It’s been 527 days since a live performance was presented on the main stage of The Grand Opera House, executive director Mark Fields said Friday.
“I’m pleased to say it will only be another 37 days before we have an artist on this stage and an audience in this theater, followed by an entire season of entertainment, uplift and joy for the Delaware community in all three of our theaters,” Fields said during a small ceremony to mark the help that the federal Shuttered Venue Operations Grant program has given Delaware arts groups.
The program has awarded 33 grants to Delaware performance venues and talent representatives, including $1.9 million to the Grand.
Fields said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut theaters in March 2020, the Grand found out how many friends it had through people who offered both financial and emotional support.
“We are eager to get back to providing the performances and programs that everyone enjoys,” he said. “We will also get back to bringing thousands of people downtown to support our friends in local restaurants, parking garages, retailers and vendors.”
Fields pointed out that there are still challenges ahead as organizations try to figure out how to best protect patrons, artists, volunteers and staff.
“But with the funding and endorsement of our federal officials as well as foundations, corporations and the public, I’m confident that The Grand will be back to entertaining Wilmington very soon,” he said.
Also speaking was Ron Ozer, director of the Arden Concert Gild; John Fleming, district director of the Small Business Administration; Brian DiSabatino, chairman of the board of The Grand; and U.S. Sen. Tom Carper.
“Help is not just on the way. Help is here,” said Carper, who supported the Save our Stages Act and the Shuttered Venue Operations Grant, part of the federal COVID-19 rescue money.
Ozer said that as a member of the National independent Venue Association advocacy team, he was shocked at how many venues were threatened with closure, unable to make minimum payments to stay open with shows bringing in ticket sales and more. His organization helped push for financial aid.
The Arden Club, which operates the theater there, got $166,208 from the Shuttered Venues grant.
“Now we are ready to reopen in a month,” Ozer said. “And we’ve got this financial underpinning that will keep us going. At a time when the pandemic continues, and things are still somewhat fraught, we think we will succeed in reopening.”
Fleming said a lot of the early help focused on restaurants, and he was happy to see performing venues get grants.
“Good luck in the future, and hopefully we’ll see some supplemental money coming soon,” Fleming said.
DiSabatino thanked Carney, Sen. Chris Coons and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester for supporting the Shuttered Venues grants.
“Those dollars that you have so graciously gifted to us in the form of your grant will go to work immediately,” he said. “They will bring people back to work, people whose job skills are so specific that they have struggled for the last 18 to 24 months because this is their industry, and you’ve brought this industry back to life .”
The money will help fill restaurants and hotel rooms, he said.
“But the currency that we traded here is not just dollars,” DiSabatino said. ” The currency that we trade in here is joy and hope and fulfillment. And your gift, the gift to the people of Delaware, the gift from the people of America, has allowed us to share that great gift of joy and that great gift of hope.
“In this theater in the seats behind us will be people that will laugh and they will cry. They will bring their parents and they will bring their children, and they will share an art form between each other — their currency — that will bring that joy and that hope.”
Also receiving money Shuttered Venue Operations Grant were:
- $2,253,038, Penn Cinema Riverfront, Wilmington
- $1,957,265, Atlantic Theatres, Rehoboth Beach
- $1.5 million, Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, Selbyville.
- $1,372,037, Bottle Taproom Inc. in Delaware Beach
- $131,272, Main Street Movies, Newark
- $545,743, New Candlelight Productions, Wilmington
- $353,230, Premier Center for the Arts, Milton
- $333,126, Delaware Theatre Company, Wilmington
- $273,243, Clear Space Theatre Co., Rehoboth Beach
- $191,319, 2 Plus 2 USA, talent rep, Wilmington
- $190,621, Community Matters Foundation Presents Hudson Fields, Dewey Beach
- $158,411, First State Ballet Theatre, Wilmington
- $134, 535, The South Newport Co., Dagsboro
- $130,526, Dickens Parlour Theatre, Dagsboro
- $125,954, Smyrna-Clayton Heritage Association, Smyrna
- $113,464, PromoShare Inc, Wilmington
- $100,876, Theatre N, Wilmington
- $99,063, Rehoboth Beach Film Society, Rehoboth Beach
- $72,099, Wilmington Drama League, Wilmington
- $46,992, NRJ Partners LLC, Smyrna
- $46,280, Realize Records LLC, Middletown, talent rep
- $35,568, Geodesic Management LLC, Newark, talent rep
- $25,512, Delaware Shakespeare Festival, Wilmington
- $23,369, Blue Horizo Productions LLC, Saint Georges
- $11,848, Coastal Concerts Inc, Lewes
- $11071, Delaware Choral Society, Dover
- $7,021, Nomad Talent LLC, talent rep
- $5,985, Saint Georges Culture & Arts Revival Corp., St. Georges
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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