CLEVELAND — Editor's note: Video in the player above is from Oct. 8, 2020.
Live theater with in-person audiences has been dormant for months since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
So what does that mean for the popular Broadway Series at Playhouse Square? Officials say they don't expect the program to return until later next year.
“Based on what we know today about the state of the virus, the hopeful news regarding a vaccine and the status of the touring industry, we anticipate that Broadway will return to our stages in the fall of 2021,” Playhouse Square President & CEO Gina Vernaci said in a press release Monday. “It will take time for tours to get back up and running when mass gatherings become safe again. They will have to rehearse for a period of time. Routes and logistics have to be planned out all over the country. It will not happen overnight.”
Performances at Playhouse Square have been impacted since Ohio’s ban on mass gatherings took effect in early March. The run of Jesus Christ Superstar, featuring a live theatrical surround-sound experience exclusive to Cleveland, had just opened.
“Not knowing how long the shutdown might continue, we debated whether or not to leave the set on stage,” Vernaci said. “We decided it would best for the show to pack everything up, and it turns out that was the right call.”
Since then, Playhouse Square has canceled or postponed 680 performances, officials noted. Its resident companies – Cleveland Ballet, Cleveland International Film Festival, Cleveland Play House, Cleveland State University Department of Theatre and Dance, Great Lakes Theater, DANCECleveland and Tri-C JazzFest – have either shifted to virtual programming for the 2020-21 season or are examining other ways to serve their audiences.
Playhouse Square is offering some virtual programming as well, but officials say they're eager to see live performances and live audiences back in its theaters.
“As a not-for-profit organization, it is stressful to have our main source of revenue on pause for an extended period of time, but the health and safety of our audiences, performers and staff remains our priority,” Vernaci said. “We were fortunate to be in a position of strength when the pandemic struck, thanks to the foresight of our founding board members who developed a business model combining the arts and real estate, but we will need philanthropic support from our community to sustain our mission-based work, particularly our educational programming, over the coming months.”
Playhouse Square also has a plan in place for schools to continue their mission in arts education for Northeast Ohio’s students.
“All Cleveland Metropolitan School District schools are receiving free access to nine streaming performances accompanied by teacher guides and additional video resources,” officials said in a press release. “The performances and resources are available to any Northeast Ohio classroom for the nominal fee of $20 per show.”
After hearing from parents that children with sensory needs particularly are struggling during this time when things are so different from the norm, Playhouse Square partnered with the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities to create and release a series of video resources to help with stress reduction, emotional awareness and other topics. The video series, which can be accessed at playhousesquare.org/sensoryresources, was launched with a special streaming concert by Dan & Claudia Zanes earlier this month.
Note: Video below is from July 7, 2019: