By Alyssa Choiniere
UNIONTOWN, Pa. — It’s been more than nine months since performers took the stage at the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Uniontown, with COVID-19 regulations hampering lucrative productions at the historic venue.
Executive Director Erica Miller said she is looking forward to the day when guests can return to their seats and performers can return to their roles. While arts and entertainment has fallen by the wayside during the coronavirus pandemic, she said the connectivity created in theatre is a fundamental part of humanity.
“I think the great thing about live theatre and the live performing arts is they bring people together to share an experience, to laugh, to be touched, to have an emotional connection with something. The arts reflect our humanity back to us, so not having an opportunity to go out and sit in a theatre, to laugh with others, to feel something in a room full of people that are sharing those same things – there’s a shared experience with the arts that I think makes people feel connected,” Miller said. “We have so many people sitting at home flipping through channels and watching alone. It’s just not the same.”
The theatre lost money with canceled performances, she said, when they were paying back patrons for ticket sales and had no income.
- IF YOU WANT TO HELP: For more information or to donate, visit https://statetheatre.info/donate/ or call the box office at 724-439-1360.
Miller said she spends much of her time seeking out grant funding to pay the bills for the theatre and pay its employees. She said they have received grants through the Community Foundation of Fayette County and through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. That funding, she said, has enabled them to “get through the rough patches so far.”
She hopes their annual Leadership Circle fundraiser will carry them through the rest of 2020. The funding goes toward their general operating expenses.
Miller is planning a half season for the spring of 2021, she said, hoping to book three shows, in addition to a rescheduled 2020 show. She said it is a challenge deciding how to plan when the future is uncertain.
“It’s been challenging to book something, because even the performers that are out there don’t know what will happen. Agents and talent and venues are all struggling because it’s all so unsure,” she said. “We’re not sure what’s going to happen and we’ve had so many things cancel. It’s put us in a precarious place because we’re fearful to book something because we don’t want to have to cancel something else. It’s just a challenging time to decide what to do for the future.”
People tell her they are excited to get back out and enjoy entertainment. While the State Theatre held some live streaming performances for free in the early days of the pandemic, she said they opted against hosting live stream performances for a charge.
“It’s just not the same. I think we’re kind of burning out. We’re doing our meetings online. Our kids are doing our schooling online. To then have people watching two hours of a show online, I think we might be pushing too far with that,” she said.
She said they are planning an archival performance of their production, “Annie.”
Miller anticipates a greater need for volunteers when the theatre is once again open to the public, as they ensure that the theatre is cleaned and sanitized and guidelines in place at the time will be followed.
Alyssa Choiniere is a reporter for the Uniontown Herald-Standard, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story is being simultaneously published. Readers may email her at [email protected]