Live theatre takes a toll during pandemic

As many people sit at home during the coronavirus pandemic taking up new hobbies and watching streaming services, one form of entertainment is lacking: live theatre. Theatres nationwide have been forced to shut their doors, with nearly all productions canceled or postponed.

All Broadway theatres closed March 12, initially slated to reopen April 12. However, as the situation has evolved, stages will not reopen until September 7 at the earliest, according to Playbill. The “Beetlejuice” musical was originally scheduled to close on Broadway June 6 but now cannot follow through with any performances.

This shutdown came at an unfavorable time for the Broadway community, only a few months before the now-canceled Tony Awards. Countless shows such as “Six” and the revival of “Company” were scheduled to open in March to meet the nomination eligibility date but are now in limbo.

To attempt to relive the spirit of live performance, Broadway performers have participated in live-streams to entertain audiences at home and bring the Broadway community together. Television personality Rosie O’Donnell hosted a star-studded fundraiser for the Actors’ Fund charity, and performers came together for a live-stream to celebrate composer Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday.

Hollywood’s own Pantages Theatre has also canceled all performances of “The Spongebob Musical” and suspended performances of “Hamilton” through at least Labor Day.

As an industry that relies heavily on ticket sales to stay afloat, professional theatre has taken a huge hit financially. Smaller community theatre organizations may struggle for survival due to the prolonged stay at home orders.

Once shows are able to reopen, social distancing guidelines may still prevent theatres from selling out. Theatres may only be able to sell every other seat or every other row for each performance, and audience members may still be wary of attending shows so soon after lockdown. Reduced ticket sales may still hurt theatres for years to come.

Middle and high schools across the country have also had their spring plays and musicals canceled due to the pandemic. In response, Broadway performer Laura Benanti invited students who were meant to perform in school productions to film themselves performing at home using the hashtag #SunshineSongs.

“If you would like to sing a song that you are not going to get to sing now and tag me, I want to see you. I want to hear it,” Benanti said in a video on Instagram.

Harvard-Westlake (HW)has canceled its performing arts events for the rest of the school year, as both campuses will remain closed through June. These events include the Middle and Upper School dance productions as well as the Middle School spring play “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

Raisa Effress ‘23, a cast member of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” expressed her disappointment regarding the cancellation of the performances.

“Even though we knew it was a possibility for a long time, it’s still very disappointing that the play is officially canceled,” Effress said. “Everyone brought such supportive energy to rehearsals; being a part of that was always the highlight of my day. It definitely feels like that sense of community and excitement has been taken away.”

As long as casts and crews must remain confined to their homes, the joy of live theatre will be missing from lives everywhere. Audiences and performers must wait a bit longer before their community re-emerges in person.

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