Raleigh's live performances face uncertain plans in 2021

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Capacity limits and safety concerns have led to the cancellation or postponement of numerous shows, concerts, and events during the past 10 months, a trend that will likely continue through the early part of 2021.

With vaccinations occurring daily, venue and theater operators are trying to plan for shows this year.

"If I'm thinking positively, our sort of Theatre Raleigh Summer series starts in May, so my intention is to do the four to five shows we have planned for our summer series, crossing our fingers that the gathering size will be larger," said Lauren Kennedy Brady, the Producing Artistic Director of Theatre Raleigh.

Since November, it has offered hybrid performances, with 25 people in attendance and the rest watching a livestream.

"We would always say we're a live professional intimate theatre in Raleigh and intimate has taken on a whole new meaning now," said Brady, who added that their capacity is 600 people.

Even facing so much uncertainty, she feels they're as prepared as can be, coming up with contingency plans based off restrictions and COVID-19 metrics.

"We cancelled our entire 2020 season and we are sort of placing it into 2021. So a lot of it's been cast, a lot of it has been designed and created and curated for our patrons. And we're just going to sort of un-pause and hopefully start again," Brady said.

On the opposite end of the size spectrum is the North Carolina Theatre.

"We cannot perform for 25 people. Our shows cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce. So even though we've already made radical cuts and planned cuts for upcoming shows, we still need to have more than 700 people in the audience to be financially feasible," said President and CEO Elizabeth Doran.

She added that they have a strong subscriber base that has helped provided some revenue during this period.

"However, our subscriber base is only one-third of what we expect in order to help us put on a great big musical," Doran said. "So we really need single-ticket sales to help cover us as well. So we are wondering when people are coming back. We'll need to do that. We've been in communication weekly with all of our patrons."

They are prepping for a spring comeback, with hopes of larger-scale performances in the fall.

"There's something for all of us to look forward to. It's coming. We just have to get there," Doran said.

All special events and gatherings of 50 or more people in Raleigh are canceled through March 31st, though most of their larger-scale events take place later in the year. That includes the IBMA World of Bluegrass, the largest event the city hosts each year. The 2020 version occurred online, with some performances taped in the Raleigh-area.

IBMA Executive Director Paul Schiminger shared a statement with ABC11 about their 2021 plans:

"We continue to work closely with officials in Raleigh regarding the IBMA World of Bluegrass event in 2021. The intention is for the event to take place, in-person, from September 28-October 2, implementing every measure that would ensure the safety and health of the attendees. While in the coming months we will be assessing all of the factors involved in such a major live event, we remain optimistic about returning to Raleigh this fall."
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