Behind the Scenes Theatre Update on COVID-19
Lisa Condit, director of marketing and pr, and The Hanover Theatre’s president and CEO, Troy Siebels, discuss the possibility of outdoor events and changing to limited operating hours on this week’s Behind the Scenes program with WCRN 830AM and Talk of the Commonwealth. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune into WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
A Strong Partnership with the City of Worcester
Lisa: This has been a dynamic time for everybody, but certainly day to day things shift and change. I know that one of our callers in the past has said, “So, what’s the city of Worcester doing to help The Hanover Theatre while we’re closed, because the main stage is a phase 4 for the opening. Here today to help us answer that question is Troy Siebels.
Troy: We are really grateful to have a city that is a strong partner with us. I’m honored to be on a couple of reopening committees with the city, so I can be a part of those conversations. The interesting thing about this pandemic is that we’re all going through it at the same time, and there is nobody who’s not heavily impacted by it. The city’s got their own troubles. Really, what they’re doing right now is rolling up their sleeves to help think through how we’re going to come out of this and working with us. I also think we’re here for the city, too, and we need to find ways to help the whole city come out of this. The Hanover Theatre is going to be one of the hardest hit, for sure, and one of the last to come back, but we’ve got a lot of support and we will be back.
I’m also a part of the Business Improvement District downtown, and I don’t know if everyone’s seen the new flower baskets that have gone up. That organization is starting to come into its own now, and I think the ambassadors on the streets will become more visible, and do more beautification as well. There’s some parking signs and other things that organization is working on. We’re a piece of a big puzzle. There are a lot of people invested in making things happen.
Lisa: There’s a lot of partnership. It’s not like some of the larger cities where there’s a lot of competition. Worcester pulls together and tries to find creative solutions.
Social Distancing at the Theatre?
Troy: Social distancing is a piece that’s going to be hard for us to do as a theatre. In the long run, it’s just not possible for the kinds of things we do. We’re trying to be ready for the time when we can come back at our full capacity or something close to it. We are doing a lot to prioritize health when that time comes. We’ve already invested in some electrostatic disinfecting equipment that you can use to clean a space in about four hours between performances. The procedures we use out in front we’re going to retool to be touchless. There may be things like staggered arrival times, thermal cameras to pick up high temperatures. There’s a lot of things people would have considered invasive a few months ago that are now are not only expected, but essential.
The new BrickBox Theater is coming in this fall, and I’m sure we’ll be able to back in that space before the main stage, so there may be things we can do over there. Not necessarily the big blockbusters, but we could do some things to keep awareness and keep momentum going.
Outdoor Events Still Possible
Lisa: Starting with the smaller groups, it’s really helping to keep that vision of the theatre district to come alive. What about the outdoor opportunities like Jazz at Sunset? We were really hoping that we’d be able to do a July event. Obviously, it’s too soon. There are a lot of factors, and I think the jury’s still out.
Troy: We had initially planned with WICN for two of those events, and we’ve scaled back and cancelled the one we had thought about for July. We’re still hopeful for the one in August, but we’re going to hold off and make that decision as soon as we can. There are several pieces that have to be in place, and one of the big ones is the state has to allow us to do it. I do think they are going to relax those requirements with respect to outdoor events, where we can do a lot to make to sure the event is safe.
Feeling the Impact of COVID-19
Lisa: We’ll get more updates as time goes by. We’re looking forward to October as the earliest for that phase 4, and we’re still hopeful about Ricky Duran, but starting next week our box office hours are going down to Monday – Thursday, 10 AM – 2 PM.
Troy: We’ve got a big operation. There’s about 50 of us that are full time. This is a big hit for us. Being shut down for, at minimum, seven months. We have been able to take advantage of some federal CARES Act money. We are going down to a Workshare and we’re forced to do some furloughs next month. That is really difficult for me because we say and live that our people are our most wonderful asset. We have a beautiful building that is nothing without the people that make it work, but we have to, above all, protect our ability to reopen so we can come back strong.
Lisa: The theatre has a strong history of resiliency. I think information is power. If we know what we need to do for the future, we can at least have that as a goal.
Troy: At the end of the day we need to re-assert the reason we exist. There is nothing that matches the power of the live performing arts. Sitting in a space with the audience around you and the performer on stage, and being a part of the dialog back and forth. That is something that’s unmatched.