Virtual plays and concerts, staffing shortages, ever-changing health protocols, burnout — navigating the coronavirus pandemic has forced Seattle-area arts organizations to juggle countless curveballs. Now, with the rapid spread of the coronavirus omicron variant, we’re seeing a familiar cycle of event cancellations and postponements repeat itself once again.
After the Seattle arts and entertainment scene took a hit with last-minute New Year’s Eve event cancellations, many local organizations have now altered, postponed or canceled upcoming events in the new year due to surging coronavirus case counts. The rapid spread of the less-damaging, more-viral omicron variant has led to record-breaking numbers of infections in King County, leading to the decisions to reconsider many in-person events.
Book-It Repertory Theatre’s “Beowulf” production could not escape coronavirus alterations. Instead of presenting an in-person performance of “Beowulf,” Book-It plans to present streaming performances until transitioning back to in-person performances in the summer. Ticket holders will be contacted to discuss options for rescheduling or refunding.
“This is a painful decision we’ve had to make, and we are heartbroken to have to wait to see you all back in person again. However, we hope you understand our desire to keep you and our team safe as this current wave rolls over our region,” wrote Gus Menary, Book-It artistic director, and Kayti Barnett-O’Brien, managing director, in a news release.
Seattle Opera shifted to streaming productions early in the pandemic, and the organization has opted for a smaller venue for its latest production, “Orpheus and Eurydice,” running through Jan. 30. Instead of taking place in McCaw Hall per the status quo, the production will be hosted in smaller-capacity Tagney Jones Hall, a recital space in Seattle Opera’s new Opera Center.
Even Seattle-arts events like The Salish Sea Early Music Festival are changing due to the newest coronavirus variant. Salish Sea event organizers have delayed the first performances of the festival and will present the first concert online. Harpsichordist Hans-Jürgen Schnoor will not be able to come as previously announced and is unable to reschedule this year. The first in-person performances of the festival will resume in mid-March.
Farther north, at Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon, the rules on vaccinations tightened: Patrons ages 5 and over are now required to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination. Negative COVID-19 tests are no longer accepted.
And in the books world, Seattle Arts & Lectures changed the format of its Literary Arts Series event with author Bernardine Evaristo. Due to the omicron variant, Evaristo is moving her North American tour online, including the SAL event. The event will still take place at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24.
Seattle Public Library announced a temporary reduction of hours at most locations starting Jan. 21 due to ongoing staffing shortages related to the current surge of coronavirus cases.
“While our community navigates the current surge of COVID cases, we are making these reductions in order to provide a more consistent and reliable schedule for our patrons,” said Tom Fay, interim chief librarian of Seattle Public Library, in a news release, adding that the library will expand hours “when the COVID outlook improves and staffing levels stabilize.”
These are just the latest examples of the pandemic’s profound impact on the Washington arts ecosystem. Here’s the latest on COVID-19 and changes in the Seattle arts scene.
Arts organization and other event changes
After canceling a recent Saturday night performance of “The Music of John Adams,” Seattle Symphony rescheduled two January performances due to “unavoidable delays and disruptions caused by COVID-19.”
“The Seattle Symphony is following strict COVID-19 protocols so that we can create a safe environment at Benaroya Hall for our audiences to enjoy live music. … The pandemic still impacts every aspect of our work — travel delays or schedule disruptions are unavoidable — and we remain flexible as we navigate these changes with guest artists and musicians,” said Krishna Thiagarajan, Seattle Symphony president and CEO.
“An Evening with Itzhak Perlman,” originally set for Jan. 18, will now take place 7:30 p.m. April 20. “The Times They Are A-Changin’: The Words and Music of Bob Dylan” is postponed to 7:30 p.m. June 21. Ticket holders for both of these events do not need to take further action if they can attend the new dates, and new tickets will be sent out.
Seattle Symphony also announced its continuation of at-home viewing options now through the end of March. Concerts will be livestreamed and broadcast on Seattle Symphony Live, the orchestra’s streaming service, and will be available for on-demand viewing a full week after the initial air date.
The 5th Avenue Theatre delayed its rehearsal schedule for Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” causing the Jan. 12-20 and Jan. 22 performances to be canceled. “Beauty and the Beast” runs through Feb. 6.
Seattle’s largest Lunar New Year event is typically hosted at Hing Hay Park in the Chinatown International District, with vendor booths, dance performances and music. The celebration has been postponed until April 30 due to coronavirus concerns.
So, as has become standard practice these past two years, if you’re planning to attend arts and entertainment events in the Seattle area, make sure to check your event’s website for possible event changes and information on COVID-19 protocols. It’s very possible some details have changed since you bought the ticket.
This story will be updated.