COVID-19 restrictions loosen, theater company say it could be a while before return

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As the state of Minnesota prepares to rollback COVID-19 restrictions, theaters are eager for their shows to once again go on.

Beginning March 15, under Governor Walz’ new restriction rollbacks, indoor venues will be allowed to open at 50% capacity with no more than 250 people.

When the pandemic hit one year ago, everything was canceled. Shows were put on pause indefinitely while actors and crews were sent home with little notice. One year later and Minnesota theaters are one step closer to getting back to normal.

"Oh, it’s going to be great!" Lori Bunce said. She is the executive director of Bunce Performing Arts, a small community theater company that started in the Bunce family’s backyard in 2007. It’s grown into a community staple where all ages are able to perform a show each summer. But because of the pandemic, last year’s production was canceled. This year, because of loosened restrictions, the Bunces say the show will go on.

"We’re planning to do our summer show and it’s outside so we’ll just have to figure it out, how many people can come and how far apart, you know social distancing," she said.

The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis is just as eager to get back to doing what they love. But Kim Motes, the managing director, said opening up full productions is still a ways off.

"We need to be in an environment where our actors can sing, can dance, can act on stage and what we now know about COVID is it’s transmissible through aerosol. We need our actors to be able to express and for our backstage crews to be in close quarters together," Motes said.

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Not only are there still safety concerns for actors, backstage crews and audiences, but Motes said it’s also a financial decision. The majority of the theater’s revenue comes from ticket sales.

"It costs a lot for us to do live performances and to have the numbers of people that we have producing the shows that we produce and so that ticket revenue is critically important, so we need to be at 100% capacity in order to really be able to bring our full productions to life," Motes said.

It likely will be fall before the Children’s Theatre Company is able to bring back their live productions. But, Motes said the loosening restrictions is a positive sign.