Local theatre adapts to coronavirus pandemic

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The coronavirus pandemic is affecting the local arts community. 

Theatres, concert venues, and museums in Michiana are being forced to cancel or delay their productions. 

The South Bend Civic Theatre is postponing several of its upcoming performances, including Emma and West Side Story, as well as stopping its educational programs. 

“We have audiences and those audiences can no longer come out to see our performances,” said Aaron Nichols, South Bend Civic Theatre executive director. 

Nichols says the theatre understands these moves will help slow the spread of the virus, but explains it will be a setback to the organization. 

The loss of West Side Story is about 10 percent of the theatre’s budget. However, the impacts could go beyond that. Nichols says since the theatre also relies on donations and the U.S. economy is facing a downfall. People will be less likely to donate. 

“We really feel that the performing arts are needed during this time because we do create connection, empathy, understanding, and hope,” said Nichols. 

The exact long-term impact on the theatre’s earned and contributed income is unkonwn, but Nichols estimates it will slow the organization’s momentum which could mean cuts to its daily operations and community initiatives. 

“We require patrons to come and support our activities,” said Nichols. “When we don’t have activities, that cost of business doesn’t stop. I’m trying to keep a staff of 17 busy during a two-month hiatus. Right now, we’re okay. But, as time passes, it’s going to be a struggle for us.”

In the meantime, the theatre is continuing its commitment to the arts. 

The organization launched a virtual stage on Thursday which allows local artists to perform during this time. 

“Even when we social distance, we can still be connected,” said Nichols. 

Performers can upload videos of themselves to social media using the hashtag “CivicLight.” Nichols says the video can include any type of art whether it’s singing a song, reading a poem, or performing a monologue. 

The videos will then be posted to the Civic Theatre’s website. 

“Often when you’re feeling at your worst, where do you go?” asked Nichols. “You go to music. You go to your favorite film. We feel like local creators can be a healing force in a dark time. That’s where the hashtag comes from civic light. We want to be a light in the darkness. We want to show people that there is still hope.” 

Nichols explains it’s heartbreaking for the students and professionals who spent hundreds of hours preparing for those works but hopes this inspires them and other community members to come together amid the outbreak. 

“We have people posting poems,” said Nichols. “We have people positng visual art. We really feel that art in all the incarnations can really be a positive force that can bring us together in a time of distancing.” 

To upload or watch a performance, click here.

To donate to the South Bend Civic Theatre, click here

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