The Show Must Go On

Entertainment adjusts to the pandemic

By Ann Craig-Cinnamon

At precisely the moment we need to be entertained the most, it seems it’s hard to come by.  One of the hardest hit sectors during the Covid 19 pandemic is the entertainment industry.  Movie theaters went dark, concerts went silent and live theatrical events were cancelled.  Hamilton County organizations and businesses though are resilient and many have found ways to continue to operate by “thinking outside the box”.

Concerts

One of the major entertainment players in Hamilton County is Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville.  The venue was one of three Live Nation amphitheaters around the country that held parking lot concerts featuring country artist Brad Paisley in July.  Dubbed “Live From the Drive-In, Ruoff General Manager Andrew Newport says it was a great first step toward reopening live entertainment and demonstrating that it’s possible to host events successfully and keep everyone safe and socially distanced too.

“It was an honor to be a part of one of the first major live music events of the summer and get some of the local Hamilton County and greater Indianapolis area employees and crews back to work, as well as doing our part to boost local businesses and the overall economy, he says adding that they are looking forward to presenting more shows when the time is right.  Although Live Nation does not reveal attendance figures, the event was a success.

Noblesville Parks resumed its free concerts in Federal Hill Park in late August, eventually limiting the size crowds by fencing off the venue and restricting entry. A grid chalked on the lawn with six foot squares helped maintain social distancing. 

Carmel Center for the Performing Arts

Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts also closed down in March and resumed on-site events in August.  President and CEO Jeffrey C. McDermott says they have made the decision to delay the start of their main concert season but they have a busy fall schedule of education and enrichment programming, resident company performances and rental events. 

He says they came up with a unique way of offering programming during the shutdown.  “Some programs we can still offer on site with physical distancing and other precautions, such as the Luminaries speaker series and the Faegre Drinker Peanut Butter & Jam children’s performance series. Meanwhile, we are expanding our video and streaming capabilities in order to offer other programs online or in hybrid online/on-site formats, often using some combination of Facebook, YouTube and Zoom teleconferencing,” says McDermott who adds that this fall they will premiere a new livestream performance series called Live at the Center.

McDermott thinks that If there is a bright side to this situation, it’s that they are connecting with audiences in new ways and also reaching people who didn’t know them before.  “Now more than ever, people need the inspiration and engagement and fellowship that the arts provide, and our job is to deliver that, regardless of the circumstances.”

Actors Theater of Indiana

Actors Theater of Indiana, the resident professional theater company at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, also cancelled shows at the outset of the pandemic.  ATI Artistic Director and Co-founder Don Farrell says they began an online Friday Night Facebook Live program "From Our Homes to Yours" in which they provided virtual entertainment every Friday from March 20 – May 29 and on the 4th of July, reaching over 33,000 viewers.

In the fall ATI will offer outdoor Drive-In Theatre concerts in which patrons will be entertained with live music from the safety of their vehicle. The Drive-In Theatre concerts will be held at the Monon Square Shopping Center.

Farrell says their unique programming has been a hit.  “Our patrons have responded extremely favorably towards our unique and shift of programming of which we are extremely grateful. During times like these, professional arts organizations are being hit very hard and the support and belief in us by our sponsors, subscribers, donors, and patrons is humbling. We simply would not exist without their support.” 

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