In this week’s Wall Street Journal “Sightings” column I write about the likely effects of social distancing on the arts in America. Here’s an excerpt.
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With Labor Day in the rear-view mirror, attention is turning to the fall season, the time when arts organizations announce their plans for the year to come and Hollywood rolls out “prestige” movies and TV series…only it’s not happening in 2020. Because of the pandemic, live theater is almost entirely shut down, as are most movie theaters. Ballet companies everywhere have scrapped “The Nutcracker,” the cash cow that pays their bills for the rest of the year, and museums are leaving up the exhibitions that were on display in March.
Yes, the art world is trying to sound optimistic, but the writing on the wall consists of two ominous words: social distancing. New York’s newly reopened Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art are admitting only 25% of their regular foot traffic. The Houston Symphony reopens its 2,900-seat concert hallthis Saturday, but it will play for only 150 people, while the Dallas Symphony is offering programs by “smaller orchestral ensembles” to be performed for audiences of no more than 75 in its 2,062-seat hall.
While the prospects for 2021 may seem more encouraging, appearances are deceiving. Chicago’s Writers Theatre announced a truncated four-play season—but warned that “we do not plan to produce in our theatres until early 2021 at the soonest.” The catch lies in those last three words. The same conjectural specificity applies to San Francisco Ballet, which plans to resume performances on Jan. 19. But the title of the 2021 season is “Take a Leap of Faith,” and it isn’t hard to guess what that means. If you’re planning to subscribe, remember that you’re being asked to “take a leap of faith” and trust that the pandemic will have gone away by opening night. As for Broadway’s 41 theaters, some insiders are now saying that they may not reopen until the fall of 2021.
Could it be that social distancing will lead to the end of the arts as we know them?…
* * *Read the whole thing here.