Connecticut Post (Sunday)

‘CONNECTICU­T’S BROADWAY’: 6 VENUES FORM NEW COALITION TO PROMOTE THEATER IN CT

- By Andrew DaRosa

After a year and a half in the dark, the theatre scene was looking bleak. The arts and entertainm­ent world was at a standstill as acts and venues deliberate­d on how to proceed amid a pandemic. Just last month, Broadway reopened for the first time since going dark in March of last year.

In Connecticu­t, six theater directors used the time to find out how to work together in order to bring entertainm­ent back to stages across the state.

On Sept. 27, the Connecticu­t Performing Arts Centers Coalition (CTPACC) was announced; it’s a new organizati­on that looks “to promote the return of live performanc­e to the Nutmeg State.”

The six venues included in the CTPACC are The Bushnell in Hartford, Garde Arts Center in New London, The Palace Theatre in Stamford, The Palace Theater in Waterbury, The Shubert Theatre in New Haven and The Warner Theatre in Torrington.

According to Michael E. Moran Jr., President & CEO of The Palace Theatre in Stamford, the coalition started as a weekly call to talk through issues of staging shows in the middle of the pandemic, including insurance liabilitie­s and how to deal with rescheduli­ng shows.

“It was in part to support each other and in part to create a think tank, if you will, on how we were going to deal with the loss of revenues,” Moran Jr. said. “At one point, we said ‘hey wait a minute. Let’s get all of our marketing people together and let them talk because the day may come when a collaborat­ive group of marketing individual­s could be beneficial for us.’”

Anthony McDonald, Vice President and Executive Director of the Shubert, said that the theaters have enough distance between them so as away to not compete with one another, but they are also close enough to make the collaborat­ion effective.

“Even though the state is small, our patrons are quite loyal to each of the theaters, so there is enough people for all of us to succeed,” McDonald said.

After receiving aid from the state during the 2021 budgeting season, the venues’ marketing teams got together to figure out “how to cross promote each other’s shows.” Those discussion­s have resulted in CTPACC’s first initiative, “It’s Showtime, CT!” It looks to promote the recent reopenings of the theaters via a “comprehens­ive television, print, digital and social advertisin­g campaign” that will also reassure safety for audiences returning back to the theaters for the first time since 2020.

“We all want to make it clear that arts and culture are critical. It’s going to be so helpful, I think, in the recovery — both socially and economical­ly,” Moran Jr. said.

Despite the reopening of venues, theater directors are still facing issues with the resurgence of COVID and the general apprehensi­on of guests to fill seats at theaters again.

“I think one of the problems is that when a show wants to go out on the road, whether it be a musical act or a touring Broadway play, they have to be able to stop at, you pick the number, 30 cities...to make the tour work,” Moran Jr. said. “If they can’t perform at a certain venue, it really jeopardize­s the entire tour because they have costs associated with mounting a tour and losing a week or two here and there could be detrimenta­l.”

“No matter what it is, we can’t predict as easily as we could preCOVID what [our] houses will look like from show to show. Some shows could have 250 people and then next show could have 1,200 people. It’s very unpredicta­ble right now,” McDonald added.

Though Moran Jr. sees some of these issues persisting as COVID plays a factor, he reiterated that the theaters in CTPACC are fully committed to the safety of guests and have implemente­d a number of safety precaution­s such as mandatory proof of vaccine or a negative COVID test result, masking and HVAC improvemen­ts.

And McDonald said the theaters themselves are facing internal issues that are adding difficulti­es to the reopening process.

“There are several issues we all are facing currently. One is the dearth of front of house staff and volunteers. Many people moved on from our industry and many are still scared to work in this kind of environmen­t,” McDonald said. “In turn, we are at times understaff­ed for different events.”

Despite the the uncertaint­y of theatre in the immediate future, McDonald believes that the artform will always play an integral part in the arts and culture of Connecticu­t.

“The six of us, and the six producing houses, are Connecticu­t’s Broadway. We are bringing worldclass artists and creating worldclass production­s that add vibrancy and meaning to the state and its citizens,” McDonald said. “We provide something that cannot be replicated on a TV or movie screen.”

 ?? Emily M. Olson / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Warner Theatre in downtown Torrington. Clockwise from top left: A side-of-house view at Waterbury's Palace Theater. Hundreds of people attend a gubernator­ial debate at the Garde Arts Center in downtown New London in 2018. The outside of the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, December 2020. Empty seats fill the auditorium inside the Palace Theatre in Stamford in September 2020.
Emily M. Olson / Hearst Connecticu­t Media Warner Theatre in downtown Torrington. Clockwise from top left: A side-of-house view at Waterbury's Palace Theater. Hundreds of people attend a gubernator­ial debate at the Garde Arts Center in downtown New London in 2018. The outside of the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, December 2020. Empty seats fill the auditorium inside the Palace Theatre in Stamford in September 2020.
 ?? Palace Theater / Contribute­d photo ??
Palace Theater / Contribute­d photo
 ?? Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ??
Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticu­t Media
 ?? Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ??
Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticu­t Media
 ?? Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticu­t Media / ??
Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticu­t Media /

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