We are starting with the hardest question and the one we think about the most. Like everyone else in the world, we are trying to balance two factors: safety and economic viability. Clearly, safety is the priority. Until we can manage safe experiences we can’t move forward and that means business as usual is a long way off.
Since the beginning of this crisis I decided the Gallagher Bluedorn would be patient and listen, that we would not overpromise, that we would not sell seasons we weren’t sure would happen. In the face of this crisis we would not be forced into premature action, and would instead innovate ways to serve while holding to patron-safety and science-based best practices. We would also remain committed to our partners, helping them find ways forward using technology and new processes becoming a national leader in that work. I look forward to sharing our innovations with you.
So on to the main question. In the time of Corona a season is a moving target. First in the spring and again for next fall, national tours started melting away and cancelling. Our analysis suggested that those outcomes were likely and so we started cancelling and moving scheduled shows we had yet to announce before most of the industry. As a result we have been able to preserve many of our best shows for later dates. We continue to choose not to announce a season until we can be sure what it will look like and what we know we can deliver. So yes, there will be a season but the question remains when.
This is where innovation comes in. Facing the potential cancellation of our longstanding partnership with Cedar Falls Community Main Street and the Hearst Center to produce “Movies Under the Moon,” we went back in time to find a safe way to continue the tradition. Several weeks ago we announced a series of family movies presented “drive-in” style. They sold out in less than 5 minutes. This last week we announced a second showing of the next movies and again it sold out in less than 5 minutes. Watch Facebook or sign-up to our email list to learn about onsale times for future drive-in movies. Not coincidentally, this project was supported by Friends of the Gallagher Bluedorn, the group that has always financially supported the projects that have made us national leaders.
Currently we are working with one of our dance studios to reinvent dance recitals. These performances are the final goal for young dancers all over the world and we hate to see them not take place. Not that it will be easy, dozens of dressing rooms, social distance markings, a huge team of cleaners, and twice as many performances for a smaller socially-distanced audience is what is required to help these kids reach their goal.
We are currently working on additional drive-in or outdoor events. We are reaching out to artists to redesign shows so they are safe and economically feasible for socially-distanced audiences of only a fraction of the Great Hall’s capacity.
Over the last several years the Friends of the Gallagher Bluedorn has invested in a video studio with multiple remote control cameras and switching gear for the Great Hall. Should it not prove safe to bring audiences into the Gallagher, we will be ready to live stream and record high quality performances by local legends and provide the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony and UNI School of Music opportunities to share their music with the world as well as their traditional audience.
Q3 - WHEN WILL YOU ANNOUNCE YOUR SHOWS
Currently we have traditional styled shows scheduled for next spring and summer - but, until we are sure we can do them safely, we will hold them close and not announce them. Currently, I believe by October we’ll know the fate of the spring shows and can announce them if they’ll take place. I also think we will likely announce individual stand alone shows as we are able to safely present them. Some big name shows (comedians and solo acts) are able to schedule on short notice and will likely be the first of the large scale shows we are able to host.
Q4 - WILL THERE BE A 20TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON?
We have missed too many graduations, too many funerals and weddings, too many births and too many anniversaries.
Who says you have to celebrate someone's birthday only on their birthday?
The celebrations for 20 years of life-changing experiences will only be sweeter after overcoming the Coronavirus. We have been reminded that what we take for granted is not promised. We have learned that the shared work of a community cannot be assumed and does not come without sacrifice. Should we celebrate 20 years of the Gallagher Bluedorn? Of course we should, and we will! The timing may be a bit off, but the celebration will be all the sweeter for it.
Q5 - WHY SHOULD I RENEW MY FRIENDS MEMBERSHIP WITH NO KNOW SEASON?
I have a bit of a bias on this one, but let me use my own giving as an example. I have decided to keep giving to Friends, the United Way, The Rotary Foundation and to all my other charities because I know that without my participation they face an existential challenge and may not be around when we come through the virus. We all need to take personal responsibility for the kind of community we want to live in.
I know some folks aren’t as lucky as I am and may not be able to help as much as they have in the past, so it is my profound hope that those who can give, do. With little or no ticket revenue your generosity will be critical as we innovate our way through the current crisis and prepare to come out the other side better than ever.
Q6 - WHAT WILL THE SHOW EXPERIENCE BE LIKE WHEN YOU REOPEN?
Different. We are in a transitional time and as we work our way through the pandemic we will have to approach many things differently. Masks, sanitizing, screening for sickness, easy and painless ticket returns, touch free ticketing, concessions and social distancing will all be likely parts of the transition experience. Whatever our plans, they will be designed to keep every audience member safe and they will be communicated clearly when we put tickets on sale. No surprises, no unknown risks. Even during the transition, some things remain the same. We will continue to find high-quality, live entertainers. Likely the acts will be smaller but the quality will be world class.
Eventually, I believe that the experience of a show for a typical audience member will be the same as it was at the sold out shows we hosted last December. As we work behind the scenes there will be unseen changes: health monitoring and stay-home-if-sick policies will help ensure our staff and volunteers don’t become vectors for the flu or anything else. Retail operations will be modified for touchless service, and personal hygiene in the form of handwashing and sanitizing will be better supported
Q7 - HOW CAN I SUPPORT GALLAGHER BLUEDORN AND THE ARTS RIGHT NOW?
Have faith. We will come through this together. We will laugh, sing and dance together. And we will create memories that will last us a lifetime. Take a moment and imagine the shared joy we will experience when once again we leap to our feet to celebrate live performers doing things that we can’t believe humans can do and singing songs we’ve waited our whole lives to hear.