DETROIT – When Michigan was forced to close in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it meant theaters and plays went on hiatus.
That unexpected breakdown of business was more of a challenge for independent theater companies. Nationally, it is estimated that 90% of those locations that were forced to close during the pandemic are likely not to reopen.
“It was like taking this big puzzle apart, piece by piece, and thinking ‘Oh my God. Where are we going to keep all these pieces until we know what happens next,” said Vince Derita, president of the Stagecrafters Community Theater.
For the Royal Oak’s Stagecrafters Community Theater, the decision was not only to close, but also to suspend the season on an opening night.
“It was very difficult to watch that cast and crew who had just spent the past eight weeks rehearsing and doing all the things we do to put together a production and now tell them it’s not going to happen,” Derita said.
However, Governor Gretchen Whitmer allowing theaters and venues to reopen by stating that October 9 could be the revival theaters and those working within them were waiting.
But the reopening for many theaters is a gamble. Under the governor’s new restrictions, internal capacity is set at only 20%. This means that for most small theaters it is not enough to keep the house lights on.
The pandemic has been tough on some of Detroit’s most iconic theaters, such as the historic Majestic Theater which went on sale this week, saying the pandemic frenzy was just too much.
Meanwhile, the theater companies have become creative. Stagecrafters are moving out onto a stage in front of a small but socially distant crowd to restart their new show, “Working”, unsure when they will be able to return to the home stage. But they said the show must go now more than ever.
“Live theater takes you inside. It allows you to sit on that seat and become a character yourself while watching this show. I think it is important that we do this. I think everyone should go out and get more culturally educated, ”Derita said.
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