Coronavirus crisis in the arts: What if concerts, theater and other live events don't come back in 2021?

By George Varga, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

SAN DIEGO — Theaters from San Diego to Broadway are closed until at least next fall. Festivals have been pushed back to 2021, including Wonderfront and KAABOO in San Diego and Coachella and Stagecoach in Indio, California. The San Diego Symphony and other orchestras across the nation have been largely silenced. Cirque du Soleil has filed for bankruptcy protection and closed down all but one of its 40-plus worldwide productions.

The deadly coronavirus pandemic has led to these and other previously unthinkable situations becoming grim realities — from mass quarantines, plummeting economies and countries closing their borders to the shuttering of concerts, festivals, myriad other live-arts events and venues of all sizes that host them.

Now, as winter approaches and COVID-19 is surging anew in the U.S. and many parts of the world, another previously unthinkable situation could become yet another grim reality.

What happens if concerts, festivals and live arts events don't return next year in any significant degree, or at all until 2022?

How difficult will it be for them to return at a time when health and safety guidelines vary greatly from state to state and county to county?

How big a factor will liability issues be for presenters and attendees alike?


"This is a crushing and crushingly complicated situation," said Old Globe Artistic Director Barry Edelstein, whose theater — like other events producers — has embraced livestreaming and other new approaches.

Dave Shapiro, the co-founder of the San Diego-based Sound Talent Group, voiced similar concerns about how long it may take for the resumption of live events.

"Everything that has been scheduled has been pushed back, again and again," said Shapiro, whose company represents more than 200 international bands and solo artists. "Unfortunately, this holds true in every territory in the world, from the U.S. and Europe to Asia, South America and Australia. The focus now is on fall of 2021 and into 2022."

For artists, fans and presenters of music, theater, dance, comedy and other live-performance mediums, it is intensely depressing to even contemplate the possibility such events may not be back for another year or longer. This holds especially true given the tens of thousands of live events postponed or canceled since March, followed by mass furloughs and layoffs across the arts and entertainment industry.


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