Call it a tale of two press releases. Back on Aug. 31, right on schedule in a normal year, the Kravis Center announced its 2020-2021 schedule of live events—a cultural smorgasbord of Broadway tours, symphony orchestras, pop and folk icons, film screenings, comedians and dance companies.
Given the national and global circumstances, it was a more skeletal lineup than usual. But the mere existence of this announcement felt like a jolt of needed optimism for an arts-and-leisure economy that has been particularly devastated by the pandemic. Things may be bad, still, but it hasn’t stopped major acts from looking to the Palm Beach market in the months to come. If Jay Leno and Michael Bolton and Itzhak Perlman and “Dear Evan Hansen” are still planning on gracing the stage, there must be some light at the end of this tunnel, right?
Not so fast. Less than three weeks passed before the venue issued this press release, arriving in my inbox last Friday, and all but accompanied by the waning notes of a sad trombone: “Kravis Center for the Performing Arts Announces 2020/2021 Season Cancellations.” The announcement listed 10 events, among them Enra, Riverdance, the Astor Piazzolla Quintet, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the annual Salute to Vienna New Year’s Concert. Even the aforementioned Bolton has bolted.
This is not to be read as a criticism of the Kravis. To the contrary, these corrections reflect a cruel and mercurial landscape for the live events industry, and I appreciate the venue’s willingness to put itself out there—to show the public its eagerness for at least a modicum of normalcy. Most presenting venues have not followed the Kravis’ lead; aside from the tenuous rescheduling of spring 2020 events, they are dark now, and dark for the foreseeable future. At least the Kravis is trying.
Alas, I suspect there will be more cancelation emails to come. If the failing experiment of reopened movie theaters is any indication, patrons are simply not yet ready to gather at indoor spaces in large numbers; and performers don’t seem keen on playing to, at best, half-capacity houses. The next scheduled event at Kravis—which will be the venue’s first show since March—is Dec. 9, when the eclectic Latinx band Making Movies performs a cabaret-style concert at the Rinker Playhouse. I hope, for the sake of the entire cultural community, that it proceeds as planned. But I’m not holding my breath.