Performing art centers looking to welcome back entertainers, spectators


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For everyone, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people’s daily lives one way or another. Whether it changed how they did their jobs or spent their family time, everyday life has been flipped on its head thanks to the Coronavirus. 

That statement couldn’t ring more true for the performing arts community. Shows haven’t been put on since last March and while theaters have been finding ways to get creative during the pandemic, they haven’t been able to have their venues at full capacity. Until now. 

Most health orders in the state of Ohio were officially lifted on Wednesday, which gives venue operators the choice to do what they want when it comes to restrictions for COVID, such as wearing masks and social distancing. 

David Mitchell is the general manager of the Performing Arts Center at Kent State University at Tuscarawas in New Philadelphia and he says that he has been waiting for this day for over a year. 

“We do business expos, we do weddings in the lobby, we do a lot more than what’s put on the stage. So with the capacity restrictions being lifted, it enables us to get back to doing what we do,” he said.

Mitchell has been the general manager at the Performing Arts Center for nearly six years and he explains that the challenges he’s dealt with this year has been nothing like he’s ever had to deal with. 

“The biggest challenge that we had to overcome were the rule changes and sometimes it almost seemed like we were playing a different game. So we would plan for something and then it would change so we could adjust,” Mitchell said. “We would reschedule shows, readjust our safety procedures, and then things would change again. Everything was constantly moving and we would constantly readjust.” 

The summer lineup will be announced on June 12 outside the Performing Arts Center in an event that Mitchell hopes and believes will bring the community together. 

“The event starts at 6:00 and it’s free and open to the public. Everybody can bring their own lawn chairs, we’re going to have live music with two different live bands going in, we’re going to have food trucks outside the parking lot and enjoy that live experience and that feeling of community again that we’ve all been kind of missing surrounding the arts and just experiencing that together,” he said. 

Georgia Paxos is the Executive Director of the Canton Palace Theatre and she says that the Palace has had to adjust to different ways of doing business during the pandemic. 

“Our lobby has always been tight and that didn’t change during COVID but the way we handle concessions did change,” Paxos said. “We instituted a pre-order ability and when seating was spaced apart, we were able to take that concession order and put it directly in that seat. So when you got there, your concessions were waiting for you.” 

Paxos was doubtful about whether or not the pandemic would reach a point where COVID restrictions would be lifted, however she feels thankful that everyone did their part to get to this point. 

“There were some days where I didn’t think we were going to get to this point where there were going to be no restrictions and that we’ll be open at 100 percent and be able to do the shows and concerts that we love doing here,” she said. “So I’m thankful and relieved that we all stayed healthy so fingers crossed that continues on.” 

After 15 months of wondering and worry, it’s finally time for the curtains to go up on performances in Stark and Tuscarawas County.