Usually during the first few weeks of August this column is full of laudatory verbiage extolling the wonders of Missoula Children’s Theatre and the positive effects provided to local students through involvement with the wonderful world of theatre. However, these are not usual times.
Along with all other events scheduled for this year in Darke County Center for the Arts’ planned 2020-2021 season, DCCA’s annual presentation of a Missoula Children’s Theatre residency in which up to 60 local youngsters participate in a full-blown musical production based on classic children’s literature had to be canceled. Due to COVID-19, Greenville City Schools, which owns and operates Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall, where the MCT residency (and DCCA’s Artists Series) takes place, has necessarily closed the Hall to all rentals until January of next year. MCT has greatly curtailed its national touring schedule to insure health and safety for their teams and local participants. It is among the myriad arts organizations struggling to stay alive until some form of normalcy returns, hopefully depending upon the resilience of the arts to survive regardless of catastrophic events affecting humankind.
While not being able to earn income doing what they were born to do, performing artists are resorting to any means necessary for physical survival, and stages across the nation are in danger of going dark forever during this extended intermission in programming. While DCCA could not continue to exist without revenue produced by sales of tickets to performances, the local arts council is fortunate to not own a presenting venue that requires maintenance and staff, with the hefty expense such responsibilities require. However, valued icons of the arts community in our area are among many facing exceedingly difficult challenges in staying viable until audiences can safely return to partake in the joy and inspiration provided by their various artistic offerings.
Dayton Live, the umbrella organization that operates Dayton’s Schuster Center, Victoria Theatre, and Loft Theatre has canceled hundreds of events, losing millions of dollars in revenue and laying off or furloughing nearly 90% of its employees. That 90% number is also the estimate of the percentage of presenting venues that will be lost to the pandemic if financial assistance required to weather this crisis is not forthcoming. Such a loss would greatly impact overall revenues in communities affected; the arts not only inspire and sustain human beings, but also provide positive economic impact on neighborhoods and towns and cities. The arts bring people together in ways that nothing else can do, with the tangible material significance of the arts reaching far beyond the arts’ providers bottom lines.
As they have outlasted past crises and traumas, the arts will once again demonstrate their resilience and survive COVID-19, but arts providers are desperately in need of your help right now. You can advocate for that needed assistance in many ways, including support of the Save Our Stages Act, a part of the CARES Act specific to the arts and entertainment industry, that would create a grant program to help live venue operators preserve this critical economic and cultural sector of our society; information on how to help can be found at saveourstages.com. Do all you can to support your local arts providers, all of whom are struggling with an inability to accomplish their mission of bringing people together through the arts. Remember, we are all in this together, practicing resilience while adapting to change until we can once again safely gather together to enjoy the wonders provided by the arts.