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Monday, January 18, 2021

Live theater venues go dark in crisis

As the spread of the Coronavirus shuts down more of America on a daily basis, among those hardest hit are live entertainment venues.

Live theater venues in and around Fort Worth are closed. Some have set dates on which they hope to reopen, but the reality is no one really knows when that time will be as government restrictions on a national, state, and local level change on an almost daily basis.

“I am sure I speak for all theaters in the D/FW area. Beginning in February, our attendance began to drop off dramatically as news of the virus, and specifically the vulnerability of patrons over 70 spread throughout the communities,” said Rik Blair, Co-Founder and Executive Producer of the Artisan Center Theater in Hurst. “Many of the patrons we serve come from assisted living centers, so we lost several hundred patrons overnight when that became a danger.

“When news spread that gatherings of 500 to 250 to 100, and now only 10 people are recommended, it quickly became clear this was a financial tsunami that is going to devastate every theater organization in town.”

Dione Kennedy, President and CEO of Performing Arts Fort Worth, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates Bass Hall, said they received notice this week that the Fort Worth Opera has canceled its 2020 festival performances at the Bass.

“As we announced last week, in consideration of guidance from health official and mandates from the City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, we canceled or postponed events at Bass Hall, McDavid Studio and Van Cliburn Recital Hall through March 31,” she said. “No other performances have been canceled at this time. We are monitoring developments closely and following the guidelines set forth by the City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. We will provide additional updates regarding operations and events as needed.”

Stage West, for example, closed a five-week production after only one week of opening to the public. Also, Steven D. Morris, Executive Producer of Theatre Arlington, posted this statement on their web site Tuesday:

“After much thought and careful consideration with staff and the executive committee of our board of directors, we have made several necessary decisions for the safety of our staff, patrons, volunteers and artists.

“In keeping with the recommendations made by the Tarrant County Public Health Department and the CDC, we have decided to postpone the run of ‘Damn Yankees.’ We have tentatively scheduled this musical to open on May 15 and run through June 7. We will continue to monitor this ever-evolving situation and will release any new information as quickly as we are able.

“We are also saddened to announce that we are canceling our upcoming all-youth musical, ‘The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley Jr.’ which was scheduled to run in May. Subsequently, those auditions scheduled for March 21 will not take place.”

Artisan Center Theater employs 20 full and part time staff, many with new families and young children. Working for a non-profit organization – any nonprofit – is already a sacrifice, Blair said.

“To a person, these wonderful people are not here for the money. Each of them could earn substantially more on the open market. They are teachers. They are caregivers,” he said. “Thousands of children and youth are impacted each year on our stages and in classrooms as we work to provide a sanctuary from the brutal life lessons that so many of our youth are facing in schools and on the street.”

Blair said, like many theaters across the country, Artisan is applying for financial aid as fast as they can locate a source.

“We are pleading with anyone in our community who has the means and the propensity to give to do so now,” he said. “Artisan Productions needs immediate support in order to survive.”

Working with Dave Lieber, Artisan Productions, Inc. has created an emotional tribute to Amon G. Carter and his legacy of building Fort Worth into the powerhouse community it is today. Blair said in the past few days, he has pondered how Carter would have responded to this crisis.

“As he proved with the creation of The Amon Carter Foundation, I think he would have encouraged all of us to ‘roll up our sleeves’ and work together shouting, ‘Hooo-raaayyy for Fort Worth and West Texas,'” Blair said. “His motto was, ‘A man cannot live off his community. He must live with it.” Wwo is going to be our Amon Carter today?”

Blair said they are creating a series of shirts to not only honor Carter, but bring attention to the crisis. If anyone is interested, they can order these for $23 at www.AmonPlay.com.

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