A Joint Service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Live Event Venues Are Reopening, And Hoping Audiences Will Return

Courtesy Orpheum Theatre
The Memphis Dives recently performed the first show for a live audience played at the Orpheum Theatre in a year.

Something many have missed during the COVID-19 pandemic is live theater and musical performances. The good news is, live event spaces are beginning to reopen their doors as restrictions are easing and more people are getting vaccinated.

Erin Glasnovitch, executive director of the Orpheum Theatre in Galesburg, said COVID forced the venue to think creatively when it comes to fulfilling its mission of providing entertainment.

"We are a very small four person staff here at the Orpheum, we all you know, have been performers for a good portion of our lives," Glasnovitch said. "We got together at the baby grand piano here on stage and we've been putting out what we call musical mix tapes on our YouTube channel, so that people get a little bit of entertainment from afar with show tunes and jazz standards and things like that." 

Certain Peoria entertainment spaces were just opening up for the first time when the pandemic hit.

The Broadway Lounge is one such establishment. Owner Andrew Driscol said after a few different attempts to open the event space for performances and not meeting expectations, they chose to hold off on any performances for several months.

But Driscol said they are now slowly, but surely, beginning to reopen.

"I guess this would be the re-reopening," Driscol said. "Officially, we started the double re-reopening March 16. Because of the phase that we're still in, I decided that I was going to reopen in our own spaces. April 9, we will have our first show back in."

Brian Garnant, theatre events manager at Five Points Washington, said safety has been at the heart of the entire reopening process at the multi-use event space, adding the Tazewell County Health Department and local law enforcement are consulted before every event. 

"The response we've had from the attendees at events has been great. They've said they appreciate us providing some type of entertainment. You know, for those that are just really excited about seeing more live entertainment. They're excited about the future," Garnant said. 

Glasnovitch said that not performing live has also been hard on performers. She said the time away from theaters and event spaces has proved how essential live performances and entertainment are for a community and an individual’s overall well-being.

"And I didn't even realize, you know, how much I needed that audience interaction, going to the events, the social interaction, until it was gone," she said. "And it's one of those things that I think that a lot of people don't truly realize. How much the arts can impact their life. Until it's no longer accessible." 

Driscol said a lot of event space owners feel there are still a lot of things that are unknown about the future in terms of individuals and their comfort level when it comes to attending events. However, he is still hopeful for what the future will bring.

"So much of it is just going to depend on what the next couple months look like. Not just in terms of what we're allowed to do, but what people's comfortability is, where that is," he said. "Because we'll have opportunities for people, but if if those opportunities aren't taken, then the entity will only be able to give it the old college try for so long. So that question marks still exists, but I am approaching from a position of hope. I'm very encouraged right now, and so excited to start reengaging with the audience and customers that we've been missing."

All of the owners and directors of live event spaces are asking for patience from patrons during the reopening process -- and to trust that it will all be worth the wait. 


We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WCBU will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WCBU can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Olivia Streeter is an intern at WCBU. The Illinois State University student joined WCBU in 2020.