We’re only five days in, but the South Florida arts world of 2022 has a familiar refrain to it. It goes something like this composite press release: “We regret to announce that, due to the rising COVID-19 case numbers and the fast-spreading omicron variant, and to ensure the safety of our talent and patrons, we have decided to postpone x, y and z.”
In just a few short days, we’ve seen this prudence—or excessive caution, depending on how you view it—all over the arts world, both performing and visual. Actors Playhouse in Coral Gables is postponing the opening of its musical “On Your Feet,” about the life of Gloria Estefan, from Jan. 26 to Feb. 9, hoping that an extra two weeks will see a dramatic decrease in test positivity. In the music world, the year’s biggest emo throwback bill, featuring Thursday, Cursive, the Appleseed Cast and more, has postponed the first leg of its tour, including a scheduled appearance Jan. 11 at Fort Lauderdale’s Culture Room.
In the sphere of visual arts, “Beyond Monet,” Ice Palace Studio’s immersive sequel to its hit “Beyond Van Gogh,” has postponed its unveiling from Jan. 7 to Feb. 4. The water lilies will have to wait.
And these are just the events I know about. Others are being postponed because members of the touring companies have tested positive for the virus. Such is the case with “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” which has moved its Kravis Center dates from Jan. 5-9 to May 20-26.
This is, of course, not just a Florida story. Arts organizations nationally and globally are running their own risk-benefit analyses and coming to similar conclusions. Many of them are driven, no doubt, by financial as much as safety concerns. If a spooked public is not buying enough tickets to cover the cost of presenting the show, they may have no other choice but to cancel or postpone.
But I don’t think that’s where we are—not yet, anyway, with the soaring test positivity rates in the Sunshine State mirroring very little of the commerce bustling all around us. Most of the vaccinated people I speak to are not afraid to attend live events. With the exception of the Donna Summer musical, all three of South Florida’s multi-venue arts centers, the Kravis, Broward Center and Arsht Center, are keeping their schedules as-is, though this, of course, can change by the time this blog is published.
The sand continues to shift beneath our feet, but I hope these occasional postponements do not spawn mass cancelations once again, a la March 2020. I agree with New York City’s new Mayor, Eric Adams, who told George Stephanopoulos this past weekend, “We have to see ourselves past the crisis. … If we close down our city, it is as dangerous as COVID,” Adams said. “That’s what our focus must be. So that proper balance of safety [and] keeping our economy operated is going to allow us to get through.”