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'The show must go on': A local theater is finding new ways to survive the pandemic

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Posted at 7:53 AM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 20:40:48-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Firehouse Theatre is finding new ways to operate and survive during the pandemic. Heading into their 27th season, COVID-19 has made it difficult for the artistic hub of creativity to thrive.

The theater's Producing Director Joel Bassin said despite it being hard, he and local artists that perform at Firehouse are refusing to give up.

"We're used to every day dealing with uncertainty, you know, is anybody going to come, or the actor is going to learn their lines. Is it going to be a hit?" said Bassin.

The theater implemented new safety measures and cleaning protocols, and Bassin says they've changed the way artists perform.

Each performance now only features one-person shows in front of small, intimate groups of people. The groups can be as few as two people, but no more than 10.

"I've been here for six years. I don't think we've ever done a one-person show," said Bassin. "It's been pretty wild for a lot of reasons we were one of the first theaters in the country, and possibly the world to return to live performances."

The changes in show size have been well received by both the artist and the audience Bassin says, allowing for a less distracting experience. "The people who are coming are so grateful, mainly because people are having a lot of cabin fever," Bassin added. "And the actors also said this is the most amazing performance experience we’ve ever had."

The theater is also streaming live shows, reaching people as far as Taiwan. "We’ve had a lot of people from around the country who would not have been able to physically come to Firehouse even without the pandemic,” said Bassin.

Though many are still able to view shows, the pandemic has still affected the theater's bottom line. The Firehouse is down about 85% from last year's earned revenue, but still breaking even thanks to community support.

"People have been sending unsolicited contributions. It's been a real inspiring thing to see everybody pulled together and be aware that the arts are in trouble," said Bassin.

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The theater has entertained the community since 1993 with hundreds of plays that have been performed inside what was once known as the Richmond Fire Department's Station House #10.

Bassin believes the continued kindness will pull them through the pandemic.

"We're not going anywhere," Basin added, "as bad as everything is, art conquers all."

Firehouse Theatre focuses on new shows written by Richmond and area play-writes. You can learn more about upcoming events and how to support here.