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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

The Performing Arts Return To San Diego

Speaker 1: 00:00 As restrictions are lifted and the region takes a giant step towards normalcy. We're going to take a closer look at the performing arts industry in San Diego for the last year and a half almost opportunities to reopen or recreate the audience experience online have been limited. Many performers have been out of work, but joining me is KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dickson Evans. To take a look at the transition back to in-person events, new challenges as venues start welcoming audiences back and whether or not you'll be seeing masks on the people sitting next to you. Welcome Julia. Speaker 2: 00:35 Hi Jay. Thanks for having me, Speaker 1: 00:38 Julia. What's your sense of how these places are feeling now that shows are coming back. The excitement and relief must be palpable. Speaker 2: 00:46 It really is, but for a lot of the groups I've been speaking with, it's not entirely a relief, not just financially, but there's a lot of healing and trauma. A lot of artists are going to have to contend with here's Barry Edelstein from the old globe, Speaker 3: 01:04 Something like 600,000 Americans died of this pandemic. Um, there was tremendous economic hardship around the country and the state and here in San Diego and indeed in the community of people who worked for the old globe and in the artistic community of the American theater in particular. So the joy is not on a lawyer Speaker 2: 01:25 And theaters and dance companies are also contending with trying to reflect on their stage where they are in terms of social and racial justice too. Here's Christopher Ashley, who is artistic director at the LA Jolla Playhouse, who, who spoke to this, Speaker 3: 01:42 The anti-racist commitments that we've made as a theater really very much play into how we all come back together. The kinds of stories we tell and how we make sure that, um, BiPAP artists and audience members feel fully taken care of, um, listened to supported Speaker 1: 02:01 In live music venues like soda bar Casbah or the observatory. The reality of these venues is standing room only general admission ticketing, a sellout crowd can mean shoulder to shoulder with strangers. What will the reality be? Post social distancing there? Speaker 2: 02:17 Yeah, I mean much earlier in the pandemic, there were ideas around roundabout adding chairs to these floors, but that's just not feasible. Corey Steere, who is partner and talent buyer at soda bar said that they can only do full capacity. I asked him a little bit more about this. Speaker 3: 02:36 We're not able to operate in any other way really. That's why we haven't reopened. Like we've waited until this time. So we opened because, you know, financially, it just wouldn't make sense for us. We'd be better off clubs. Speaker 2: 02:50 And they're also still working out all sorts of other details. Like whether they'll have smartphone ordering capabilities for the bar or how they'll use barstools and they still have another month to go before their first scheduled show at soda bar. So there's some time Speaker 1: 03:06 Across the board. We're looking at a lot of uncertainty and confusion from our audiences about whether places will require proof of vaccines or whether audiences will be required to wear masks. What do we know so far from the venues? Speaker 2: 03:20 Yeah. A lot of these venues are still really up in the air in terms of capacity, in terms of masks and the old glove. They don't have actual seats for sale yet you can still, you can already get season tickets for the season that they've announced to start in August LA Jolla Playhouse also has to follow the lead of the UC system. They're on the campus of UC San Diego. And they said that they have budgeted in a way that means they can socially distance in audiences, if that is still required. And they said that they're not releasing a seating chart yet until they have a better sense of what their audiences are willing to do and what the restrictions are. One place that was pretty clear on, on masks and social distancing was San Diego theaters. They're the commercial group that operates the civic theater and the Balboa theater. So their clients are places like Broadway, San Diego, the San Diego opera. And they also book individual touring musicians. I spoke to the president and CEO of San Diego theaters. That's Carol Wallace here. She has Speaker 3: 04:27 On all of our industry calls in. We've talked about, uh, are you doing any kind of mass mandate? Uh, and we're not, um, you know, are you requiring vaccinations? And we're not. Um, so we're open at full capacity. Yeah. Speaker 1: 04:43 And what kind of shows are we seeing scheduled are places struggling to have material or performances to actually put on the stages? Speaker 2: 04:52 Yeah, so for live music, the early bookings we're seeing are pretty local. Uh, but as we get later in the summer, we will see touring acts that are starting to travel around the country. So at soda bar, they're kicking things off on July 16th with locals Mrs. Magician, and the following week, they have Danny bell on the town test. And in the theater I had asked LA Jolla Playhouse is Christopher Ashley. If they're going to see a slow start while all of these productions can be put together to bring to the stage, Speaker 3: 05:26 No, we had a season announced that we had to hold on. So we've got many plays that we were sort of already ready to go with. And in addition, I mean, every artist I know has written three new plays Speaker 2: 05:41 And LA Jolla Playhouse is also kicking off the season with three world premiers. They have the garden in late September, November is a play called the yellow house, which is, uh, a van Gogh story and a musical banging it, which will be in March. But before they do full productions, they're going to have their DNA new work series, the play