(Photo by Diana Lambert)
“It’s Only Intermission” theater companies across the globe coo.
But, March has turned into May. May has turned into September. September has turned into January. Those standard fifteen minutes have turned into what seems like an eternity.
When will the show begin again? Will it ever?
The theater industry has become perhaps the most hard hit by the pandemic of all the entertainment sectors. With the responsibilities of rent and payment to the actors, crew and creative team, the structure of the American theater system simply does not allow shows to continue if they aren’t selling out each night. This is why fan-favorite shows such as Frozen and Mean Girls have decided to call it quits – opening at a limited capacity, or not opening at all, makes it impossible for the show to go on.
Local and regional theaters have transitioned to live streamed and recorded performances, while Broadway (with the exception of Hamilton) has continued to view these versions of performances as taboo. Is the theater industry stuck in an outdated tradition? The performance landscape has changed without our consent, whether we like it or not. More and more of the Broadway shows we love will continue to shut their doors if a compromise is not made. Is this the much needed wake up call the industry needed? Can there be a middle ground between live theater and recorded theater?
There is recorded music, but people still flock to concerts. Why? Because there is an intimate connection between artist and observer when both are together in a room, only known by those who experience it. It’s a completely different sensation than listening to a song or watching a video. Couldn’t the same apply to theater?
Live theater is sacred. I guarantee people will still itch to come back to the theater when given the opportunity. But, recorded and live streamed performances are ideal for the interim and maybe even beyond. They give those who may not be able to come to the theater because of the pandemic an opportunity to indulge. They give those who may not have been able to come for financial reasons the opportunity to experience. They give creators the opportunity to do again what they do best – create.
Over the past several months, I’ve had the opportunity to chat with some of these theater creators. Some have continued to hone their craft, some have adapted to the changing landscape, and some have taken on new ventures. You’ll get the chance to experience these stories soon. But, throughout these various interviews, one ideal was common amongst all participants – live theater will come back, and we can’t wait until it does.