Wharton Center Closed Until April

Live Shows Put on Hold due to Covid-19

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Todd Van Hoosear

The Wharton Center Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Delaney Murphy, Features Columnist

The intermission will continue for live theater in the Lansing area. To help in slowing the spread of COVID-19, MSU’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts cancelled and postponed numerous performances back in March. Unfortunately for local theater fans, they will not be able to return to seeing live shows at the venue for at least another seven months.

Until very recently, the Wharton Center’s reopening was scheduled for December 8 with Mean Girls: The Musical. However, in an effort to keep patrons safe, they decided to postpone this reopening, and their season will not start until April 14, as decided in a board meeting on September 10. 

Kristen Calabrese, Director of Development at the Wharton Center, commented on when and how they plan to reopen.

“Wharton Center will be able to welcome patrons for performance when Michigan enters Phase 6 (post pandemic). We will follow guidance and requirements from the CDC and MSU regarding safety for our patrons and large gatherings,” Calabrese said.

The Wharton Center plans to put in place many regulations for its patrons in order to keep them safe.

“We will require masks for all attendees and seat patrons six feet from one another when attendance numbers allow. Other improvements include mobile tickets, pre-paid parking, and touchless features throughout the center to limit contact,” Calabrese said.

They also expect performing artists to comply with guidance from MSU and the CDC.

Dr. Janet Alleman, a frequent patron and member of the Wharton Center Advisory Council, is completely confident in the safety measures that they will implement.  

“From the moment you get to the entrance of the Wharton Center, the model they have in place is going to be absolutely outstanding,” Alleman said.

One of the most important precautions that will be taken against the virus is the requirement that audience members follow social distancing guidelines. Their April performances will be shows that are likely to attract fewer people in order to accomplish this.

In order to keep performing arts alive in a time where large gatherings are dangerous, the Wharton Center hopes that people will develop an interest in streamed performances. As well as enjoying existing filmed theater, such as the recently released Hamilton on Disney+, the venue is looking to film its own performances in the hopes that theater fans will enjoy those, as well.

“We hope to work with WKAR to have the ability to stream some Wharton Center performances,” Calabrese said.

The Wharton Center for Performing Arts website lists a performance from Carrie Manolakos, a Broadway star and recording artist, as their first virtual performance, taking place on November 13. 

Although the curtain currently remains closed on live theater, the arts are becoming accessible to audiences who may never have experienced them otherwise, and when theaters eventually reopen safely, there will be a greater appreciation for them than ever before.

“The performing arts still have the ability to impact lives, foster creativity, and provide comfort and joy,” Calabrese said.