The stage has been dark at the Kirby Center on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre since March.
The performing arts center in the heart of the Diamond City is its cultural centerpiece.
“It’s been challenging and devastating,” said Drew Taylor, managing director at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts. “What we thought would last two weeks to maybe two months has now gone on for what seems like forever. We were completely broadsided by this.”
Taylor said while the Kirby lost immediate funding for future shows, it had to refund money for shows that had been canceled or rescheduled — that running total is about $130,000. It also lost revenue from school groups that are bussed in for morning performances.
He said 2020 from January to mid-March, the Kirby held 16 shows. An additional 12 shows have been canceled, with eight shows that have been rescheduled.
“That goes to show you the kind of impact that the coronavirus has had on us,” he said.
Taylor added in the last dozen years, the Kirby Center has brought in bigger names, which often command a bigger ticket price.
“We took a risk,” he said. “And now that this has happened, it’s going to take a long time to recover. We’re back to ground zero again.”
He said memberships are down “a little,” but he said he’s grateful to those who have stayed with the organization. He said corporations have been helpful too.
“We’ve been able to do a few fundraisers and that’s helped,” he said. “Everybody is struggling.”
Chuck Still, executive director of the Community Arts Center feels fortunate.
Their relationship with the Pennsylvania College of Technology has kept them afloat. They will soon become a department of the school, rather than an independent subsidiary.
“We’ve been able to borrow money from the college and maintain employment for the staff through most of this,” said Still.
However, he said in late October, some of the staff will be furloughed and others will be reassigned through the college.
“They worked very hard to keep people employed from March through May,” he said. “That even meant keeping people working for shows that never happened. It was very generous.”
Still said there has been some coronavirus relief money through the CARES Act and they have been able to do some fundraising.
“People have also been giving us money this year and they haven’t given us money in years,” he said. “I find that very interesting. There seems to be a realization on how difficult it has been for the arts community and that people realize how important we are to the community and they want to support us. That’s really wonderful. And we’re giving them no goods or services for that.”
He said many of the shows have been either moved or canceled. He estimates between 45-60 shows have been affected.
“We are a little more fortunate than others because before coronavirus hit, we had already planned on re-doing the stage floor during the summer months,” he said. “We left a good chunk of the summer months open with no shows anyway, so that actually helped us.”
Still said he’s still tallying up the dollar figure as far as losses, but said of the $2 million dollar budget, the center lost about $550,000.
“It’s significant for us,” he said.