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A dark season ahead: Theaters look to 2021 as live performances are scratched this year

Theaters, venues and concert halls hold out hope for 2021 as their upcoming fall seasons are derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lines were memorized, choreography was ready, and the set was on the stage the day before opening night of the Palace Theater Youth Program’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

The 100 students who put work into the show were ready to go until the musical was postponed when opening day landed on Friday, March 27, the first weekend of the coronavirus stay-at-home order.

“It was going to be spectacular,” Palace Theater Executive Director Phillips Payson said. “These kids worked so hard and had such strong performances ready. ”

Since the end of March, the set has sat on the stage at the Palace Theater, and the kids have been rehearsing their lines over Zoom, a video conferencing app.

The plan is to put on the play as soon as possible — which may be in 2021.

“It’s impossibly difficult to make any plans right now,” Payson said. “We have a couple plans bookmarked for 2021, but we’re not holding out hope for 2020.”

To give the youth program something to do while they wait to put on their show, Larry Reitzer, director of the youth theater program, has put together a lecture series for students to attend over Zoom.

Broadway performers, writers, TV producers and other entertainment industry professionals have talked to the youth program and given them insight on the elusive career path.

“This helps make up for the fact they can’t perform their show,” Payson said. “This series has created a foundation for a lot of kids that are interested in continuing entertainment.”

Since closing at the end of March, the Palace Theater has made renovations to the outer façade of the building. Fresh paint was applied to all the doors and signs, lights have been reinstalled, and new stucco has been put all over the front of the building.

“We wanted to spend this time doing renovations we’ve been planning for a long time now,” Payson said. “This theater means a lot for so many on the island, and I know many are happy to see the building get restored.”

As the theater’s closure has been extended, Palace has implemented new programming to supplement the missing live performances.

‘Live from the Empty Palace Theater’ is a taped, live performance that is recorded from the stage at the theater. The series features Big Island talent and is showcased on the website.

“This gives performers the opportunity to engage with audiences and audiences have to ability to see something live,” Payson said. “This is our way of interacting with the community over social media and giving performers an opportunity to showcase their talent.”

Palace has the series of dancers, musicians, aerial performers, a comedian and a juggler available to view on their virtual venue. The website also features movies available to rent that cannot be found on streaming services.

The University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center has officially canceled all performances through Dec. 31.

The center is home to an extensive and culturally diverse year-round season of local, regional, national and international performing arts events. A typical year includes more than 150 performances of dance, drama, music, mime, children’s shows, lectures and special events.

“For people that create and share their talents for the community, this has become frustrating,” Lee Dombroski said. “Our mission has been stunted for a year, which is difficult.”

Dombroski manages the Performing Arts Center and has a hand in booking talent throughout the year.

“I’m happy that my team and I listened to ourselves and shifted our focus to next spring,” Dombroski said. “I’m still holding out hope that we can have performances in 2021.”

Dombroski is working on finding a way to engage with the community and people who are missing live performances.

“Some people are happy to watch things over Zoom, and some don’t feel the same way,” Dombroski said. “Seeing a live performance is a personal thing, and many people are missing that.”

Although they aren’t planning on any performances in 2020, Dombroski is grateful to have support from the community.

“Hilo is vibrant with arts, culture and performances, so I know how hard it is for people that like coming to shows,” Dombroski said. “We appreciate the people hanging in there while we try to find some semblance of normalcy.”

Tom Geballe, president of the Hawaii Concert Society, is not giving up on having a season just yet.

“I don’t necessarily think we’ll have a show this year, but we have not given up on 2021,” Geballe said.

The Hawaii Concert Society works with musicians around the world to bring them to Hilo. Each year brings a new slew of talent to the Big Island.

All 2020 acts have canceled or postponed until 2021.

Geballe is hoping to set up a live Zoom performance to give something back to the Hawaii Concert Society members.

“We want to do something involving a trio from Denmark,” Geballe said. “They would have to start playing at 7 a.m. over Zoom in Copenhagen, which could prove difficult.”

Geballe is hoping they can work out the kinks in Zoom, so there is potential for people to see a live, albeit virtual, performance.

However, her admits a performance online is hard to compare to live music in-person.

“Live music can be a really special, intimate moment for people to experience in-person,” Geballe said. “There is nothing like it and it’s greatly missed.”

Email Kelsey Walling at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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