support. By transferring your Chorus Line and Priscilla tickets to gift cards or donations, you have quite literally helped save us. Even so, we still have just under $10K in refund requests with more on the way. This will be hard for us to dispense, and we will do so as we are able to.
So if you are looking for a refund, please be patient with us. It will happen, but we can only issue refunds if we can cover the costs, and right now we cannot do them all at once. I’m going to also ask for your kindness when dealing with our box office. They are doing their absolute best during these strange times, working from home with limited hours, and a little kindness goes a long way. Zane and Brendan are wonderful and are happy to help. If you feel the need to work out your frustrations on them, please consider contacting them at a different time when you’re in a better place, or, call me instead.
If you have tickets for Urinetown or Hello Dolly, we will ask, once again, for you to consider transferring your tickets as a donation. If this is not possible we ask you consider transferring them into a gift card to our theater. Gift cards never expire and there are no restrictions on them so you can give as a gift even. If you’re a subscriber, you can even use gift cards on your next season subscription. If you’re able to transfer your tickets as a donation, that is even better! We will provide the paperwork for your taxes.
For anyone who has transferred a ticket as a donation, we would like to offer you a ticket to any of our upcoming livestreamed shows as a small way to thank you. For each ticket you donate, we’ll add you to a show of your choice.
Whatever decision you make, please know these changes affect thousands of ticketholders. We have sent our box office employees to work from home, and we’ve drastically cut our box office hours, so please be patient. You can get in touch with our box office by emailing email@example.com.”