Performing Arts

Lesher Center for the Arts to host virtual performance of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ zoom visits from the North Pole

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WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) — Performing arts and live theater are just some of the many industries that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek closed their doors to the public and suspended all performances amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It is a true loss to theater,” said Scott Denison, General Manager for the Lesher Center for the Arts. “We’ve lost an entire season of shows.”

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During a typical year, the Lesher Center for the Arts puts on 850 performances in front of 350,000 theater enthusiasts.

“COVID has really taken people by surprise,” said Denison. “My only hope is that we can get back to it soon and get actors working, designers working, directors working. So, that theater within a year of coming back, can be back where we were. We are basically an economic driver for this part of Walnut Creek and being closed certainly affects the downtown economy.”

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lesher Center for the Arts has pivoted their business model by offering “Movies on the Roof,” and backstage tours.

The center started a big renovation of the Rudney Plaza in front of the theater months before the shutdown in March. The plaza will expand into the street to provide an opportunity for outdoor performances and enable social distancing.

According to California’s colored tier system, theaters can open at 25% capacity in the red tier. The Lesher Center for the Arts was planning to show a four-camera video shoot of a previous performance of Charles Dicken’s Christmas classic: “A Christmas Carol” in the Hofmann Theater.

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Also, the Lesher Center transformed a stage into Santa’s workshop and Mrs. Claus’ kitchen for an immersive, theater-like visit to the North Pole.

Unfortunately, in mid-November Contra Costa County moved into the most restrictive purple tier, and the Lesher Center had to once again suspend all future plans.

The show must go on!

“We are sad that we can’t do it this year live, but we have other alternatives,” said Denison. “We certainly have a holiday family tradition that has been going on for years.”

For the first time ever, the Lesher Center for the Arts will stream the Holiday classic online.

“We are going to stream it available online and really make it a family experience that you can have in your living room, on your TV, on your smart device,” said Denison. “This particular show is spectacular. It is the next best thing to seeing it live.”

The Lesher Centers for the Arts is offering one-on-one zoom visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus from the North Pole.

“Families can carry on a conversation that I think is extremely valuable for families to experience together,” said Denison.

The Lesher Center looks forward to having families and actors back. During this time, they were able to do a deep clean to ensure the safety of staff and visitors.

“We have learned a lot. We have learned to sanitize and cleaned everything from seating, touch points and everything like that,” said Denison. “I am looking forward to coming back and showing everybody how safe it will be to come into the Lesher Center.”

For more information on upcoming performances or to donate, visit the Lesher Center for the Arts website.

Take a look at all of ABC7’s Building a Better Bay Area stories and videos here.

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