The theater in Paris, Maine forced to close due to pandemic.

Amanda Huotari, executive artistic director at Celebration Barn Theater in Paris, poses outside of the theater Friday. The organization has canceled programming this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo ©2020 – Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Reposted from The Sun Journal

PARIS — Celebration Barn Theater has canceled its programming for this year because artists from around the world can’t travel here and audiences can’t be close to each other because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Amanda Huotari, executive artistic director, said most of the theater’s revenue comes from hosting artists from around the world for workshops, residencies and performances.

“Over the past four weeks — it feels like four years — we really took the journey of feeling the heartbreak of having to cancel … It just felt that there really was no way we could move forward with programming this season with any certainty,” she said.

The announcement was posted Thursday on Facebook.

“We don’t know when our audiences are going to feel comfortable gathering again in close proximity, we don’t know when travel bans will make it possible for artists to travel, and for artists that are traveling in to do workshops, we don’t know if their loss of work is going to impact their ability to travel in the country right now. We knew that it would not be in the barn’s best interest or the communities’ best interest if we went forward and had a season.”

In its 47 years, Celebration Barn has never faced the complete cancellation of the season, and the future is unclear, she said.

“Financially it’s a real heavy lift to see a path forward,” Huotari said.

At the beginning of last year, a new financial gift program laid a sold financial foundation for the coming season. However, major concerns remain.

“We have never faced something like this before,” Houtari said. “Right now, we’re 100 percent in the throes of upheaval. We applied for emergency funding. We don’t know if our application is in the works, but the payroll protections funds have just run out, waiting to see if more become available.

She said in the coming weeks, the theater on Stock Farm Road will have a better idea of what it can do during the canceled season; if live-streamed shows are still a possibility, or online workshops and learning opportunities. But the real focal point is the 2021 season, and if the appetite of audiences will be changed moving forward. – “ I think that we really will have an opportunity to respond to the way in which the world has shifted in response to this experience, and the way the needs of our artists and audiences have changed … people are going to be hungry for different things, and I think we really have an opportunity to respond to that,” she said.

Traditionally, performances happen in close proximity, as do workshops. But Huotari said avenues might open for more spaced-out, inventive performances.

“Our expertise is really in the area of getting people together for an immediate theater experience,” she said. “While our history with doing that generally in a room in close proximity to each other, we’ve also done theater safaris where the audience travels around our property to various experiences, where storytellers are in trees and dancers are in fields. … We’re also well equipped to think outside the box. We’ll be looking for ways to bring people together to feel the immediacy of that human connection but it may be in ways unlike anything we’ve seen before.”

Though many patrons and artists understood the need to shut down this season, some were apprehensive. Huotari said if COVID-19 and all the restrictions associated with it dissipate soon, the theater is in a position to act.

“We’re small and we’re nimble,” she said. “If things do change and we do see opportunity in the coming months, we’ll be able to respond to that really quickly. I’d love to think that there’s a chance we’ll be able to get audiences in the barn this year, but it’s going to take a rapidly improving global condition for that to be possible.”

Until the global situation reaches relative normalcy, the barn is going to need some help. After announcing the cancellation, Huotari said PayPal donations started coming in within minutes. “If any folks are in a position to make a contribution … we would be most grateful for gifts now, as they matter more than ever,” she said.

For now, though, the focus has to be on coming strong in 2021.“Our No. 1 priority is securing the future of the Celebration Barn. And all eyes are on 2021, and what we have to do to come back with a full season,” she said.

You can visit their website to make a Donation!

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Jim R. Moore

Editor/Admin

Photographer/Videographer/Recluse Founder of Vaudevisuals.com