“It was depressing. Typically we’d see 10 times the sales on the days after a review hits,” said Debbie Ellinghaus, the theater’s managing director. “We’re getting calls from people to exchange tickets, asking if things are still happening, which they are.”
The coronavirus outbreak is rocking the cultural community, with many local theaters reporting smaller than expected audiences and higher than normal inquiries about ticket exchanges, thanks in part to their decision to relax their policies to encourage patrons who are ill to stay home. Studio Theatre offered last-minute discounts to “Pass Over” last weekend to counter slower than expected sales, while Signature Theatre in Arlington reported a modest drop in sales.
“We saw a modest decline in attendance on Sunday night (about 15 tickets returned) and are currently seeing a higher number of inquiries about exchanging tickets for a later date or donating tickets back to the theater,” Signature deputy director James Gardiner said in an email.
In New York, producer Scott Rudin announced deep discounts to five shows, including “The Book of Mormon, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “West Side Story.” Tickets for all performances through March 29 will go for $50.
The Court Theatre in Chicago and Yale Rep in New Haven, Conn., announced policies that limit the number of audience members. Both theaters are on university campuses, where officials have recommended the cancellation of public events of more than 100 people.
Yale Rep’s production of “A Raisin in the Sun” will go on as planned March 13, but all ticket purchases have been voided, and 100 tickets to each performances will be given out free to interested patrons. The theater has a capacity of 600.
The run of “The Lady From the Sea” at the Court Theatre will follow similar limits to conform to University of Chicago’s guidelines, according to the theater’s website. “We are limiting the number of tickets available to ‘The Lady from the Sea’ and capping audience sizes to reduce the risk of community spread. We are contacting patrons directly as needed,” the announcement says.
On Wednesday, D.C. health officials recommended that nonessential mass gatherings of 1,000 or more be canceled through the month, but that capacity is greater than most area theaters.
The Kennedy Center’s box office was fielding a steady rise in inquiries about refunds and ticket exchanges, a spokeswoman said. All performances on Wednesday were proceeding, she said, as officials assess the city’s recommendation.
The National Gallery of Art has postponed its much-anticipated exhibition “A Superb Baroque: Art in Genoa, 1600-1750” because of the global coronavirus crisis.
Set to open May 3, the exhibition would have been the United States’ first major examination of the Genoese baroque, with more than 100 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints by such artists as Bernardo Strozzi, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione and Peter Paul Rubens.
The museum’s decision came Monday, after the Italian government announced a lockdown affecting the entire country of 60 million, including travel restrictions and the closure of schools and public spaces until at least April 3. As a result, the gallery cannot bring the art from museums in Rome and Genoa.
Gallery director Kaywin Feldman said the museum hopes to reschedule the exhibition, perhaps as early as next year.
The museum has also canceled NGA Nights, after-hours programs set for Thursday and April 9 — events that have attracted several thousand people. American University has canceled the April 4 opening receptions for exhibitions at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center.
Olney’s Ellinghaus said theater staff were “trying to stay positive” as they deal with the swiftly changing landscape. “The show does go on,” she said, noting that all theaters are being vigilant and coordinating with local officials.
“There is a catharsis in watching this play,” she said of the work, which happens to be set during a pandemic.
Performances are in the 140-seat theater, so patrons would not be part of a massive crowd. It’s too soon to say if the run could be extended, Ellinghaus said. “Normally, a great review like that would tell us to absolutely extend,” she said.