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KCMO live performance theaters adapt to indoor mask mandate

Shuttered Venue Operators Grants boost bottom line
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Posted at 11:57 PM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 16:42:55-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Live performance theaters in the metro have struggled to stay afloat since they were some of the first venues to close and last to open during the pandemic.

On Monday, they will have to adhere to an indoor mask mandate as the number of COVID-19 cases surge with the delta variant spreading.

Over at the Unicorn Theater, they will hold their first indoor, live in-person performance in September, and they were already planning on implementing their own mask mandate.

"We were going to social distance where people sit," said Cynthia Levin, Unicorn Theater producing artistic director. "And our actors are on stage with a minimum of 10 feet distance from the front row of people."

Levin said they are also adapting to keep everyone who wants to attend safe.

"We are not singing, we are not yelling out to the audience so that there will be a somewhat of a safety net between the two, because our actors can't wear masks, we can’t do what we do wearing a mask, but everybody else can wear a mask."

Others have had to pivot to stay afloat during this pandemic. Over at The Black Box theater in KCMO's West Bottoms, they've moved their performances outside.

"We ended up building an outdoor stage and present live music, live performances," said Heidi Van, owner and manager of The Black Box.

In case of bad weather or if patrons need to use the indoor bathrooms, Van told KSHB 41 News they will have to mask up.

"We follow the national and local mandates and rules because most of us who work here are performers, and we’re actors and we know what it will take to get back to work."

To help keep these venues open and operating, some have received assistance from Shuttered Venue Operators Grants. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II announced 46 venues in his district will receive more than $43.5 million dollars.

The money has been a lifesaver for many of these venues.

"We have survived, but I don’t know that this can go on a lot longer," added Levin, who hopes they can add ticket revenues instead of relying on people's goodwill and government assistance.

While right now KCMO's mask mandate ends later next month, some venues will continue their own mandate to keep their staff safe.