Performing Arts

Pandemic taking toll on performing arts during busiest season of year

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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to take its toll on Wichita’s entertainment industry. During its busiest season of the year, most in-person live performances won’t happen because of the pandemic. With limited capacity and fewer ticket sales, the live-entertainment businesses are hoping the community will still choose to support them during the holidays.

“Usually from Thanksgiving until a few days before Christmas, we’ll have thousands of people through the theater,” said Orpheum Performing Arts Center President Diana Gordon.

The Orpheum, the Crown Uptown Theatre and the Wichita Grand Opera were forced to cancel holiday shows due to COVID-19 restrictions. While the theaters remain empty, they’re still finding ways to bring live performances to the community and to keep some money coming in. Singers with the Wichita Grand Opera are taking their talents out into the community.

“We know the arts want to be live, and people want to hear live singing. So we found a way to take a group of carolers to nursing homes, to private residents. We stay outside and keep our distance, but we sing live music, and the response we’re getting is incredible,” Wichita Grand Opera General and Artistic Director Alan Held said.

The Orpheum has virtual live shows that include a hip hop version of “The Nutcracker.”

“Nothing will ever replace the live experience, and we’ll get it back. But for the time being, streaming and virtual shows have been a really valuable way for audiences to stay connected,” Gordon said.

Crown Uptown is also selling tickets to its virtual show, “Masked Up, Locked Down.” The theater will allow some people to watch in-person, but capacity will be limited.

“We’re seating at 10-percent of capacity,” Crown Uptown Theatre Manager Max Wilson said. “With the orders from the county, that’s the most we’re allowed to have nightly. And 10 percent of our income isn’t enough to sustain us for very long.”

While a virtual performance isn’t the same as performing in front of a full crowd, local theaters hope they’ll be enough to stay afloat until in-person shows are again safe.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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