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Performing arts spaces across the Valley forced to temporarily close by coronavirus

(WHSV)
Published: Mar. 16, 2020 at 1:21 PM EDT
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As the COVID-19 novel coronavirus leads to closures, cancellations, and postponements across the country, as well as locally, many businesses that exist to entertain the public have been forced to close their doors, leaving workers without many options.

The following performing arts venues in the Shenandoah Valley have been affected:

American Shakespeare Center

On Monday, the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton announced that they would be suspending their current Actors' Renaissance season of shows and canceling their spring season, releasing all actors from their contracts and furloughing much of their staff.

"It’s an extreme step, and we’d like to make sure you understand what goes into this kind of difficult decision," wrote Artistic Director Ethan McSweeny in a public letter. "ASC depends on its box office for almost 80% of its annual operating expenses. Like many not-for-profit arts organizations we operate very close to the edge, with little to no cash reserve. We need to make an average of $50,000 a week at the box office to meet our expenses. In fact, one of the core goals of the five-year plan we were just about to roll out in May is a robust and focused effort to secure four months of working capital and shore up the investments made in our remarkable facility."

"In the spring, our steadiest income is in the form of education sales to our student matinees and a collection of colleges and universities that come for a day or a long weekend “SHXcademy” to take in our repertory of shows while studying with teaching artists.

With the school closings necessitated by the coronavirus crisis, we lost more than a dozen fully subscribed matinees. Our tour, currently on the way home, lost two weeks of bookings. All told, we’ve watched that all important weekly box office revenue drop from $60,000 to $49,000 to $22,000, and falling."

All performances and events from March 19 to May 31 at the playhouse have been canceled.

You can find the full statement on the ASC's closure below:

Dear Friends, ASC is just one small theatre, in a semi-rural region recently dubbed “micropolitan.” But in the 20 years since we built the Blackfriars Playhouse, a vibrant Shakespeare ecosystem has grown up around us. We’ve propelled the tourism growth of our area by millions, season after season. In addition to performing at home 48 weeks a year, we send our National Tour from Maine to Texas to Michigan bringing quality Shakespeare to colleges, universities, and under-served small towns throughout the country. We currently employ about 25 full-time staff, 15 part-time staff, and nearly 30 actors and stage managers on contracts that range from 18-50 weeks. So we do our part as a small business. We are an employer. We are an economic engine. We are a point of civic pride and an important educational resource. We do what performing arts organizations do throughout America: we build community. And as a nation we need community right now, perhaps more than any time in the last 50 years. So it is a particular heartbreak to share the news that we are going to have to shut down for the next two and a half months, suspending our current Actors’ Renaissance season of four shows, canceling our Spring Season of four shows (including a world premiere), releasing all of our actors from their contracts, and furloughing our staff. We’ve looked at the problem from every angle, and this is the only path to save our organization and position us to return and help rebuild and rejuvenate our local economy with the Marquee Summer season that we hope will begin performances in June. It’s an extreme step, and we’d like to make sure you understand what goes into this kind of difficult decision. ASC depends on its box office for almost 80% of its annual operating expenses. Like many not-for-profit arts organizations we operate very close to the edge, with little to no cash reserve. We need to make an average of $50,000 a week at the box office to meet our expenses. In fact, one of the core goals of the five-year plan we were just about to roll out in May is a robust and focused effort to secure four months of working capital and shore up the investments made in our remarkable facility. In the spring, our steadiest income is in the form of education sales to our student matinees and a collection of colleges and universities that come for a day or a long weekend “SHXcademy” to take in our repertory of shows while studying with teaching artists. With the school closings necessitated by the coronavirus crisis, we lost more than a dozen fully subscribed matinees. Our tour, currently on the way home, lost two weeks of bookings. All told, we’ve watched that all important weekly box office revenue drop from $60,000 to $49,000 to $22,000, and falling. There are plenty of bright spots. The energy in our theatre this weekend was an inspiring example of just what kind of community we have and we make. It has also been a potent reminder of the intrinsic human need to share stories, and to find ways to come together in the face of unknown and even unknowable terrors. In service to that ideal, we are exploring myriad ways to keep the ASC content that you know and love coming to you through digital platforms (stay tuned for more on that in the coming week). I have been exceptionally proud of how every single member of ASC, from our hard working staff to our courageous casts to our profoundly dedicated volunteer ushers, has pulled together to keep the lights on and the doors open. I am coming to you now to ask you to pull together a little more. As we temporarily shut down in an orderly fashion, and make plans to restart our rehearsal process in mid-May to bring you Othello in mid-June, we need to raise $350,000 in order to stay in business between now and when we can once again put revenue generating work on our stages. This figure will allow us to employ a part-time, skeletal staff for essential operations, make payments on the mortgage for the Blackfriars Playhouse, continue to cover health insurance for all furloughed staff and artists, and keep our actors safely housed until we begin again. Renew your commitment to this community of artists. Respond to our urgent need. Give the City of Staunton the economic boost it will need to bounce back from these next few months of local and national hardship: • Please give. As much as you can. • Buy your tickets for the summer season now. • Convert your tickets for canceled performances into donations. • Share your support and encourage others to follow your leadership. We usually sign off with a cheery “we’ll see you at the Playhouse.” This time that salutation is perhaps a little more hopeful, a little less certain, and a little more significant. I really and truly hope to see ALL of you at the Playhouse beginning again in June and continuing through the fall and into a holiday season later this year when we can celebrate that at a crucial moment we came together to protect the people and places we cherish. Until then, be safe and be well. Ethan All pre-purchased tickets for canceled performances will be initially moved into placeholders to be used for a future performance. If patrons would like to convert their pre-purchased tickets into a donation, they are encouraged to call the Box Office. The Box Office can be reached at 877-MUCH-ADO (877-682-4236).
ShenanArts

