Curtain Call: Pandemic closings in 2020 offered creative virtual opportunities

It seems so long since theaters were operating in their own special ways. Looking back, the year 2020 started off with some really good shows. Eastbound was packing the house with their hilarious cabaret production of “Four Weddings and an Elvis” and the Ridgefield Theater Barn was stuffing its cabaret seating with “Smorgasbord.” It was also a real treat to attend “Constellations” at New Milford’s TheatreWorks. And then came March and the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s when the closing of area theaters hit. It hit hard. Events kept changing as shows were being postponed or cancelled.

When that unprecedented, unforgettable moment arrived when Broadway closed, it was a given that Connecticut theaters and theaters everywhere would follow suit. To think that a virus would bring everything to a standstill is still hard to fathom. Imagine receiving notice after notice that shows that were just about to open or had just opened had to fold. The actors who spent countless hours honing their roles, the designers who spent so much time and effort in creating the perfect sets, lights, sounds, costumes and makeup suddenly watched everything come to a standstill. It was as if theater was moving in a slow-motion horror film. Theater people were inexplicably without jobs. So too the directors, stagehands and hundreds of people associated with the theater were out of work. Postponements quickly became cancellations and cancellations became entire season closures. Our beautiful artistic world of theater closed and locked down. What’s even worse, it looked like they would be the last to come back.

However, theater is made up of the most creative and resilient people. They began streaming online. At first some of the productions were definitely rough around the edges, but it didn’t take long before they became very good and very professional with their streaming. Some theaters realized that not only could they continue to entertain their loyal audiences, but through streaming, they were reaching a larger audience. Did it make up for live theater? Absolutely not. Nothing can replace the live theater experience.

After plenty of trial and error and various programming, the holiday season arrived. With it there’s plenty of anxiety as theaters try to prepare for a comeback. Will it happen in spring? Will audiences return? Will the vaccine make it possible to open sooner? These are questions theaters are contemplating on a daily basis.

While it will be easy to bid adieu to the infamous year 2020, there is so much hope and faith accompanying the year 2021. Hope is what we are all looking forward to and the theaters are busy preparing great new shows for their audiences. If ever there was something to look forward to in theater, it will be the year 2021 when theaters throw open their doors again and present their creations. These are about as close to magic as anyone can get. Where else can someone enter a room and find themselves suddenly thrown into a different world? Theater is in the history of our lives. It came before radio, television and film. It is here to stay and we will once again be able to enjoy it as we turn our hopes and dreams into a big hearty welcome for that long awaited new year - 2021.

Happy New Year!

Joanne Greco Rochman is a founder of the Connecticut Critics Circle and a long time member of the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: