By Paul Burton

BOSTON (CBS) – Seats once filled with laughter, tears and excitement remain empty. The pandemic has completely crippled the performing arts and theatres across the country including the Boch Center. The box office remains closed and playbills from last March still hang.

“It’s been a really tough time,” Boch Center President and CEO Joe Spaulding said. Spaulding oversees both the Wang and Shubert Theatres.

They have been closed since March and have no plans to reopen anytime soon. “Maybe we get lucky and we may open in September of next year and in many cases we are looking at the beginning of 2022,” Spaulding said. “We will have gone a year and half with absolutely not one dollar of earned income.”

Wang Theatre in Boston (WBZ-TV)

They had to let go of 276 employees. They are hoping on a $10-billion stimulus program from the federal government called “Save Our Stages” to keep independent theatres from closing their curtains for good. “Without this relief we are in trouble. And 90 percent of us will go out of business,” Spaulding said.

Once theatres are allowed to reopen, Spaulding said it will still take at least four months for a big time show to begin. “The big shows like the holiday shows and the Broadway shows, and the family shows, no you can’t do that it’s impossible,” he said.

But in this profession the show must go on, so the Boch Center has gone virtual with a series called Ghost Light. “Artists are standing on the stage. There are no lights, no sound, no production. With their instruments and performing in front of 3500 seats that are empty,” he smiled.

As successful as it’s been, Spaulding said nothing will replace the live-in person experience. “The arts actually are the soul of this country and to shut it off is really bad,” he said.

To help raise funds the Wang is selling their seats for people to put their names on and will remain there forever. Spaulding said he knows one day these seats will be filled again. “We will be back and can’t wait to see you. We have hundreds of shows that want to come it’s just a matter of time,” he said.

Until then a single light bulb still shines at the front of the stage for brighter days ahead.

Paul Burton

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