The pandemic has been harsh on theatres, with performances canceled and closures bringing schedules to a grinding halt. Theatre is notoriously adaptive, though, and as life slowly returns to normal, these venues have been forced to adjust to survive.
#1 Cost cutting
Decreased ticket sales and the cancellation of shows have placed an unprecedented financial burden on theatres. Lockdowns are costly, and theatres have had to get creative with their cost-cutting measures. Saving money in-house can mean reduced opening times and even reduced set sizes in some cases. These can be worrying times for artists and freelancers, and as theatres scale back, it’s inevitable that some will lose out.
Theatres have looked to their foundations to save money, too. This has involved taking a closer look at their business models and saving money on the ground. Reassessing energy usage and suppliers have played an important role. Some theatres have even changed how their water is supplied, using comparison tools like Utility Bidder to find cheaper tariffs. The pandemic has encouraged theatres to reassess from the ground up. Changing water and energy tariffs has been one way to cut costs, sometimes quite dramatically.
#2 Going virtual
Virtual shows were very much the flavor of the pandemic, with the National Theatre shifting a whole program online. As vaccines bring the pandemic under control and life returns to something resembling normal, theatres won’t necessarily wind down their online shows completely. There’s still a long way to go before venues can operate at full capacity, and streaming shows online (even if those shows also have a physical audience) is a fantastic way for the arts to adapt.
Zoom plays proved particularly popular over the course of the pandemic and showed the resilience of theatres in extreme circumstances. Online theatre opens up a whole new way to reach audiences, as well as a range of creative angles. Although nothing can match the immediacy of an auditorium show, virtual performances bring theatre to people who might not otherwise have attended. Rather than a disadvantage, virtual theatre is viewed by many as an opportunity to break new ground.
#3 Covid compliant events
Even as theatres reopen, there remain in place a whole range of Covid protocols that affect nearly every aspect of the performance. Many venues now demand a recent negative test to attend, and reduced audience sizes mean lots of empty spaces. Theatres are adapting with spaces between seats for the time being, so auditoriums feel a little different from how they did pre-pandemic.
Visitors must leave contact details so that they can be traced should there be an outbreak, and mask-wearing is compulsory in most indoor settings. Some venues even perform temperature checks as audience members file in, and long gone are the days of socialising in the foyer. Crowds are carefully managed with additional queueing outside buildings and careful disbursement inside. It all makes for a radically different experience, but the survival of theatre, and the staging of new shows, is proof of how adaptable the arts are.