Omicron variant puts momentum rebound of performing arts scene in jeopardy again |

Omicron variant puts momentum rebound of performing arts scene in jeopardy again

From left to right, Vaudevillians Brooklyn Buhre, Gerald DeLisser and Nattia Trout wear masks when not speaking during a mic check in a dress rehearsal on Nov. 19.
Rich Allen/Post Independent

Across the Roaring Fork Valley, stages were boosting up artists once again. After a winter and spring that limited arts performances, often moving them online or outright canceling them, a tangible optimism was growing in the fall. Performers were returning to stages and audiences were returning to seats.

Then the omicron COVID-19 variant came along.

Following a tide of closures nationally, from the National Hockey League to Broadway to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, COVID-19 once again began emptying the calendars of local groups.

Carbondale Arts called off its March fashion show Green is The New Black Fashion Extravaganza several months in advance. KDNK and Thunder River Theatre Company have each canceled their New Year’s Eve events. Other events are at risk, and the surging optimism around live theater is wavering once again.

“One of the things I’ve been reading on the forums that I’m on is, like, this has really caused a shift in the idea of, ‘The show must go on,’” newly minted Thunder River Executive Director Sean Jeffries said. “It’s devastating for us on the creative side. It’s devastating to the audience. … There’s the connection that you are experiencing with other people, and that connection that you’re having with the person that is doing the storytelling. You can’t beat that in any world.”

Jeffries and Thunder River completed a run of Cassidy Willey’s “As Close As I Can,” which he said reminded him of the importance of in-person theater.

Now, that vessel is in jeopardy for a second winter in a row.

In Glenwood Springs, the iconic Glenwood Vaudeville Revue has not yet had a cancellation of its holiday show. But it’s gotten close.

Three staff members — including one performer — have tested positive at the Vaudeville, contracted from outside sources, over the run of the production, taking the show to the brink but not over as of yet.

Director John Goss said reservation cancellations are becoming common.

“It doesn’t get more frustrating when, literally, we would’ve had our best Christmas ever,” Goss said. “We were really filling up houses, were turning a lot of people away, trying to put them into other nights that were smaller. Now, I’ve got tables available on any given night.”

What just weeks ago was a performing arts scene bursting at the seams after a season’s-worth of build-up and anticipation is slouching toward uncertainty.

In the fall, groups were staging rebound tours of sorts. Thunder River’s “Men On Boats” nearly completely sold out. The Defiance Community Players took part in a show called “All Together Now,” an international fundraising effort to reestablish local theater scenes after a winter of virtual performances and “getting creative.”

“I think the name of this project says it all,” Defiance Community Players member Chip Wells told the Post Independent in September. “It is time for us all to be together.”

The frustration isn’t limited to the performers. Audience members are now being asked to weigh the risk of contracting the virus against their valuation of the importance of attending shows.

As evidenced by reservation cancellations, many are uncomfortable with the risk.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before in the way of cancellations,” Goss said. “Groups of 30 or 50 or parties are like, ‘We just can’t do it.’ And I get it.”

Venues and groups are now in a pattern of sitting and watching. Goss said he hopes to keep his doors open. Jeffries will reevaluate Thunder River’s Diva Cabaret in mid-January.

“It’s obvious that people want us to be here and we’re just trying our best to walk that line of how we can put on a show and sort of guarantee to people that the show will happen, but still having to be cognizant of the greater situation when it comes to the virus,” Jeffries said.

Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or

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