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Omaha’s performing arts scene bounces back, safely

Omaha Performing Arts will keep COVID measures in place
Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 10:26 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Performing arts organizations across the country had to get creative as COVID-19 unfolded and in raising the curtain on live performances, have continued to be safety-conscious.

As Omaha productions have once again ramped up at the very important holiday stretch, those lessons are still in place while the show goes on.

”We’ve had a little over 200 performances since the summertime, we’ve just had 55,000 people come through with Hamilton, but its still a struggle,” said Andy Cassano, Vice President of Programming and Education for Omaha Performing Arts. “The shows are still very late to sell and audiences are still being careful about coming out to the public.”

COVID concerns are now a part of theatre life, and while they were dark last year O-PA made some permanent changes, including new air filtration systems in all their venues. As new variants create added uncertainty, O-PA will continue to require masks for all indoor productions.

“I think most people understand that we have their safety in mind, but it’s also really important that the patrons know it’s not just about the patrons’ safety, it’s about the artists’ safety, too,” Cassano said. “These are artists that are traveling all over the world and that nobody has a sub for them if they can’t make it through their tour. But by and large, the patrons have been very understanding and actually very thankful we have put protective measures in place.”

At Salem Baptist Church, Ananais Montague puts his choir through rehearsal for his Omaha production of Joyful Noise, which will be greeted by a live audience again this year at the Holland Center. A smaller production for O-PA, the popular holiday show is important as all theatres look to regain their footing after last season’s lost performances.

“I think after losing last year you take seriously what you have, the gift, the opportunity to share it, you don’t take it lightly,” Montague said. “We’ve gone through so many measures. To be a part of the production, you have to be vaccinated. We’re still wearing masks, we won’t be wearing masks on Saturday, but we’re taking extra precautions to make sure we are protecting ourselves and those who are coming to the performance.”

“We are excited, this is our eighth year with O-PA,” he said. “Last year we had to do ours online. We are so excited we can hardly keep that joy inside.”

There will be two performances of Joyful Noise, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4:00 p.m. at Holland Center.

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