Across the Roaring Fork Valley, stages revitalize performers. After a winter and spring that limited artistic performances, often moving them online or canceling them outright, tangible optimism was growing in the fall. The artists returned to the stages and the public returned to their seats.
Then the omicron COVID-19 variant arrived.
After a wave of nationwide closures, from the National Hockey League to Broadway to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, COVID-19 has once again begun to drain the schedules of local bands.
Carbondale Arts canceled its Green is The New Black Fashion Extravaganza march fashion show several months in advance. KDNK and Thunder River Theater Company have each canceled their New Year’s Eve events. Other events are under threat and growing optimism around live theater is wavering again.
“One of the things I’ve read on the forums I’m on is that it really caused a shift in the idea of ’The Show Must Go On,'” the Thunder executive recently created. River, Sean Jeffries. noted. “It’s devastating for us on the creative side. It is devastating for the public. … There’s the connection you have with other people and that connection you have with the person telling the story. You can’t beat that in any world.
Jeffries and Thunder River completed a series of “As Close As I Can” by Cassidy Willey, which he says reminded him of the importance of in-person theater.
Now that ship is in danger for a second consecutive winter.
In Glenwood Springs, the iconic Glenwood Vaudeville Revue has yet to have its holiday show canceled. But it got closer.
Three staff members – including a performer – tested positive at Vaudeville, under contract to outside sources, during production, taking the show to the brink but not yet finished.
Manager John Goss said booking cancellations were becoming common.
“It doesn’t get any more frustrating when, literally, we would have had our best Christmas ever,” Goss said. “We were really filling the houses, turning a lot of people away, trying to put them in other, smaller nights. Now I have tables available every night.
What just a few weeks ago was a jam-packed performing arts scene after a season of build-up and anticipation that is sagging towards uncertainty.
In the fall, bands were doing sort of rebound tours. Thunder River’s “Men On Boats” almost sold out. Players from the Defiance community took part in a show called “All Together Now”, an international fundraising effort to restore local theater scenes after a winter of virtual performances and “creation”.
“I think the name of this project says it all,” Defiance Community Players member Chip Wells told the Post Independent in September. “It’s time for all of us to be together.”
The frustration is not limited to the performers. Members of the public are now being asked to weigh the risk of contracting the virus against their assessment of the importance of attending performances.
As evidenced by booking cancellations, many are uncomfortable with risk.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before in terms of cancellations,” Goss said. “Groups of 30 or 50 or parties are like, ‘We just can’t do it.’ And I understand.
Venues and groups are now sitting and watching. Goss said he hopes to keep his doors open. Jeffries will reassess the Thunder River Diva Cabaret in mid-January.
“Obviously people want us to be here and we’re doing our best to toe that line of how we can put on a show and kind of guarantee people that the show will happen, but we always have to be aware of the larger situation with regards to the virus,” Jeffries said.
Journalist Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or [email protected]