By Nick Starling

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on local live performance theaters closed the curtain on several shows, even some shutting down for good.

In most cases, theaters were the last to reopen for in-person performances as their livelihoods depend on large gatherings enjoying a show.

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“The first year and a half of COVID was a nightmare for the theatrical community because the stage was black, and we’ve turned the stage lights back on and we’re not turning them back off,” said Christie Howard, Managing Director for the Jubilee Theatre.

Howard said they’ve lost about 30% of their pre-pandemic audience as a large part of their customers are a little bit older however the community has stepped up.

“The theater is surviving on the grace and the generosity of our patrons that want to make sure that we survive,” she said.

To continue entertaining audiences, they’ve had to resort to streaming performances.

“It worked well because we were able to stay engaged with our patrons but certainly not at the volume of live theater performance,” said Howard.

Pivot has been the word for all theaters, like Theatre Three in Dallas.

“Turned our theater into a big green screen studio and produced several shows that way,” said Jeffrey Schmidt, Artistic Director for Theatre Three.

To adjust, they’ve had to take some performances outside, “There’s so many added expenses to what we do now, I mean we have a testing budget now, how much we can spend on tests, and adding additional understudies to cover roles in case there is a breakthrough case so it has hurt us a lot.”

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Both theaters were helped by the Save Our Stages Act which was co-sponsored by Texas Senator John Cornyn.

It’s an effort to help prop up the live performance theater industry as they have been struggling during the pandemic.

“What that’s allowed us to do is keep our employees employed and artists employed we’ve continued to produce in different ways but it’s allowed us to keep people on the payroll,” added Schmidt.

These theaters are ready to tackle this next act as cases spike again.

“We have learned that if we’re going to be confronted with a new challenge, we’ll take it day by day, solve it the best way we can in some new creative way, that’s what we do,” said Schmidt.

“I just simply tell myself the show must go on,” added Howard.

To help out these theaters:

Jubilee Theatre or call 817-338-4411

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Theatre Three or call 214-871-3300.