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Local theater industry hit hard by coronavirus cancellations

Akron Civic Theatre.jpg
Posted at 5:44 PM, Mar 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-13 21:23:32-04

AKRON, Ohio — The show must go on, but in the theater industry the question remains: When will that happen?

Performances were postponed at Cleveland's Playhouse Square and the historic Akron Civic Theater after Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued a ban on mass gatherings.

"I've been doing this for 35 years and I've never seen anything like it," said Howard Parr, the executive director of the Akron Civic Theater.

The seats in the theater, built in 1929, will remain empty through at least April.

Parr said concerts, a ballet and family-friendly shows had to be canceled. He believes most of the events will be rescheduled later this year.

However, the economic impact to the the theater and performers is immediate.

"If you're a stage hand, if you're a concessions worker, those hours just aren't there. The events aren't there," Parr said. "It's going to be an economic impact on the building. It's going to be an economic impact on individuals. It's going to be an economic impact on the businesses that surround us."

The coronavirus is also affecting the Magical Theatre Company in Barberton. Kids were scheduled to do more than 20 performances in schools, but with classes canceled across the state for three weeks, those shows are now on hold.

Josy Jones, a local actor who founded Chameleon Village in Akron, said there are more than 13,000 Summit County creative jobs in the arts and culture industry and she's personally affected by the rash of cancellations.

"My partner has something that was canceled yesterday and it was paying gig, so what do you with that? Families are being directly affected because things are being canceled because this is their livelihood," Jones said. "You make money by events, or you make money by people seeing your work. You can't have that if nobody's there."

Parr said refunds will be issued if shows at the Akron Civic Theater are canceled, but he's asking people to use their tickets as shows are rescheduled.

In the meantime, the theater, like many other places, is focused on deep cleaning.

"We're going to make sure that we're going through and cleaning the place and sanitizing as best as we can," Parr said.