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Bringing back live entertainment

ASU Gammage executive director can't wait to bring guests back to shows — safely


ASU Gammage interior
June 04, 2020

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the summer 2020 issue of ASU Thrive magazine. 

Written by Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage and ASU vice president for Cultural Affairs. She previously served on the National Council on the Arts.

For an industry accustomed to the phrase “the show must go on,” closing the theaters was no easy task. But when ASU Gammage reopens, it will be grand. The theater is a place for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together and celebrate live art. No one can tell what the future holds, but there is one thing I am sure of: The theater is no place for fear. So, we will reopen when it is safe to do so. Social distancing is applicable in many scenarios, but it just won’t work in the theater. The backbone of this industry is the notion of people gathering to go on a journey and be transported to another world. That will not change, but some things might.

We are waiting on the edge of our seats until we can reopen, but we understand that certain precautionary measures must be taken to ensure people feel safe coming back to enjoy a show. We are discussing the different sanitary measures we can take — such as gloves worn by employees, stricter cleaning measures and monitoring the food and products entering the facility. These measures are not only to protect guests, but the performers, stagehands and employees.

We are all operating with one thing in mind: fluidity. This is a fluid time where protocols will change and we will be there to enact the changes that need to be made. We’re rewriting the script on procedures every single day. Whether it be spraying costumes with disinfectant or having people participate in temperature checks, we will adapt to the changes and be fluid in making decisions.

ASU Gammage is continuing to provide quality entertainment — now digitally. This adaptation exemplifies our commitment to serving our communities. We have hosted thought-provoking talks, inquisitive Q&As and incredible online performances all through Facebook Live. To name a few, Gus Farwell, former ASU quarterback and opera singer, gave us an incredible performance and insight on his life in Barcelona. We are engaging ASU students and our faculty through many digital programs such as DBR Lab with Daniel Bernard Roumain and ASU students. 

We have even had Arizona natives and current Broadway stars Krystina Alabado, Sam Primack and Casey Likes join us to share their wisdom, tips and tricks.

These online events allow us to share the work of local artists with community members in new ways. Artists are working over video calls and writers are thinking of pieces that would be appropriate over digital platforms. They are still enduring the creative process together, and ASU Gammage is doing just the same.

The format of shows is constantly being reimagined. I have talked to producers and creatives about ideas that they have brewing, and I can’t wait to see the final products. There will be shows inspired by this challenging time — some funny, some sad, some heartfelt — that will allow us to reflect. ASU Gammage has joined that conversation. From drive-in theatrical performances to music concerts in Sun Devil Stadium, nothing is off the table. All ideas are being considered.

We’re not part of the first phase of reopening, and that is OK. There is no “if” about reopening, but a matter of “when.”

We can’t wait until we can swing open the doors. Until then, we are working to stay safe and healthy for ourselves, our loved ones and our community. It is imperative to prioritize health and wellness — right now and every day. I know I speak for myself and our staff when I say we look forward to seeing many familiar and new faces at ASU Gammage.

MORE: Watch live online performances at ASU Gammage Digital Connections asugammage.com/digitalconnections.

Top photo by Tim Trumble/ASU

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