by Neve Kelley

As Broadway opens back up in New York City, local performing arts groups are navigating the post-COVID-19 world.

COVID-19 completely shut down Broadway and many other performance avenues resulting in performers having a great deal of uncertainty about their futures. Regional productions and national tours were stopped, leaving dancers, singers, directors, ushers, and more out of work. In estimate, 97,000 full-time employees in this industry lost their jobs—and that’s only in New York City (NBC News). Recently, though, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Broadway’s return coming in September, which gives these entertainers a new hope.

Producers have said that this reopening will be like starting a new show from scratch (The New York Times). Many cast members have left over the course of the past year and will need their roles recast. Likewise, returning cast members will have to completely re-learn music and choreography, orchestra members will have to re-learn scores, and many more obstacles will be faced. But cast members and productions staff are anxious and excited to return to the stage and ready to overcome each challenge.

Of the first to return, on September 14th, are fan favorites like Wicked, The Lion King, Chicago, and Hamilton (Broadway.com). Additionally, the Civic Center here in Peoria is known for hosting touring theatre productions, which why the shutdown hits so close to home despite our 922-mile distance from Broadway. The Civic Center had an exciting 2020 season planned, including BEAUTIFUL the Carole King Musical and the Blue Man Group, but that season inevitably was canceled. However, in light of Broadway’s reopening, the Civic Center has announced their 2021-2022 season that will open with BEAUTIFUL on November 23, 2021. Hairspray, Blue Man Group, and An Evening with Renee Elise Goldsberry are a few of the other performances the community has to look forward to.

Community theatre here in Peoria is also in the process of reopening. Chip Joyce, the Vice President on Corn Stock Theatre’s Board of Directors, has been very involved in the reopening process while also preparing to direct several shows in the coming months. Joyce says that both Corn Stock Theatre and Peoria Players Theatre plan to follow the CDC recommendations that are in place. “Because of the amount of time it takes to plan a season of shows, it is very difficult when the rules are everchanging,” he says. Joyce notes that at this time, Corn Stock shows will operate at 60% capacity, with smaller casts who are staged differently as to have cast members further from the audience. Despite the limitations, Joyce is excited and optimistic about the return of live theatre “I encourage everyone to go back and see live theatre as soon as you have the first opportunity!” He adds, “People went out of their way to be very supportive to servers and restaurants back when they were closed and could only do takeout, and now is the time to extend that same generosity to your favorite theatres!”

Read more about Broadway’s shutdown and reopening:
Broadway.com
NBC News
USA Today

About Neve Kelley

Neve Kelley and is an International Baccalaureate student at Richwoods High School. In addition to being in an academically rigorous program, she is heavily involved in community and school theatre productions. Kelley takes private voice lessons, training in musical theatre and opera, and has been involved in choir and madrigals. Kelley is also a writer for the news section of the school paper, a Student Council senator, in various school clubs, and active in community service. Most Recently, she became a volunteer for Her Drive, a nonprofit aimed at providing bras, mensural products, and general hygiene products to help end period poverty. As part of that effort, she hosted a month-long drive in Peoria to help those in need.

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