Show Stopper

Performing groups grapple with closures, financial setbacks, lost preparation

Posted 4/1/20

When West Valley recreation centers closed their doors and social gatherings were restricted, actions taken as a precautionary measure against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), many residents …

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Show Stopper

Performing groups grapple with closures, financial setbacks, lost preparation


When West Valley recreation centers closed their doors and social gatherings were restricted, actions taken as a precautionary measure against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), many residents found their daily routines upended. They weren’t able to meet with their friends and neighbors; they weren’t able to work on their latest craft project; they weren’t able to play their favorite games.

For some, however, the sudden stoppage of activity also took a different sort of toll, particularly affecting the performing groups that depend on rehearsal time and rely on ticketed events: concerts, theatrical performances, dance lessons and the like. This to say nothing of the assorted individuals paid for more technical aspects of any given production.

“In short,” stated Shelley Logan, choir director for the Westbrook Village Voices, “we have essentially lost the revenue for an entire show and half of the revenue for our season. That can be $5,000 or more.”

For the Voices, the termination of its spring show had not only a definite financial impact on its 2019-20 season but it affected the instrumentalists and local sound engineers typically hired.

“Everything is a domino effect,” stated Ms. Logan.

John Ashton, president of the Hillcrest Dance and Social Club, also acknowledged the manifold jolt of these widespread cancellations, especially as they relate to the varied parties involved.

“Hillcrest, along with its dance attendees, is anxious to get back on the dance floor,” he stated. “We hurt badly for all who are impacted by health or financial issues. Financially, as a club, we continue to have fixed costs and we are not receiving revenue to offset that. Our biggest financial hit is complying with contracts for our musicians and dance instructors. Those contracts say that if cancellation is needed (for any reason) sooner than 30 days of performance, we have to pay these contractors whatever they would have received had they performed. For Hillcrest that is nearly $2,000 per month. We all wait with baited breath for our next dance.”

Although the closures happened in relatively quick order, signs of impending obstruction were on the horizon.

“Our first inkling of any problems came around the first week of March,” stated Sun City Choraliers media liaison Bob Geiger. “One of our senior living concert sites called to say that we needed to show up early so that we could individually verify that no one had a temperature or felt sick. By the next week or so they called back to cancel, since they had also canceled all large group gatherings.”

Another venue called to cancel during the second week of March, and while the Choraliers were still hoping to perform at their big public concert March 18, less than a week before the concert day, the hosting church called to say that all services and activities had been canceled at least through May 11.

“The two remaining concerts were also at senior living sites and we anticipated the cancellation of those as well,” stated Mr. Geiger. “After a couple phone calls, we reluctantly canceled the remainder of our spring 2020 season.”

Even though they are not facing an exceptional financial burden, Mr. Geiger said the Choraliers still had a significant income loss from the cancellation of five of their total seven concerts.

“When compared to last spring’s full season, we estimate that the loss of income from the five canceled 2020 concerts to be about $2,600,” he observed. “Although we’re not in any immediate financial trouble, the shortage will have a negative impact on our ability to purchase new music and update any concert outfits or props. Not to mention the hours of hard work by our dedicated choir members, both at home working on their parts, and at all our weekly rehearsals and sectionals since the beginning of January. It’s very fulfilling to be able to inspire or at least brighten the day for our audiences, especially at senior living centers. So, this was not a very uplifting way to end our spring season.”

Mr. Geiger also noted that members were unable to hold their last rehearsal, usually reserved for a quick “run through/preview of songs” for their future fall/winter concert series, and since their music storage room at the Fairway center is inaccessible during the closure, they can’t put together the new fall/winter music to pass out to members wanting to prepare over the summer.

“Hopefully, the coronavirus and all the uncertainty that comes with it is all cleared up before our fall/winter 2020 season,” Mr Geiger stated “Although we’ve lined up a lot of good music for a wonderful winter concert series, it’s tough to make arrangements for entertainment next December when we, and our venues, aren’t even sure what’s happening next week.”

For the Westernaires Chorus of Sun City West, their biggest loss was the nine weeks of rehearsal time and preparation, the four weeks of rehearsing that was canceled and the four canceled performances.

“Needless to say,” stated member Char Kozlowski, “the time spent by the director, instrumentalists and the behind-the-scenes preparations were also a huge loss. Because the Westernaires decided to present a similar concert in the spring of 2021 when the closures were announced, the high cost of selecting new music will not affect the budget.”

Their members were also making plans to sing through the summer, in order to, as Ms. Kozlowski comments, maintain their voices for the fall season and to entertain the independent and assisted living facilities in the community. Now, they’re not sure if even that will be possible.

Donna Schwitz, president of the Classic Rock club, confirms that the safety of club members and guests is the group’s number one priority, and when the recreation centers re-open and their executive board unanimously agrees, they will resume their dances. But in the meantime, groups like the Drama Club in Sun City Grand had to adjust their 2020-21 schedule, which now includes a slate of five shows from October to April.

“The season schedule will include the current cast and crew and will reconvene ... and quickly get up to speed,” stated Drama Club member Ruth Ann Carpenter. “Although we hope these changes will hold going forward, they are only as fixed as our ability to predict the future and as you know, future coronavirus protocols are still unclear.”

In Sun City West, the Rhythm Tappers section of DanceSensations was busy preparing for its November show.

“With classes canceled,” stated member Jan Capperauld, “we aren’t able to practice any routines nor can we learn any new ones. It will be a real crunch for getting numbers learned and polished for November. We had intended to announce auditions in April for outside talent for the show, so clearly that’s on hold.”

Still, Ms. Capperauld maintains an optimistic outlook, despite the financial impediments and time restraints.

“These shows are a major source of our income that helps us afford outstanding teachers to prepare us for those shows,” she stated. “And, of course, those great teachers are without income from us until we’re able to get back into the dance room. The effect of the closures on us is tremendous, but there is nothing as important as everyone’s health and safety. The day will come when we can resume our dance classes and we’ll just work extra hard to produce a show that makes us proud!”

The Westbrook Village Voices are also looking ahead, hoping to reschedule their “Let’s Dance” event for the fall. This is a dance to benefit the Cornerstone Committee for Westbrook Village beautification. They are also trying to reschedule the piano recital, “Shamrocks, Shenanigans & Songs” as well, also for the fall.

“Both of these events allow donors to give to some very special causes,” stated Ms. Logan. “If we do not have them, we will lose the revenue they generate and will not be able to help our community using those funds.”

Even though their season had to end early, members of the Voices did keep one tradition alive by continuing to donate to the West Valley and St. Mary’s food banks. They are also restructuring their Christmas show into “A Sentimental Christmas Journey” and, according to Ms. Logan, plan to use some of the music purchased for the spring show in this production: “We are turning the lemons into lemonade!”