Theatre companies respond to Gov. Dewine’s new guidelines for performing arts

Cincy theatre companies respond to Gov. DeWine's new guidelines

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Like many businesses across Cincinnati, performing arts companies have been dealt a tricky hand when it comes to trying to stay afloat during the pandemic.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced guidelines for performing arts venues to reopen last week.

Joshua Steele is manager of Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine.

“Well it’s been quiet, that’s the big thing,” Steele said. “We’ve canceled 123 shows to date for this year, so obviously lost a lot of business.”

In a normal world, these types of shows would be put on throughout the summer in Cincinnati. But thanks to COVID-19, the curtains have been closed.

“It stopped our season in March,” Cincinnati Black Theater Co. Board Member Jackie Jackson said. “We normally end our season with a production for youth, for our children. So that’s usually our big end to our season, is our children’s production, so we had to drop that obviously.”

The guidelines for performing arts venues affect directors, producers, actors and dancers. The rules include conducting daily health-symptom assessments, maintaining social distancing during performances and mask-wearing while not on stage.

Some venue owners say the governor’s new guidelines simply won’t work.

“Unfortunately I think it might be a little too late,” Steele said. “The current guidelines call for 15 percent of seated occupancy or 300 guests, whichever is lower, and I think any venue operator will tell you that’s not a workable solution in terms of revenue potential.”

“As much as we’d love to get our audience back in the seats, we’d love live performances, it’s also important that we think about families and our health and their health,” Jackson explained, “so we would rather do a virtual season this year.”

Others are pleased, including Cincinnati Academy of Performing Arts Executive Director Robin Schwanekamp.

“It’s very optimistic, because we were able to have some small film production camp. We had an on-camera acting camp that was 10 kids or less. We were socially distanced, we wore our masks very safe and it worked really well, and the kids were really happy. So it’s optimistic that Governor Dewine came out with this mandate, because now it looks like we can do more of that,” Schwanekamp said.

Still, while companies have been getting by on virtual performances, they say it’ll be a long road to recovery in making up revenue.

“I’ve taken a pay cut,” Schwanekamp said. “Our artistic director for CAPA has also take pay cuts, and we’re just coasting along, and hopefully (we’ll) go after some donations and grants if we can.”

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