COVID-19: How Performing Arts Have Returned in Franklin

Studio Tenn
Studio Tenn

This article is part of our series “COVID-19: 1 Year Later,” exploring the ways COVID-19 has affected and changed daily life over the last year. For two weeks, we surveyed our readers on how COVID-19 has affected them. Read our survey results here. Today, we write about how the performing arts have returned.

It was just over a year ago that everything in the performing arts closed down due to COVID-19. Theaters everywhere went dark, including Pull-Tight Players, Franklin Theatre, and Studio Tenn. According to a survey done by Williamson Source in February of this year, more than 68% of those working in the arts were devastated by the pandemic.

“This has been the most difficult year of my life,” said one survey redpondent. “I was working in entertainment and have basically lost everything. I have been trying to find a way to change industries. It’s just I have learned with entertainment, there is no job security and what if something happens like this again in the future when I have my own family. I have a lot to take into consideration. But I just miss being around like-minded individuals. It made me depressed and I have felt so alone all year.”

Many tried to do things virtually with varying levels of success. Others chose to spend the time planning for when things returned to normal.

Pull-Tight, Franklin Theatre, and Studio Tenn chose different paths to survive during the pandemic, and each has cautiously returned to live performances.

Pull-Tight Players

In the interest of the health and well-being of their patrons, actors, and volunteers, Pull-Tight Players chose to shutter their theater and cancel all performances until there was a decline in cases of COVID-19 and widespread availability of a vaccine.

“…[W]ith vaccines now rolling out and optimism beginning to peek back into our daily routines,” said Board President Matt Grimes on their website, “we on the board felt it was time to begin prep work toward a relaunch. While we want to underscore that everything in these stages is tentative and subject to change, we also want to send a message of hope.”

The company ended their production of “The Real Inspector Hound” with two performances to go, so the Board of Directors has decided to begin the 2021-2022 season with that show in September 2021. The theater doors will open once again on September 10, unless anything changes. It will go forward with the 2020 cast.

“We will also mount four additional productions,” added Grimes, “The Curious Savage”, “Crimes of the Heart”, “Madame Buttermilk”, and “The Elephant Man”. These shows feature smaller casts, and will provide for ample distancing both onstage and backstage, should guidelines make that necessary.”

Unsure of what guidelines will be mandated this fall, the organization is planning for social distancing so seating capacity will be affected. For that reason, they will offer no season tickets for the 2021-2022 season, believing that seating capacities may vary from show to show. They hope to allow past season ticket holders to resume use of last year’s passes in Spring 2022.

Their annual banquet will change to a picnic and take place on August 28.

Ever updating information can be found at https://www.pull-tight.com/.

Franklin Theatre

Slowly Franklin Theatre has been phasing in movies and virtual performances. They have already been renting the space for private events, such as Studio Tenn using the space for its virtual talk show Studio Tenn Talks: Conversations with Patrick Cassidy.

The theater’s box office re-opened with limited hours on March 12. Live performances resumed on June 26th at 8:00 p.m. with Emily West and the Whiskey Wolves.

In July, the theater began presenting movies and live performances with increasing regularity. The Isaacs, James Gregory, Jeff Allen, Larry Carlton, Mike Farris, Electric Hot Tuna, and Farwell Angelina are performing in July.

“We are emerging from an incredibly challenging season for The Franklin Theatre,” said Heritage Foundation COO Meg Hershey. “While we had to temporarily close the doors to public events, we are diligently working behind the scenes to reschedule some of the amazing programming that was planned for last year. We couldn’t be more excited about getting this cherished venue back open to continue its mission, bringing inspiring arts and entertainment experiences to our community.”

The Heritage Foundation is also making plans for a 10th anniversary celebration later this year to commemorate 10 years since the theater’s restoration and grand re-opening.

The mission of The Franklin Theatre is to provide world-class performing arts experiences to diverse Williamson County residents and visitors and to be a platform for local philanthropic engagement and education, while providing unparalleled guest service.

Event information can be found at https://www.franklintheatre.com/all-events/.

Studio Tenn

Studio Tenn is a professional regional theatre company with Broadway-quality programming centered around innovative, custom-designed presentations of classic plays and musicals as well as an original “Legacy” series of theatrical concerts celebrating the work of time-honored musicians. They also work to educate the next generation about live theater experience.

Studio Tenn closed their doors when the pandemic hit. The organization had originally voted to move the rest of the 2020-2021 season to February 2021, but in the fall of 2020 they chose to discontinue regular performances until “sometime in 2021.”

A little over a year later, Studio Tenn kicked off their cabaret series at TPAC on May 15 with Susan Egan. Upcoming performances include Branden & Jameson July 17 and Shoshana Bean on August 21. The series concludes on September 4th with an Intimate Evening with Norm Lewis. All performances begin at 8:00 p.m.

Patrick Cassidy, Studio Tenn’s Artistic Director said, “I can’t think of a better partner to reemerge from the pandemic with than TPAC. We are beyond excited about this partnership and the cabaret series.”

TPAC’s health and safety partnership with HCA Healthcare/TriStar Health will help to ensure patrons can safely return to live performances.

Studio Tenn Theatre Company and Artists Lounge Live recently have announced Elvis My Way starring Brandon Bennett on August 6-8, 2021, at the Sondra Morris and Robert N. Moore Center for Arts and Entrepreneurship, 336 Ernest Rice Ln, Franklin, TN 37069. Studio Tenn. Tickets are available here.

As noted above, Studio Tenn presents a virtual talk show hosted by Artistic Director Patrick Cassidy featuring exclusive interviews with acclaimed performing artists from Broadway, film, and music. Studio Tenn Talks streams live on their Facebook page, and on their YouTube page, on Monday nights at 7 p.m. CST.

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