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Elmira Theatre Company stays dark

The pandemic dragging on into another year, the Elmira Theatre Company has cancelled its 2021 season.

This week’s decision stems from ongoing uncertainty in the arts community, which lost most of the 2020 productions, shows and concerts.

Having made it through the shutdowns that began last March, ETC found cancelling this year’s shows less daunting, said executive director Bev Dietrich.

“The board met at the end of January, and it really wasn’t a difficult decision – the most difficult decision was at the beginning. This was the right decision. We kept hoping that – hope springs eternal – we’ll postpone it and get the chance to do it again. But as you can see now with the pandemic and in the vaccine rollout and all that sort of stuff, we will have to put it off. We had to cancel our season. That’s just what it came down to,” she explained.  

Initially hoping to stage Of Mice and Men last year, ETC had to bump that down the road due to the pandemic, most recently hoping for the production to open in November.

“All of the sets are all built. Everything’s just sitting there at the theatre. We’re in like a time warp thing – it’s just stopped … the way they left the last rehearsal,” said Dietrich of the abrupt pausing of the stage production of John Steinbeck’s classic novel.

The play was chosen to spice things up from the usual comedy-centric performances put on by ETC.

“It was chosen because it’s a classic. It’s a classic piece of theatre. The director is Joe Brenner, and he had a passion for the play. And we knew that if anyone could pull off this piece of theatre, it would be Joe. And basically we try to give our audiences [change]: we can’t just do comedies all the time, which, of course is what we’re known for. But to bring to life this is classic piece of theatre, I think will be enjoyed by our audience.” 

For the time being, however, the facility on Howard Avenue now sits vacant.

“Our entire building is entirely closed to members, there’s only three people that have access to the building – it’s checked every three to four days – so nobody else has been into the site,” said Dietrich, noting members are awaiting a return in the fourth quarter of the year.

“I think when the audience feels it’s safe to come back, I believe they will embrace the arts again, theatre again, because look what happens when we’re all in this lockdown, everybody’s turned to the arts for their entertainment. Looking at other places that have done theatre, like Stratford, where they’re having viewing parties where they’re showing past productions and stuff like that.”

Reopening plans are starting to be made. “We’ve got a COVID safety plan in place. And we know all the materials we need to purchase, when we do open again to make our theaters safe, for our patrons and our audience. And we just have to wait to find out what the future will bring in terms of numbers that we can have in and that sort of thing.” says Dietrich.

Having lost revenue since closing last year, ETC is currently accepting donations. For more information, see the website.

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