We’ve all seen the tale of the beleaguered theater company on the verge of disaster. Just when things look their darkest, one of the actors declares, “The show must go on!”
For the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, things appear to be getting darkest right before they go totally charcoal. The two big theaters are going to be dark for a while, at least until May. For the duration of the coronavirus crisis, however long that is, the show must NOT go on. However long that duration is will depend upon the County authorities, who are taking their orders from the state, and the CDC.
Jerry Van Leeuwen, executive director of the Center, told The Times-Advocate that there is real human pain that corresponds with the artistic angst of not being able to host quality shows at the Center—which just finished celebrating its 25th anniversary.
“We are following guidance of San Diego County on activities,” he said. “We have canceled all performing art shows through May at this point. Most have rescheduled for later dates. We have furloughed a lot of staff who work in banquets and conference center activities. We have canceled our next museum exhibit that was slated to open on April 4. We have postponed Dancing With Our Stars until the summer.”
Van Leeuwen added, “Our kitchen is doing meal preparation for the Senior Nutrition program at the request of the City. Our box office is closed but we are responding to phone inquiries.
One nice thing is that most of our patrons are requesting credit for future shows rather than refunds. That really helps us and we appreciate it.”
Asked if these developments will likely put the put the Center’s finances into the red, Van Leeuwen said, “It has that potential, when you lose your event side. But we want to be ready for recovery.”
Perhaps a couple of hundred workers are affected by the Center “going dark,” for several weeks. “We have one hundred staff people who are in the union and who do tech work—although they aren’t on the payroll. Right now, they aren’t being called in by anybody,” said Van Leeuwen. Another group that is being affected is about 50 part-time bartenders and banquet staff. “All are affected in one way or another if you don’t have events,” he said. “Our head ushers are only furloughed. Most employees all are furloughed. Which means we can call them back. Some who are put from 40 to 20 hours are eligible to apply for unemployment for those lost hours.”
Also affected will be the Center’s partnership with the Barn Stage Theater Company, which was announced two weeks ago. “That has been pushed back,” said Van Leeuwen. “We had already intended to push that back to July anyway. We hope that will go forward because that’s a profitable enterprise to take on,” he said.
The dark clouds aren’t completely dark for the Center. There is a possible silver lining, said Van Leeuwen. “The good news is that if this doesn’t go too far, almost all of the shows that we had scheduled, have postponed and rescheduled. So that will keep that revenue stream coming, it’ll just be delayed. Those artists are not working, so they are being flexible. What is happening to us is not unique to us. Who knows ultimately what the impact will be?” he said.