In theater, you improvise when something unexpected happens, and that's exactly what Geva Theatre is doing in response to the coronavirus crisis.
A few days ago, even before Monroe County confirmed its first case of COVID-19, Geva was scrambling to offer an alternative for patrons who have tickets for the current shows, "Once," and “Cry It Out.” Now, all live performances will be canceled as of 5 p.m. Friday.
If the unions representing actors, directors, and set designers agree to it, a digital screening of the shows will be available soon.
"We're going to tape a live performance," said executive director Christopher Mannelli. This would be a first for Geva.
"It will be sort of what you would have seen on the stage," Mannelli explained. "We'll deliver that on some digital platform. We don't know exactly which digital platform right now; we're investigating the best one. People will get an email with a special link. They'll be able to view it only once, just like they were coming to the theater."
If they prefer, those who already had a ticket to “Once” and or “Cry It Out” can opt to get a credit for a future Geva production or donate the value of their ticket as a tax-deductible contribution to the theater.
While he stressed that Geva wants to do what is best for the public, Mannelli said the decision to suspend ticket sales comes with consequences.
"Our entire industry is built on gather together, right?" Mannelli said. “Knowing that, it is going to be challenging coming up in the next few weeks and months, probably. It is a really dangerous time for institutions like ours. We're really going to have to depend on our donors and subscribers to see us through."
Luckily, Mannelli said, Rochester's arts and cultural community is a supportive one.
As long as the coronavirus is circulating, Geva is encouraging employees who are not feeling well to stay home, without fear of penalty for taking sick leave.
Geva also said on Friday that it is postponing the previously scheduled March 16 announcement of its 2020-21 season until sometime later next week.