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Kansas City's Arts Organizations Cancel Performances Again Due To Surging Coronavirus Cases

Kansas City Ballet dancers Whitney Huell and Cameron Thomas
Kenny Johnson
Kansas City Ballet dancers Whitney Huell and Cameron Thomas

Kansas City Ballet, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and others canceled seasons earlier this year because of COVID-19. Now rising cases in the metro, and new restrictions, are thwarting attempts to bring back indoor performances.

Starting Friday, new restrictions in Kansas City, Missouri, limit indoor gatherings to 10 people. So arts organizations are canceling performances — again.

In the spring, arts groups moved concerts, theater and dance performances to online productions, and in the summer and the fall to outdoor performances — in parks and green spaces at the Liberty Memorial, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and Union Cemetery.

Some, like the Kansas City Ballet, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and the Coterie Theatre, were just starting to bring performances back indoors — with required masks, social distancing, and limited attendance.

But rising cases of coronavirus are putting things on hold.

The Kansas City Ballet announced Thursday that all in-person performances of the December program of "The Holiday Show" have been canceled. The shows were sold out.

"While we had strict protocols and limited seating planned and considered asking for an exemption from the city's health department, we ultimately felt it was more important for us to do everything we can to protect the health and safety of our patrons, staff, and dancers," the Ballet said in a statement. "We value our community's health and determined after much consideration that gathering was too great a risk with too great a potential cost."

On Friday, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City also announced in-person performances of the new production of "Amahl and the Night Visitors" were canceled. Instead, the Lyric is offering a digital link for viewing starting Dec. 15.

"While we are sorry we cannot welcome you to the Michael and Ginger Frost Production Arts Building," the Lyric posted on its website, "we believe this beloved holiday classic film will enchant you with puppets, stunning sets, and glorious music, bringing the joy of the holidays into your home."

The Coterie Theatre planned to present Mesner Puppet Theater's "The Snowy Day," a play adapted from short stories by Ezra Jack Keats (his 1962 book, "The Snowy Day," won a Caldecott Award). The show was scheduled to open on Nov. 27, with performers and audience members in masks, and attendance limited to 100.

Now the Coterie's production will be available only online starting Dec. 1.

"We understand waiting to start in-person performances until COVID rates go down," said the Coterie's producing artistic director Jeff Church, in an email.

He added, "This is a time for patrons to support their favorite organizations through donations or virtual attendance, as many will have to pivot or reimagine their programming once again."

Metro area museums have already limited attendance, but some will be tightening

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art re-opened in September. According to Kathleen Leighton, manager of media relations and video production, many safety protocols are in place, which the museum continues to update.

"Ticket inventories have been reduced by another 25% (we were already under the 50% capacity mandate, so this will lighten traffic even further)," she said in an email. "All events have been rescheduled to Spring 2021 and beyond. Face shields are prohibited from being shared."

Staff is also prohibited from international travel and U.S. business travel is also limited.

World War I Museum and Memorial re-opened in June, and museum officials expect that the city's new coronavirus restrictions won't have much of an impact on their day-to-day operations.

"Our attendance is much lower than normal and we have been operating well below the occupancy restrictions," said Karis Erwin, director of marketing, communications and guest services, in an email.

"Masks are required indoors and we limit elevators to one person or party at a time," Erwin said. "We also have enhanced cleaning protocols, hand sanitization stations throughout the museum and utilize plexiglass barriers to keep our guests, staff and volunteers safe."

Editor's Note: This story was updated to include a comment from the Coterie Theatre, and the announcement of the cancelation of Lyric Opera of Kansas City performances.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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