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The Show Must Go On: Three Local Theatres Face the Pandemic with Perseverance, Ingenuity and Hope


There’s a saying in the theatre: The show must go on.  So, we wanted to check in with three of our local live performance theatres to see how they’re faring right now.

KF: We’re almost 6 months into not being able to have a revenue stream.

This is Kia Fontaine of the Lyric Theatre in downtown Stuart.

She says they’re surviving by using a nest egg meant for building repairs, the priority now having switched to immediate needs, like…

KF: … keep our staff employed, keep the lights on here at the theatre, and be ready to make that magic when that switch turns on and we’re able to get back to doing what we do.

The Lyric was built in 1926 as a silent movie house. Under current re-opening requirements…

KF: …it reduces our 500 seats to 100. We can’t afford to open the theatre for having 100 or less seats.

The timing is really complicated, too.

KF: This is the time of us - all of us venues – are announcing our season.

The Lyric brings in major acts. Roseanne Cash, for example, is scheduled for January 13, 2021.

KF: Yes, we’ve announced our season. We’ve gone on sale. But what we can’t do is we can’t open the doors if we’re not to full capacity.

Credit Sunrise Theatre
Sunrise Theatre in Ft. Pierce, Florida

To the north is the Sunrise Theatre in downtown Ft. Pierce. It opened in 1923 as the largest theatre on Florida’s east coast between Jacksonville and Miami.

Credit Sunrise Theatre
Sharon Engle of The Sunrise Theatre in Ft. Pierce

SE: We’re pretty much known as a roadhouse, and so our mainstage has 1,214 seats.

This is Sharon Engle. Sunrise also brings in big shows, and their season is also set to start in January.

SE: I really am trying to be cautious and mindful that we don’t schedule too heavily, because cancelling costs money as well. So, we’re just trying to be smart about it and, you know, do the best that we can.

Some good news – Sunrise has regular Comedy shows in their second, smaller, black box theatre, which makes social distancing possible. And starting in November, the Ft. Pierce Jazz and Blues Society will bring their “Jazz Jams” back to the Sunrise black box.

Further north, we meet with Oscar Sales at Riverside Theatre, located in Vero Beach along the Indian River Lagoon.

Credit Tania Ortega-Cowan
Oscar Sales, Marketing Director for Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach

OS: Part of the fun of live theatre is being in a room with all different people experiencing the same thing.

Riverside produces their own Broadway-equivalent shows from scratch. This time of year, producing artistic director Allen Cornell is usually auditioning professional actors and artists in the New York area...

OS: …to cast the shows for the season. There was just so much uncertainty that …

…they decided to postpone their mainstage season a whole year. They turned their focus to their second smaller, flexible performance space…

OS: …our Waxlax stage, and that’s where we have our Comedy Zone performances. And now we can have them every single weekend! At times you need a good laugh, and so why not?

Credit Tania Ortega-Cowan
The oak tree-lined parking loop at Riverside Theatre converted into an outside music venue

They converted their oak tree-lined, looping driveway into a really quite beautiful outdoor venue that offers FREE live music with a ticket, with food and beverage for sale. Their theatre and dance classes continue too, although mostly virtual right now.

There’s a bill going before congress to help the live performance industry. Here are some related links: