Bowlus faces scheduling trials

Next season's performances still unknown as staff tries to reschedule shows. Contracts were signed a year in advance. Many other venues are cancelling the entire season, but the Bowlus plans to move forward with events.

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October 6, 2020 - 10:07 AM

The Albert Cummings band performs at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center in September, the only one of three shows that could be rescheduled during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by BOWLUS FINE ARTS CENTER

Daniel Kays, director of the Bowlus Fine Arts Center, couldn’t help but get a little emotional as he listened to musician Albert Cummings and his band perform in September.

The audience tapped along to the beat, laughed and applauded.

Finally, there was music on the stage again, after six months of silence that had cut short the 2020 season.

“It was cathartic to have live music back, to be laughing and applauding,” Kays said. “It’s about experiencing something as a community.”

The performing arts, locally as well as globally, are taking a significant from the COVID-19  pandemic. Venues continue to cancel shows for fear of spreading infection.

“It’s decimated our industry,” Kays said. “It’s like one step forward, six steps back.”

The Bowlus staff has been scrambling for months to salvage the 2019-2020 season and prepare for the next. It hasn’t been easy.

Three shows were cut from last season and only one — Albert Cummings on Sept. 19 — was able to be rescheduled. 

Kays planned to announce the new season Sept. 24. Initially, he’d planned to have shows starting as early as September, but their dates kept getting pushed back. Kays said he still doesn’t know when he can announce the new season.

The Bowlus Fine Arts Center.

Local shows, though, will go on.

A local dance recital took the stage in August.

Allen Community College’s Theatre Department will perform its fall play, “The Inspector General,” starting Thursday and running until Saturday at the Bowlus.

ACC’s music department also will have its annual Fall Music Concert, featuring its jazz band, concert band and concert choir, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15. The concert will move to the main stage, allowing the audience to social distance.

Iola High School will stage its fall play, two one-acts, in November. 

The biggest changes for audience members will be ticket sales, wearing masks and social distancing. Tickets must be sold in advance, with no general admission. Families, or groups who live together, will be allowed to sit together. Otherwise, the venue will separate groups with 6-feet of distance between them.

SCHEDULING a season’s worth of performances takes time.

In fact, contracts for the 2020-2021 season were signed a year ago. That means Kays is working to reschedule those acts. He can’t find alternate acts unless the performance is canceled entirely. 

So far, the acts keep getting pushed back, from September to November and then to sometimes to after the first of the year. Kays can’t announce the season until dates are finalized, and that’s proved very difficult.

One performance, which would have been a Christmas show in December, can’t be rescheduled but Kays is working with the agent to find an alternative.

“That’s challenging,” he said. “It’s not just replacing a show. You are trying to maintain a relationship.”

The schedule also depends on other venues, and the various coronavirus restrictions in other cities and counties. The shows that perform at the Bowlus typically are part of a Midwest circuit that performs at venues across Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and other area states. Many of the venues are tied to a college or university system, and most universities have canceled shows entirely.

If an act can’t book enough shows, they’ll cancel the entire tour. That’s what happened with one of last spring’s shows, Stunt Dogs. Kays thought the show would be rescheduled, but the tour was canceled after a venue in Nebraska bowed out.

“We’re taking precautions. We’re planning shows. But because other venues are cancelling, the tours are falling apart,” Kays said.

“We want the arts to go forward. If sports can go forward the arts can go forward.”

In normal times, Kays would be working now to book shows for the 2021-2022 season, but it’s too soon to know if shows will be back to normal by then. It could take years for the industry to recover.

Already, one of the shows Kays planned for next season has been pushed back to the year after that.

The Bowlus has an advantage by being in a rural area, Kays said. The theater can adapt to social distancing measures, and audiences in general may be smaller than urban venues.

Most shows will be offered for two nights, to accommodate more people but maintain space between them.

“I think places like ours, in rural areas, are the key to keeping the arts going,” he said. 

Community groups can continue to use the Bowlus, provided they follow social distancing and other guidelines. 

The Bowlus also is in a better financial situation than other venues, thanks to support from donors, trusts and governmental entities like the city, county and school district. The Bowlus has a healthy financial reserve fund. Revenue from ticket sales alone has never been enough to “keep the doors open,” Kays said, which is why the financial structure relies so heavily on other sources.

However, if the pandemic’s effects continue for another year or two, those reserves may not last, Kays said.

The Bowlus also is trying to find other ways to attract patrons, such as the Smithsonian exhibit, “Crossroads: Change in Rural America,” currently on display.

ACC Theatre Department

ACC students are excited to perform, said Trevor Belt, the new theater instructor.

“Most of the country isn’t doing live theater. We are one of the few places that are,” Belt said. “The students have really buckled down and made wise choices to be safe. They’re trying to limit their interactions with the outside world until the show.”

Like other performances at the Bowlus, tickets are sold only in advance. Social distancing and masks are required. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of illness is asked to stay home.

Opening night, Thursday, is reserved for ACC students, staff and faculty. The community can attend performances on Friday and Saturday. Shows start at 7:30 p.m.

The play itself will be socially distanced. Actors will wear masks on stage and do not touch each other. 

“The Inspector General,” an adaptation of a Russian play, tells the story of a small town waiting for a dreaded inspection. Look for a review of the play in Thursday’s Register.

For copyright reasons, the performances will not be recorded or live-streamed.

For tickets, contact the Bowlus Fine Arts Center Box Office at 620-365-4765.

ACC Fall Music Concert

Admission is free for the college’s annual fall music concert.

To accommodate social distancing, the performance will move to the main stage instead of its usual downstairs location in the Creitz Recital Hall. 

The event features performances from the jazz band, the concert band and concert choir.

Iola High School

Drama students will present two one-act plays by Don Zolidis, “The Staggering Heartbreak of Jasmine Merriwether” and “The Devil in Sherman Marsh.”

The plays will be Nov. 12 and 13.

Expect the plays to be short, with no intermission, IHS drama teacher Regina Chriestenson said. 

The school plans to livestream or record the performances, but details have not yet been finalized.

Local arts performances planned

ACC Theatre Department

ACC students are excited to perform, said Trevor Belt, the new theater instructor.

“Most of the country isn’t doing live theater. We are one of the few places that are,” Belt said. “The students have really buckled down and made wise choices to be safe. They’re trying to limit their interactions with the outside world until the show.”

Like other performances at the Bowlus, tickets are sold only in advance. Social distancing and masks are required. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of illness is asked to stay home.

Opening night, Thursday, is reserved for ACC students, staff and faculty. The community can attend performances on Friday and Saturday. Shows start at 7:30 p.m.

The play itself will be socially distanced. Actors will wear masks on stage and do not touch each other. 

“The Inspector General,” an adaptation of a Russian play, tells the story of a small town waiting for a dreaded inspection. Look for a review of the play in Thursday’s Register.

For copyright reasons, the performances will not be recorded or live-streamed.

For tickets, contact the Bowlus Fine Arts Center Box Office at 620-365-4775.

ACC Fall Music Concert

Admission is free for the college’s annual fall music concert.

To accommodate social distancing, the performance will move to the main stage instead of its usual downstairs location in the Creitz Recital Hall at 7 p.m. Oct. 15. 

The event features performances from the jazz band, the concert band and concert choir.

Iola High School

Drama students will present two one-act plays by Don Zolidis, “The Staggering Heartbreak of Jasmine Merriwether” and “The Devil in Sherman Marsh.”

The plays will be Nov. 12 and 13.

Expect the plays to be short, with no intermission, IHS drama teacher Regina Chriestenson said. 

The school plans to livestream or record the performances, but details have not yet been finalized.

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