Live theater left out of state's COVID-19 restrictions

The California Department of Public Health is saying that live performances cannot happen indoors until the county has passed through all the color-coded tiers, leaving community theater companies frustrated.

Posted: Mar 17, 2021 6:20 PM
Updated: Mar 18, 2021 9:04 AM

CHICO, Calif. - Live theaters are waiting for the day they can return to the stage.

The Chico Theater Company took its final bow indoors on March 15, 2020.

Mark Edson, executive director of Chico Theater Company, never expected his doors to still be closed.

"We kept thinking that we'll be back in three weeks, we'll be back May 1, we'll be back in July and now it's a year later and we are still not back," said Edson.

Some theaters have switched to virtual productions, but Edson said this is just not the same.

"Live theater is looking into someone’s eyes that is really right there in front of you," Edson said.

They have put on some outdoor productions behind their building, but say nothing compares to the atmosphere inside the theater.

After over a year of being dark, theater companies are waiting for the day that they can welcome the community back through their doors.

Counties need to be in the orange tier for live performances to happen indoors at 20% capacity and can operate at 25% capacity indoors in the yellow tier.

This does not make sense to smaller community theaters.

"They are lumping theaters like the Orpheum in San Francisco that has 1,400 seats to our theater that has 200 seats,” said Edson. “We don't compare in any way."

Edson now spends most of his time in the theater applying for grants and is hopeful to receive some funds from the Save Our Stages act, but the loss revenue from being closed has been huge.

"We were getting up to almost 500,000 dollars in annual revenue and then last year it dropped to 24,000 dollars,” Edson told Action News Now.

He would like to get back to the energy that is live theater as soon as possible.

The Chico Theater Company is starting rehearsals for another outdoor show that they hope to perform in May.

Edson also said he is hopeful, as James Gallagher is pushing for the state to eliminate all COVID-colored tiers and is asking for counties to decide how to safely reopen.

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