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May 26, 2020
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With the shut down required by the recent crisis, The Kate Executive Director Brett Elliott says, “When something like this happens, it makes it extra challenging because now I’m trying to fit 43 shows into somewhere else.” Photo courtesy of The Kate

With the shut down required by the recent crisis, The Kate Executive Director Brett Elliott says, “When something like this happens, it makes it extra challenging because now I’m trying to fit 43 shows into somewhere else.” (Photo courtesy of The Kate )

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“When we get through this, and we will, come see us because we need you,” says The Kate Executive Director Brett Elliott. Photo courtesy of The Kate

“When we get through this, and we will, come see us because we need you,” says The Kate Executive Director Brett Elliott. (Photo courtesy of The Kate )

Kate to Customers: ‘We Need You’

Published Mar 26, 2020 • Last Updated 02:38 pm, March 24, 2020

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A lot of entertainment venues are having to reschedule shows in the wake of the closures and restrictions due to the coronavirus, and it’s an onerous task.

A rather sizable local example of that: The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center (The Kate) in Old Saybrook is in the midst of trying to reschedule 43 shows that had been set for sometime between last week and April 30.

The Kate is fairly small, with 250 seats, and it brings in a great diversity of programming, from comedy shows to rock concerts to children’s performances to the screenings of Met operas. It’s usually a jam-packed schedule.

Consequently, Executive Director Brett Elliott says, “When something like this happens, it makes it extra challenging because now I’m trying to fit 43 shows into somewhere else.

“I joke our schedule as a whole is a big jigsaw puzzle, trying to get the right thing in the right place, and getting things to come together is a challenge to begin with. This is definitely a monkey wrench,” he says.

Since summer in Old Saybrook is busy and the population grows so much, The Kate books more heavily in the summer—and thus available dates coming up are fairly limited. And Elliott is concerned about oversaturating June, July, August, and September “because I’m trying to get the shows in addition to what great things we already had booked.”

Bad Timing on Brochure

In an unfortunate bit of timing, The Kate’s brochure featuring shows set for April, May, and June was printed last week and mailed to the public.

“Now, one month is already gone from that. That also meant that I was really heavy into wrapping up August and September, which is our next quarter. So now I’m working to fit shows in where appropriate, knowing that (for instance) I can’t put certain shows on a Tuesday, because that doesn’t serve that show,” Elliott says.

A lot of factors go into rescheduling. Routing is a big piece of it, Elliott says. A theater manager can’t just call an agent and pick a new date because that artist’s tour dates were a carefully crafted 40-day run that moves among venues that are within driving distance of each other.

A few artists who live in New York, though, are close enough to Old Saybrook so that they can do one-off concerts at The Kate.

Elliott is first focusing on rescheduling the March shows and then will continue through April.

An example: “The Sixties Show” that had been planned for the evenings of March 21 and 22 will now become a matinée and evening performance on June 28.

‘Industry is coming together’

Elliott says the work to reschedule shows is going well because every agent is in the same boat.

“We’re working together. The industry is coming together in a generally positive way because artists need to be paid, they want to play those shows, we all want to figure it out,” he says.

He says that one big messaging point is that it’s going to take some time, and he asks that patrons be patient.

“We’re doing our very best in a crazy situation, and everybody wants answers now…but moving 43 shows and talking to agents who might have 10 artists who also were playing at 30 venues means a whole lot of emails and calls,” he says.

‘We Need You’

The Kate has been planning for something like this—not coronavirus, but a situation that might be financially fraught for the theater. Elliott notes that things can happen and the economy can change.

“We have been carefully building a little bit of a reserve because we want to make sure that if something like this happens, we could get through it. Now, we’re acting on that plan, and that’s good news. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to come back and need people to support us, because we’re a nonprofit,” Elliott says.

Ticket sales for many venues have stopped, and theaters might have to refund a lot of tickets that had previously been purchased. When The Kate mails out its brochure, that usually results in a huge bump of ticket sales.

This time, though, “it was a little like crickets,” Elliott says. “That’s OK, we’re going to figure it out...We have an audience who I think likes this venue, and there are a lot of great responses to email communications already. We hope that continues.”

And a final succinct message from Elliott to Kate patrons: “When we get through this, and we will, come see us because we need you.”

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