Theatre and arts programs trying to bounce back after a hard year of adjustments

Updated: Mar. 9, 2021 at 7:52 AM CST
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Among the hardest hit industries during the first year of the pandemic are the theatre and the arts. The places that people usually turn to for a departure from the stresses of the world were forced to shutter.

As the one year anniversary of Mississippi’s first COVID case, theatre officials are reflecting on the last year and looking towards the future.

While the show is going on with precautions in place for some theatre groups, others are taking a wait-and-see stance. Center Stage is one of those. Board advisor David Delk said they are waiting before making the decision to send masked actors on the stage.

“Other theatres have done it and they have been very successful, and I’ve enjoyed watching them,” said Delk. “Personally, I’d rather wait and let’s just have the masks go away and we can get back to normal as possible.”

Biloxi Little Theatre was one of the few entities on the Coast that sustained a weekly event throughout all of 2020. Theatre Administrator Fred Thomas has hosted a virtual event, Fab Freddie’s Virtual Happy Hour.

“Fab Freddy is a little loose,” said Thomas. “It’s been fun. We have a great following. We have hundreds of viewers every week. It’s just to offer a few minutes of diversion and help us to forget about all of these trying times we’ve been going through.”

Theatres weren’t the only South Mississippi spaces closing their doors to members. The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, touted by a travel blog as one of the coolest in the state, found a way to use their campus design to bounce back faster once the green light was given.

“We have a campus with five separate buildings.,” said OOMA Executive Director David Houston. “We could still work and distance and have people in different buildings and on different floors when most of my colleagues were forced to close their institutions all together.”

One of those institutions, the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, went virtual during last year’s pandemic surge. Now, Executive Director Julian Rankin says his team is ready to forge ahead to the museum’s 30th anniversary.

“We’re all ready to look to the future for bright new horizons and good stories to tell,” said Rankin. “We have events and even on May 15, a Luther Dickinson concert. We’re moving that outside and obviously do things safely as we continue to come out of this period of time.”

If anything, this time of reflection has helped to remind these groups of one thing - the show must go on, even if it’s from afar and looks a bit different than it ever did before.

We’ll continue to hear stories of hope, survival and loss as we look back at the pandemic over the last year. Tune in at 6:30 p.m., March 11, on CBS to watch WLOX’s special report, Mississippi Tested: The COVID Fight Now and in the Future.

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