June 26, 2020: On Sugarplums, Mixed Forecasts and Ah, Paris
Many major dance companies are asking themselves whether or not to produce their annual cash cow holiday production of “The Nutcracker” at the end of the year.
Answers vary but the questioning process echoes what many performing arts groups are now going through in determining whether programming — even for the very end of the year — is realistically possible. Many performing arts groups — from theaters presenting "A Christmas Carol" to orchestras showcasing Handel’s “Messiah" — often depend on the substantial revenue these family-friendly perennials generate.
The New York City Ballet decided that it was a production it would rather nix now, rather than later. The San Francisco Ballet is holding off its decision, preferring to wait in the hopes that this major revenue stream can still flow its way.
With many regions in the country where the Covid-19 virus is spiking — even as other regions are declining, it’s unlikely that any nationwide determination can be made this far in advance, especially for the performing arts. Programming decisions are more likely to be made on micro levels — not just region by region or even state by state but perhaps as specific as county by county. Decisions will take into account the latest health data available and guided by studies assessing audiences’ likelihood to return.
Museums have so far been in the forefront of opening their doors, at least on some limited level and the news of The Met re-opening in August was no doubt welcome.
But performing arts venues, even in the sections in the country where the virus has been declining steadily, are much more wary — at least for the fall. Producers of shows that were set to open this past spring or who were eyeing Broadway openings in the fall announced this week that spring 2021 is the time in which they're most comfortable. And execs at many major presenting houses across the country — including those in New York City, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. — are now saying that there will be no programming until 2021.
If that sends a chill to those hoping to pull up an aisle seat this fall, the news this week from Yale was even more depressing, albeit understandable. The Yale Repertory Theatre has axed its entire 2020-21 season and productions won’t return to that stage until the fall of 2021. (The Yale School of Drama, which is associated with the Rep, and which also presents productions, won’t have traditional semesters until the fall of ’21 as well. (There will be virtual classes but business as usual won’t return for another 14 months at the earliest.)
But there was one bit of news that brightened the week — even if it didn’t have to do exactly with the arts, though this attraction is unquestionably a work of art. The Eiffel Tower reopened — but even this announcement had a caveat. Spectators can’t use the elevators but they are free to walk up 674 steps with masked social distancing. Escalade heureuse!
-- FRANK RIZZO