Live theatre: How it’s recovering post-pandemic

Ethan Glick, Co-Entertainment Editor

Live theatre has always been a huge part of our culture, but during the pandemic, all live performances came to a grinding halt. Theaters completely shut down, and many in the community wondered if theatre would ever recover and what it would look like. Now, theaters are reopening, shows are being put on and the wealth of live entertainment is returning. 

I thought it would be interesting to talk to someone who is heavily involved in theatre. That’s where Illya Torres-Garner and his wife Corinn deTorres come in. Together they own and operate Chapel Theater in Milwaukie, Ore. I had the privilege of talking to them and asking them some questions.


Q:  What advice would you give someone who has never been to any form of live theatre, who is experiencing it for the first time during the pandemic?

A: We don’t necessarily have advice, but it’s good to recognize that companies have had to do a lot of work during the pandemic to change the way they bring you live theatre. They are being creative in order to make performances work during a pandemic, so what you’re seeing may not necessarily be the norm. For example, they might choose to produce shows with a small cast to keep the risk down between the cast and crew. Some companies rehearse on Zoom, some come together maskless right at the end; there’s a lot of extra steps they are taking in order to make sure this show can happen. And also, don’t be surprised if it gets cancelled last minute because someone in the cast tested positive!


Q: What has kept you coming back to live performances as a job? Putting on a show is expensive, so what makes the cost worth it during an economically devastating pandemic?

A: This is always a question whether it’s a pandemic or not. Love of art, love of community, love of performance. It’s an opportunity to step outside of a stressful day and immerse yourself in something creative and thought-provoking. Whether you’re the audience member or the performer or crew, the performing arts have an opportunity to challenge you and your assumptions. 


Q: Why should people take the time to go to live theatre over the movies? 

A: We wouldn’t necessarily say go to one over the other, rather to consider the type of venue you’re going to and whom you are supporting. If you’re going to a big box movie theater, you’re not doing a lot for your community, though you will probably see a cool movie. But maybe instead you can choose the independent movie theater because there you know you’re supporting people in your community – local business owners, local restaurants, etc. For theatre, you don’t really have to make that choice. Even though there are larger and smaller theaters, you know that going to live theatre is going to support the individual artists and the people that make that art happen. Also, you never really know what you’re going to get with live theatre; there are some truly odd performances and sometimes those are the coolest ones that will leave you thinking and discussing with your friends for weeks. 


Q: Especially for smaller theaters, what safety precautions are you taking? What assurances could you give us that it’s safe?

A: Masks are required, vaccines are required and we are keeping our audiences small to make sure people can space out.


Q: What would you say to someone who wasn’t exactly interested in live theatre, especially someone younger?

A: I [Corinn] was never interested in theatre, either. I’m a dancer and always preferred seeing live dance performances over live theatre. But I continued to try different kinds of performances because the art of live performance is so magical, and while I don’t enjoy all live theatre, I have found the type of performance that is really intriguing and enticing for me. My advice would be to keep trying different performances. Something is likely to impact you along the way.

Thanks again to Corinn and Illya for chatting! I hope you found this informative and interesting, and make sure you check out our own theatre productions of Joseph and The Technicolor Dreamcoat and another Comedy Sports!