Getting Creative – The Story of Maltz Performing Arts Center

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Getting Creative – The Story of Maltz Performing Arts Center

August 27, 2020

maltz performing arts center

When COVID-19 initially hit in March, venues were forced to close. Live events were no longer allowed. In Ohio, Case Western Reserve University’s Maltz Performing Arts Center was no exception. Everyone was sent home around March 11th or 12th. We recently had a phone interview with their Director, Jason Cohen, to talk how they were affected and about a very creative solution they’ve been able to implement during this time.

Like every other venue, they aren’t able to host live events with an audience. They’re trying to follow the industry guidelines and are looking at what Broadway and Playhouse Square are doing for guidance. Playhouse Square is a theatre district in downtown Cleveland. Jason has regular calls with others in the region who work in the industry to make sure everyone has all the most recent information and is on the same page.

The idea of live streaming concerts actually wasn’t too far-fetched for them. They’ve been live streaming university ensemble concerts as part of their Silver Hall Concert Series for years so they already had the infrastructure in place for it.

Aside from their new cleaning protocols, there isn’t much of a difference between getting ready for these live streamed events versus their normal events when it comes to what’s happening on the stage.

The difference is in what happens off-stage. There are less staff requirements now because there isn’t a need for ushers, parking attendants, or box office staff.

One other difference is that the sound in the house doesn’t matter anymore. What’s important is the sound in the headphones of the engineer for the live stream.

Many different safeguards have been put in place. They’re following and have implemented procedures for all of the CDC guidelines. Here are just a few of the things they’ve put in place.

Their HVAC system already meets the requirements, but they now leave it on during concerts when they’d usually turn it off.

They mop the stage every day and use disinfectant on all the surfaces. For the microphones they use alcohol wipes.

Before concerts they have bands fill out a questionnaire and if they have any symptoms they aren’t allowed to enter the facility. These new procedures will help to keep everyone safe.

When the lockdown began in March, they began to work on the plan for live-streaming. The CDC recommendations are changing regularly and their procedures need to be reviewed and approved by the University before any event can occur. It took a while for everything to be documented and approved so the concert series didn’t start until August 5th.

For this live streamed series, they’ve really opened up their repertoire. They typically host more classical acts and ensembles, but now they’re hosting everything from folk and country to rock bands. This has been a great opportunity for local acts. They recently had the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra perform as well.

While they’re obviously excited to have their venue “open” again, Jason said that artists have also been ecstatic to perform. They actually have bands reaching out to them about playing. For most of these artists, it’s the first time since February or March that they’ve actually played a live show.

The concerts are currently scheduled through the end of September. They are able to extend it and schedule more shows beyond that but since they’re part of a University, they need to exist within that larger system. In-person classes are now beginning to resume at the University and their facility is used for that.

For those who are interested, there are a lot of options to watch these concerts. You can view them on their website, Facebook page, or YouTube channel.

We’d like to thank Jason and the team at Maltz Performing Arts Center for allowing us this look inside what they’re doing!

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