ST. LOUIS – As more people get COVID-19 vaccinations, many are itching to get back to going out. Local venues and arts organizations are ready to accommodate.
“It’s really been just astonishing and humbling, the amount of demand we have seen for what we have to offer,” said Ahn Le, director of marketing and public relations at Opera Theatre Saint Louis.
Opera Theatre is back for 2021 and performances are already selling out. But while so much is the same, so much is also different.
“I feel like we’re flying the plane as we’re building it. We’ve contracted a stage. We’ve never rented a stage before.,” Le said. “We are building entirely new policies around keeping our audiences and our artists safe. We have to figure out how to light a stage when it will not be dark at the time the performance starts.”
Opera Theatre is taking all performances outside. Casts are smaller. Performances shorter. Seating is in distanced pods. All decisions made with the help of local health professionals. Now they just hope the weather cooperates.
“We are certainly praying and hoping there’ll be less rain in May and June this season. But it is St. Louis. It is Missouri. It is the spring,” he said. “We know there will be some evening with inclement weather.
While preparing for the weather is new to some, the minds behind the Shakespeare Festival St. Louis knows the forecast can be friend or foe.
“Well, that we have a lot of experience with,” said Tom Ridgely, producing artistic director with Shakespeare Festival St. Louis.
Shakespeare Festival has been hosting outside performances in Forest Park for 20 seasons. Whatever Mother Nature throws at them, they’re just happy to be back.
“Just to be back rehearsing a play again after over a year is such an incredible feeling,” Ridgely said.
Performances of “King Lear” kick off June 2, but COVID-19 has dictated some changes.
“We’ve got to keep safety the top of the list. So that means the Glen will be arranged in pods for up to six people and you’ll need a reservation,” Ridgely said. “There are still plenty of free pods available that folks can grab. But those will be put on-sale so-to-speak on the Mondays of each week.”
At City Foundry in Midtown, their popular concert series in partnership with Jamo Presents has moved outdoors to accommodate more people.
“When you’re in your pod outside, we allow you to take your mask off. So, it’s nice to be outside again. Indoors, it was not the same story,” said Drew Jameson, Jamo Presents.
Shows have been selling out. Measures are in place to keep attendees COVID-19 safe starting with tickets sold in seated group pods. Masks are required if you leave your pod and all orders are placed using your mobile device.
“If you’re on the fence, you haven’t been out and about yet,” Jameson said. We pride ourselves on our safety plans.”
Everyone we spoke with said they can’t wait to get back to what they do best.
“This return feels very long overdue and extremely welcome,” said Opera Theatre’s Ahn Le.
“People are hungry. The appetite is large,” adds Shakespeare Festival’s Tom Ridgely.