GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre has been forced to get creative after having to cancel much of its season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lauded as one of the largest community theaters in the United States, the Civic is poised to lose some $750,000 in ticket sales due to canceled productions. Leaders are now working on solutions to make up for lost revenue.
One of the alternatives takes the show on the road. The Civic has launched “Driveway Cabaret,” where actors will perform in front yards and driveways throughout the area.
It costs customers $250 to have the cast perform for up to 10 people outside a home. The actors will arrive caravan-style and perform in separate groups for a total of about 40 minutes.
The idea was well received. Within days of announcing the initiative, the first round was sold out, with 120 performances booked. The theater is now working on planning round two.
“I think it says that this is a community that loves the arts. They love the performing arts,” Ben Greene, the theater’s director of marketing and engagement, told News 8.
While the sales represent a success, they will not fill the void left by missed performances. Theater leaders hope donors will help fill the gap, in addition to state and federal assistance.
“We’ve had a good number of people that have dug in their pockets and found ways to try to keep us whole,” Greene said. “It just doesn’t replace what we do here in our space.”
Despite the struggles, Greene said the theater is financially stable and hopeful about resuming in-theater performances in the fall. Leaders are still working on details about what the next season will look like and the possibility that shows canceled this season might work into the next.
The theater was also affected by the recent riot in downtown Grand Rapids. Vandals broke some of the windows but executives were glad that no one gained entry to the building to cause further damage.
Greene said the theater has never canceled entire productions or dealt with a shutdown of this magnitude in its 95-year history.
“I don’t think there’s any way we can really put it into words,” Greene said. “It’s really been a once-in-a-lifetime thing for anybody who’s been involved with this organization.”
Nonetheless, Civic leaders remain confident that the theater will return to life in due time.