readings that's next month. And they also have a free outdoor pop-up show. Their pop-up wow of short plays. That's going to be August at the outdoor stage in Liberty station and San Diego theaters. They said that it will be awhile maybe after the new year before they're operating a full volume of shows. They're going to start with just two in August. They have blues rock guitarist, Joe Bonamassa, there's crossover, violin, electronic artists, and YouTube or Lindsey Sterling. And then several more in the fall. There's going to be some standup comedians and then Broadway, we'll start with hairspray in mid November. And they'll also have a Nutcracker in December and at the old globe, they're starting this weekend with outdoor cabaret style performances on their festival stage. And we're also going to see a production of hair in August on the outdoor stage. Also their first indoor shows will be globe commissioned world premier musical, the gardens of an unseen that's in September and shutter. Sisters will be a world premier also in October. Speaker 1: 07:11 And as we've heard, there's a hunger in arts communities to get back to live audiences and experienced performances the way we used to. But do you have a sense of whether that anticipation is actually turning into ticket sales? Speaker 2: 07:25 It really is. At least for now as this first wave of tickets are going on sale. And here's Carol Wallace again with San Diego theater Speaker 3: 07:34 And we can only open at full capacity. So all the events that we have scheduled are at full capacity and ticket sales are brisk. Uh, you just would not believe a show would go on sale and immediately, uh, you see hundreds of tickets sold within a few hours and, uh, so much so that some of our clients are adding second shows immediately. Speaker 1: 07:58 I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor and producer, Julia Dixon, Evan who recently checked in with Barry Edelstein at the old globe, Cory steer it's soda bar, Carol Wallace at San Diego theaters and Christopher Ashley at the LA Jolla Playhouse. Thanks Julia. Speaker 2: 08:14 Thanks for having me Jade. We also wanted to know how San Diego gins are feeling about returning to in-person events. Now that San Diego is back open, will you go to concerts plays and other arts events with live audiences? And we heard from lots of you. Here's the selection. Speaker 3: 08:34 My name is Richard chow Davis, and I live in San Carlos. I'm unsure. Uh, I suspect we will be closed down within a month because of, uh, pools of unvaccinated and variance. Most other nations seem to have done the same. I mean, they open too early and, uh, then they just to close again. So I'm afraid we're jumping the gun. My name is forest Taylor and I live in camp Pendleton. I am about to go event crazy. I feel great about the vaccine. And honestly, not that concerned about people who've refused to get it yet. They made their call not going to spit on anyone, but you better believe I'm going to be dancing with strangers. I just purchased Broadway tickets today. So my name is Elena Barta Cova. And in terms of arts and events that are opening up now in San Diego, where I leave, um, the question being, would I participate to any? Speaker 3: 09:33 Um, my answer is, I mean, I would, but very cautiously. I want, I would like to go to events such as concerts and plays. I love theater and music, but going into a closed space, especially with children that are not vaccinated yet, and that are cannot be vaccinated due to the age. I wouldn't do it. If anything, I'd be more cautious than less, because now we have no way of knowing who's vaccinated and people will start removing their masks. And until we reach herd immunity, which is the magical 70 plus percent vaccinated number, my children are now in more danger than they were before. Since now everybody will be unmasked and the transmission could actually go well. So I will be very cautious. I'll take them to the park to play outside, but we are not going to the cinema yet. Hi, my name is Dylan Cawthorne. Um, I'm, I'm definitely really excited to return to live music and show my support for bands that are coming through and local venues like the Casbah soda bar and brick by brick. Um, I definitely don't feel more comfortable at venues that have a mask policy, but I don't really anticipate canceling plans because of, uh, certain venues policies at this point, Speaker 2: 10:51 I'm Eve gross. My pronouns are she and her and I live in San Diego, California. I'd be happy to go to any live performances if they're outdoors or in a large well ventilated space. If indoors capacity would have to be limited quite a bit for me to feel comfortable. Um, my concern is that the vaccine isn't protecting us against other variants or when our vaccine actually wears off. If we go back to the way things were with full capacity, we could have a really bad spike of the virus again. And I don't want to get caught up in that also as a musician in a band, I'm a singer. So I would only want to play outdoor shows. That's the only thing that would make me feel comfortable. Speaker 3: 11:37 My name's Anthony King, I live in Hillcrest. I'm eager to be in person to support the artistic community in our region. Again, I know there are certainly many benefits to virtual or recorded events, but for me, really, nothing can be cheering on the musicians and actors and writers and artists while being the audience. Speaker 4: 11:54 I'm probably going to be a little bit nervous in larger groups, especially endorse. Um, but really I trust the vaccines and I know that that's what they're for. When I'm feeling super stressed, I can always put on a mask, but I know that a mask won't be able to hide my excitement.

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As California lifts pandemic restrictions on crowds and social distancing, San Diego performance venues prepare for a long-awaited return of live audiences.
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