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Performing arts venues press through pandemic

Actors and directors film a play that can be streamed online called "House Arrest"
Posted at 6:45 PM, Oct 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-16 00:04:17-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — 2020 hasn't quite set the scene for local performers and performers across the country. As we all work to rebound back from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, News5 is taking a look at how local performance venues are holding up.

Some are reinventing the wheel while others have had to cancel or postpone performances. The Pike's Peak Center for the Performing Arts, for example, pushed pause on all events. The last event that was held at the Center was in March.

Before COVID hit, the venue's seats were packed, the stage was filled with performers and the concession stand was busy. Times have changed though and the Center has been empty now for the past seven months.

"We miss live events, we miss people, we miss having you, the community here," said Dot Lischick, the general manager for the Center.

The venue held about 1,950 people before the pandemic hit. Because of COVID restrictions, the venue's capacity has been reduced to 175. Lischick says staff weighed their options and decided it wasn't financially smart to still hold events.

"You would be paying $2,000 to $3,000 per ticket, which doesn't work for the patron, doesn't work for the artist, and doesn't work for the facility," said Lischick.

Lischick also mentioned for performers, it's challenging to reschedule concerts and tours because each state has different COVID restrictions and policies.

Although doors at the Center have been closed, staff have still been busy at work everyday. They're rescheduling events for the fourth, fifth and sixth time. They're also working on a plan for when doors re-open, which they believe will be in late 2021.

Meanwhile, Theatreworks at the Ent Center for the Arts on UCCS' campus has reinvented the theater wheel. The crew just finished rehearsing and filming a play called 'House Arrest,' that can be streamed online.

The playwright is based in real life and actors perform monologues on people connected to American elections and American politics. The crew thought it was a relevant topic given the election is right around the corner.

"It was really great for this time where work for artists is a bit limited," said Caitlin Lowans, the play's director. "Organization and planning and reacting on the day of making in the moment decisions really all came into play to create something that felt, on the day, really different than a regular theatrical production."

Work for the actors and directors looked much different too. People got tested for Coronavirus before filming, and everyone wore masks. Props and costumers were all sanitized and sealed in bags. Then when filming day came, one person at a time entered the theater to perform their monologue.

"On the day of filming, we kept everyone separate, so everyone was in their cars waiting," said Lowans. "We would text them when it was their turn to come in. For the actor, it was like dress rehearsal, opening night and closing performance all in the same 30-minute block."

The rehearsals for the play all took place through zoom. Lowans says Theatreworks was also the first theater in the western region of the country, to allow actors and performers to return to work.

Despite the challenges during COVID, Lowans says the silver lining is that the possibilities of streaming a play online have now been unlocked.

"If you think about the future, some folks are comfortable in returning to physical work, but that's not going to be everybody," said Lowans. "And for those folks who really love theater, who really love the art, and want to be able to continue to engage, but for health reasons don't feel like gathering, having a streaming option or having the ability to connect with people over these virtual spaces is something a lot of theaters are going to continue to investigate."