Local performing arts community faces ‘real challenge’ as venues allowed to reopen with restrictions

Credit: Submitted photo

Credit: Submitted photo

Now that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s office is allowing performing arts venues to reopen in the near future, at least in a limited capacity, the executive director of a Butler County center said the arts community will need to find that “balance between sustainability and safety.”

Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, executive director of the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton, said centers will have to decide whether they can safely open for their performers and customers, and still pay the bills.

Part of the reopening order says that interior venue attendance will be capped at either 15 percent of their fixed-seated capacity or 300 people, whichever is less. Outdoor venue attendance will be capped at either 15 percent of their fixed-seated capacity or 1,500 people, whichever is less.

He called opening with 15 percent attendance “a real challenge, a money challenge."

The Fitton Center is a non-profit organization and generates revenue through grants, partnerships, donations and ticket sales, he said. When asked if he sees any live performances in the near future, MacKenzie-Thurley said: “Trying to be positive. These are really challenging times for all of us.”

He has talked with people in the arts community around the world and all of them are “experiencing” financial hardships caused by the novel coronavirus that had shut down the industry in February and March.

“They had jobs one day and were off the stage the next,” he said.

An order allowing for indoor shows doesn’t mean theaters and performing groups will reopen.

LaComedia Dinner Theatre in Springboro, one of the region’s largest and longest-running theaters, said in order to comply with the governor’s office and the Warren County Health District, three performances through Nov. 1 have been canceled.

Those who purchased tickets will be offered refunds or have their funds deposited into their LaComedia account, according to its website.

LaComedia, opened 45 years ago, is “not going out of business,” according to its website.

Earlier this year, after DeWine declared a state-at-home order, numerous theatrical performances, concerts and art classes were postponed or canceled in the region costing the organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

The Butler Philharmonic includes an orchestra, chorus and youth orchestra and has more than 150 members, said Board Chairman Laurin Sprague. The organization has postponed four performances, he said.

The Rotary Club of Hamilton canceled its annual musical production, the biggest fundraiser of the year, said President Lisa Guliano.

She said the Rotary typically nets $10,000 to $17,000 from the production and uses those proceeds to fund its scholarship program. She said this year’s scholarships, valued at $1,000 each, will be awarded through the Hamilton Community Foundation.

Three shows, or half of the season, were lost at Middletown Lyric Theater, said Charlie Shafor, the manager of the community theater. Those canceled shows probably cost MLT $17,000 to $18,000, he said.



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