ShenanArts has canceled their upcoming performance of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame and will not be hosting any performances or rehearsals for at least the next two weeks.

They ask ticket holders to give them a few days to process the situation and arrive at new dates for performances.

Sipe Center

The town of Bridgewater has closed the Sipe Center until further notice.

They will refund all ticket holders' purchases for any live shows through July 1.

Forbes Center

JMU's Forbes Center cancelled all ticketed performances for the remainder of their season.

For details and refund information, you can find more on

.

Wayne Theatre

On Friday, the Wayne Theatre in Waynesboro

scheduled through the rest of the month.

All ticket holders for upcoming events are being notified through the email address for the account under which their ticket purchase was made.

"This decision was made with a heavy heart and it was not made lightly," a statement issued by Tracy Straight, the Executive Director of the Wayne Theatre, said. "We have 19 events, 23 rehearsals and our largest fundraiser of the year, the Grand Gala, scheduled through the end of the month that will not take place as scheduled."

Court Square Theater

As of Monday, March 16, the Court Square Theater in Harrisonburg announced they were temporarily suspending all films and events for at least the rest of the month of March.

"Given the recommendations from the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control, we believe this is the best course of action to protect the well-being of our community and staff," the theater said in a statement.

All previously purchased tickets for cancelled events will be refunded and all tickets for postponed events will be exchanged for a new date when new dates are announced.

Below is their full statement:

With a heavy heart we have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend all films and events at Court Square Theater effective Monday, March 16th for the remainder of the month of March. This decision has been reached in recognition of the theater’s role as a significant community gathering place in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. This is a precautionary and voluntary measure as we currently have no known cases of novel coronavirus COVID-19 associated with Court Square Theater or Arts Council of The Valley. Given the recommendations from the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control, we believe this is the best course of action to protect the well-being of our community and staff. All previously purchased tickets for cancelled events will be refunded. All tickets purchased for postponed events will be exchanged to a new date when it’s announced. If you are unable to attend the make-up date, we will refund your ticket. As of now the only confirmed cancelled events on our schedule are the March 20th and 21st screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the rest of this week’s screenings of Ordinary Love and A Lady on Fire. Please consider a donation or membership to Court Square Theater / Arts Council of The Valley. Public support is especially appreciated during this time and will help Court Square Theater to reopen with the least amount of disruption as soon as it is acceptable to do so. If you have any questions, please contact us at courtsquaretheater@gmail.com, rather than by phone, as staff will be working remotely in the coming weeks. We will make a decision by March 27th on how to proceed with April events. We appreciate your support in this unprecedented time. Be well & take care, Court Square Theater