LA theaters reel from COVID-19, but there’s reason to be optimistic

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Theater companies have cancelled performances and closed venues due to coronavirus. Many theaters work on slim margins, and staff depend on ticket sales to pay the bills. Will some theaters in LA be closed for good? 

“The arts is a great microcosm of pretty much every other economic story you’re hearing, short of stock buybacks… Even once we come back online, which of course, hopefully we will, then maybe we get some of our box office back,” says Anthony Byrnes, host of KCRW’s “Opening the Curtain,” says.

He continues, “But if folks are really hurting in their pocket books, that’s going to hurt them with buying tickets. And what are funders going to do?”

Yuval Sharon, MacArthur “Genius” grant winner and artistic director of The Industry opera company, says, “The performing arts only live through human contact. So how do you still do performing arts in a world of social distancing? The thing that actually makes the art so powerful and so essential is this exchange of ideas, this exchange of people sharing one space in one time.” 

Looking ahead, Byrnes says when we return to the theater, it’ll be different from when we left it. 

“In an odd way, some of LA’s smaller theaters are probably better protected than an ambitious company like Yuval’s -- not to say that small theater in LA isn’t ambitious. But because you don’t have the economies of scale, it might be easier to come back in that regard… But this is a much more complicated situation,” says Byrnes.

“So will there be theater after this? Absolutely!” says Byrnes. “We’re seeing people return to the arts, because that’s what we always do in times of crisis. So there’s a lot of positives here.”