In this week’s Wall Street Journal “Sightings” column, I ask the following question: can summer concerts and other public performances in large outdoor spaces help bolster the flagging morale of America’s struggling performance-arts organizations? Here’s an excerpt.
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Caramoor, a 90-acre estate in New York’s Westchester County that has long been the site of a distinguished music festival, recently announced plans for a shortened summer season including both livestreamed indoor concerts and four outdoor performances that will take place in front of socially distanced “low-density audiences.” What makes this announcement so noteworthy is that for the past couple of months, larger music festivals have been scrapping their entire in-person seasons. Tanglewood, Ravinia, Ojai: All are shut down until 2021, mostly streaming archival videos of old concerts instead of presenting new ones onstage….
I don’t blame any arts organization for giving up on the summer of 2020, least of all theater companies, whose rehearsal schedules would have necessitated that their actors and production teams go into rehearsal well in advance of their opening nights. What William Goldman said about Hollywood in “Adventures in the Screen Trade,” after all, was applicable to the pandemic until recently: When it came to the coronavirus, nobody knew anything. Extreme caution was thus the only prudent course, not least because pollsters warn us that a high percentage of audience members say they won’t be ready to attend indoor performances for months to come.
On the other hand, we do know a lot more than we did. It now appears, for instance, that it will be safe to attend outdoor performances this summer so long as social distancing and other protective measures are scrupulously enforced….
But what about concerts? New York’s Lincoln Center, for example, has long presented outdoor summertime performances both in its central plaza and in the 3,000-seat Guggenheim Bandshell of Damrosch Park, located in between the Metropolitan Opera House and the David H. Koch Theater. Henry Timms, Lincoln Center’s president, recently told the New York Times that he hopes to give outdoor performances “as soon as that is allowed.” In addition, a few other classical-music groups are starting to make similar plans of their own…
It will be a long time before music, theater and dance organizations are in a position to resume regularly scheduled public performances. Most likely it won’t happen anywhere in the country until October or November, if then. In the meantime, the pandemic will continue to put even the biggest and most solidly established performing-arts organizations in jeopardy. Everyone in the business fears for their future. Never has there been greater need to fly the flag of hope…
* * *Read the whole thing here.