Theater enthusiast and former Columbia Dean Tom Harford recently discussed problems the theater industry is facing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The theater industry has faced countless struggles over the years, but the coronavirus pandemic may be one of the biggest yet. Viewing a theatrical production typically involves being in a room full of strangers, and that’s something that has been frowned upon since this coronavirus pandemic first took hold. Theater enthusiast and former Columbia Dean Tom Harford recently discussed problems the theater industry is facing due to the pandemic, particularly smaller venues.
“Some of the issues are obvious and may be reconciled with time,” Tom Harford said. “But others dig deeper and could take decades to heal.”
Former Columbia Dean Tom Harford explained that the most obvious problems facing the theater industry right now obviously involve social distancing. It’s nearly impossible to put on a production while spacing people six feet apart and implementing a variety of other precautions. Tom Harford explained that it’s not financially feasible to put on productions for a fraction of the crowd, particularly in small venue theaters already limited in audience scope.
“The problem is, the idea of getting people back into a room full of strangers is easier said than done, even when the pandemic passes,” Tom Harford said. “Doors may open, but the public may still be reluctant to enter.”
He explained that even if everyone involved in the production is ready to return, and the theater is deemed safe by authorities, the public may not want to expose themselves to a room full of strangers for some years. A shutdown or reduced sales for that long could cause some theatrical institutions to close for good.
Former Columbia Dean Tom Harford fears that even if the industry does bounce back, an entire generation of audiences and talent could be skipped. This could cause even more issues involving interest in theater and finances in the future. Tom Harford warned that a loss of smaller venues, where many writers and artists begin their careers, could impact the industry all the way to the commercial level.
“The cost of these theater shutdowns is larger than months of unemployment or months without viewing a theatrical production,” former Columbia Dean Tom Harford said. “It could result in a loss of countless smaller theaters, which have been the breeding grounds for some of the world’s top talent for decades.”
Industry experts like Tom Harford fear the future of theater could be a more tumultuous one than other industries, which may bounce back to their feet as soon as doors open. He concluded that only time will tell the future of the theater industry for all of those who make productions happen as well as for those in the crowd.