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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

The show must go on, but what happens when it can’t?

Mid-South theater companies are struggling to keep audiences entertained, and revenue coming in, during coronavirus pandemic

MEMPHIS, Tennessee —

Before the lockdown due to COVID-19, seats would have been filled in playhouses and theatres across Memphis. Now, that's all changed and like other businesses, show business is feeling the financial side effects of the pandemic.

Memphis is the Mid-South’s hub for live performances and the venues and theatre companies who create the magic of entertainment are struggling to figure out how to keep the show on the road.

Marquees have been dark at Playhouse on the Square, Theatre Memphis, Minglewood Hall, and others for weeks. Stay at home orders prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people in Shelby County, bringing the curtain down on theatre, concert, and dance seasons.

While performing arts venues are hoping to reopen their doors in November, they've taken programming online for now. Ekundayo Bandele, founder of Hattiloo Theatre on Overton Square, says even so, revenue is not what it would have been to support performers, crews, and other creatives like in the case of Hattiloo Theatre in Overton Square.

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"We have had to layoff 8 employees. We've had to do other things seeing that we don't have any earned revenue coming into the building and really reliant on contributions coming in from organizations, corporations, and the government."

Several local performance companies and spaces have joined the National Independent Venue Association in requesting federal funding to support the industry through the pandemic. The industry could lose up to $8.9 billion in revenue if shows don't resume in 2020.