HIGH POINT — Eight months after the COVID-19 pandemic stopped its shows, the High Point Theatre will begin to slowly reopen its doors for performances this month.
"We are squeaking the door open a little bit," said David Briggs, director of the downtown city-owned theater at 220 E. Commerce Ave., on the ground floor of the IHFC building.
Like theaters across the country, High Point Theatre has been closed since March by restrictions on crowds to prevent the spread of the highly contagious respiratory disease.
Briggs estimates that he has rescheduled 110 to 115 events since then.
The theater now receives about 15 calls a day from the public, asking when shows will resume, Briggs said.
"The mood is, people want to get out, they want to see live performance," Briggs said. "We want to help them with that."
So, for this month and next, the theater's website at https://highpointtheatre.com lists concerts by the High Point University Community Orchestra, Imagine Youth Theatre performing "Chicago," holiday songs by John Berry and "The Nutcracker" by Gary Taylor Dance and High Point Ballet.
The theater will reopen with free concerts by the High Point University Community Orchestra on Sunday and Monday .
The performances will be the first for the theater — and for the orchestra of HPU faculty, staff, students and community musicians — since the pandemic hit in March.
Even though the theater seats 900, state restrictions will limit attendance at each theater performance to 100 patrons — unless Gov. Roy Cooper expands capacity, Briggs said.
The theater has other rules for every show, too: All seats are reserved, and every other row has been blocked. Touchless tickets are available by calling the box office.
Masks are required.
Come December, High Point Ballet and Gary Taylor Dance will present the holiday favorite, "The Nutcracker."
Many other ballet companies nationwide have canceled "The Nutcracker," or taken their performances online or, like Greensboro Ballet, to film.
High Point Ballet and Gary Taylor Dance will comply with COVID-19 rules through special choreography, staging and masks, the theater says on its website.
The theater periodically uses an antibacterial fog, designed to kill the virus for up to seven days, Briggs said.
"We want our public to feel safe," Briggs said, "and we are doing everything we can within those guidelines and beyond to make our public happy."
State capacity limits are higher for retail events — 50% in the theater lobby and two galleries, Briggs said.
About 450 people showed up over four hours for an Oct. 24 retail event.
"It did my heart good to see people happy," Briggs said, "because we're in the smile business."
Meanwhile, Briggs works to schedule or reschedule other shows.
Despite concerns about COVID-19, some artists will travel, Briggs said.
For the third year, singer-songwriter John Berry will bring his Christmas show on Nov. 29.
The theater will livestream Berry's show for those not ready to attend in person, but who buy a ticket to watch from home.
But instead of its annual production of "A Christmas Carol" there, High Point Community Theatre will perform a free, 90-minute celebration of the Dickens' classic outside in Mendenhall Terminal on Dec. 12. There, the group can host more people, Briggs said.
Briggs has lined up several shows for 2021.
The violin duo Sons of Mystro, postponed from this year, will perform Jan. 15.
Ballet Folklorico de Los Angeles has been rescheduled for Feb. 12.
High Point Community Theatre is scheduled to present "9 to 5: The Musical" from Feb. 25 to 28, and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" from May 6 to 9.
Among others on the schedule: Pink Floyd tribute "An Evening with the Machine," a cappella ensemble Voctave, Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass in March, entertainer Ben Vereen and singer/songwriter A.J. Croce, son of the late Jim Croce, in April.
But Briggs might have to wait until 2022 or even 2023 to reschedule Bollywood Boulevard, a group traveling from India.
"To perform in the United States, they would have to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days before they could do their first performance in California, and then try to make it westward to other venues," Briggs said. "It wasn't financially feasible."
He had hoped to reschedule the Jive Aces from England to spring 2021, but now it's fall that year.
"Hopefully, once we get back opened up," Briggs said, "folks will take advantage of coming back out to the theater and seeing some shows."
Contact Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane at 336-373-5204 and follow @dawndkaneNR on Twitter.
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