Arts venues hopeful but hesitant about guidance on re-opening

Proctors in Schenectady, pictured on Feb. 25, plans to wait to re-open.

Proctors in Schenectady, pictured on Feb. 25, plans to wait to re-open.

CAPITAL REGION — Arts leaders are feeling hopeful but hesitant after the announcement earlier this week that all arts venues can reopen at 33% capacity starting April 2.

For some venues, like Proctors and The Egg, it’s not financially feasible to present shows at that capacity. Under the new guidance, venues are limited to hosting 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors, though if all attendees present proof of a negative COVID-19 test before entry, capacity can increase up to 150 people indoors and 500 people outdoors.

“It is not feasible to support our facilities, staff, artists and producing partners with the audience ceiling in this guidance,” Proctors released in a statement.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that with the vaccine rollout schedule we’ll be in a position as spring turns to summer to open our doors for controlled, safe events that are more than 100 or 150 people but less than full capacity. That assumes a number of things including how well the vaccines hold up against COVID-19 variants. But there is good reason to feel positive; this is a welcome guidepost on Proctors Collaborative’s road to reopening.”

The new guidance will make a difference at Saratoga Springs’ Caffe Lena, which has been temporarily designated as a broadcast studio and has live-streamed concerts throughout the pandemic.

As a broadcast studio, they were allowed to host a small number of people during shows, though they couldn’t charge for tickets. Under the new guidelines, they’ll be able to sell tickets, which will benefit the artists and the venue, according to Executive Director Sarah Craig.

There are already musicians slated to perform at Caffe Lena when the guidance takes effect in April. Some may be comfortable with having a dozen people in the audience, others may be comfortable with having more.

“Financially, it’s not going to make a huge difference, when you’re talking about 20 tickets or 25 tickets, which is about the most that we would be able to do,” Craig said.

They’ll still be relying mostly on the virtual tip jar, which accompanies the coffeehouse’s live-streamed performances.

For the Palace Theatre, the new guidance presents a few possibilities, according to Sean Allen, the marketing director.

“While that capacity may still be far too low for most venues and performing arts centers to be able to put on a show and make money, it does open the doors to possibly expanding some of the digital things we have been doing already,” Allen said.

Throughout the pandemic, the theater has been hosting Palace Sessions, streaming performances by local bands and others.

“Increasing our allowed capacity does help there a bit, and can potentially also make a bit of a difference in private events, photoshoots, weddings … All things where we can potentially do some business that requires a much lower capacity than a public performance,” Allen said.

Even for outdoor venues like the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the new guidance doesn’t change too much, though they still plan to present resident companies like the New York City Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, in some way.

“Last year, SPAC Reimagined was focused on a SPAC without live performance. This year the ‘reimagination’ has to do with how to present live performance in new and creative ways that meet the challenges created by COVID,” said Elizabeth Sobol, the president and CEO of SPAC.

When it comes to local theater, it’s uncertain whether companies will be able to return to the stage anytime soon, at least that’s the case for the Schenectady Light Opera Company.

“Our intention is to continue our current ‘season’ with the virtual events and fundraising that has been planned for, but we are open to a possible in-person component to those events, if appropriate,” said Audrey Carlton, the director of public relations and advertising for SLOC.

The company is known for presenting musicals, which typically include quite a few cast members and a hearty budget.

“With this smaller capacity, we have to be extra conscious about the budget of the show, which may mean smaller casts, less costumes, simpler sets, smaller pits, etc. We are hopeful, yet hesitant, to begin mapping out a season for next year because so much time, effort and money goes into producing [even a small show], that we would hate for everything to change overnight, like it did for our production of ‘Forum’ in March 2020,” Carlton said.

Categories: Entertainment, News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County

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