By Irina Rusanova
Ever since the pandemic began early in 2020, the Greensburg-based Palace Theatre has faced a multitude of difficulties hosting performances.
Jennifer Benford, Westmoreland Cultural Trust’s director of marketing and development, described the adverse effects the health crisis has had on the arts community, focusing specifically on the theater’s situation.
“The Palace Theatre has been closed since March and we have had to reschedule or cancel more than 100 shows and performances,” she stated.
Despite the unforeseen circumstances, the theater has continued activities with support from patrons.
“Westmoreland Cultural Trust is part of the Paycheck Protection Program allowing us to keep most of our staff employed during the pandemic,” Benford explained. “We are also grateful to the Richard King Mellon Foundation whose generosity has underwritten our livestreaming project and enhanced safety protocols.”
Earlier this year, the theater combatted performance cancellations by showcasing a variety of local artists on the Palace Theatre Facebook page. Now, a livestreaming system is underway.
“The system is an all-inclusive ticketing and livestreaming service that will allow regional cultural organizations and nonprofits to showcase local arts and entertainment,” said Benford.
The first livestream concert took place on Oct. 24, featuring Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra’s “Back to Bach—Opening Night.”
“The symphony will continue utilizing the [livestreaming] service for four additional concerts as part of their 2020-2021 season,” Benford added. “We are also in talks with other partners and promoters for additional virtual events, as well as producing our own content for the platform.”
As the COVID-19 situation gradually stabilizes, the theater has begun exploring options to open to the public once more.
“With the recent announcement of the allowance of 20% occupancy permitted for indoor gatherings, we are working with our community partners to explore smaller, more intimate performances and events where patrons can remain socially distant,” Benford explained. “The health and safety of our patrons, staff, volunteers and artists are our top priority and we have a comprehensive safety plan in place that will be implemented once the theatre is able to open.”
Benford extended her gratitude toward art connoisseurs and encouraged people to keep their eyes on the Palace Theatre website and social media pages for unique art-related content.
“We would just like to thank the community for their unwavering commitment to the arts, not only during this pandemic, but throughout our years of our service to the region,” she said. “We have a long way to go before we can get back to ‘normal,’ but with your support, the curtain will rise again, and we will come together as a community to celebrate the arts.”