Live-performance presenters around the region are tentatively getting their mojo back. With health and safety on everyone’s mind and variants looming in the shadows, live performances are being scheduled, tickets are being sold and, in some cases, the shows have gone on. Music presenters such as SBL Entertainment, which books a full schedule at The Sofia in midtown and Ace of Spades on R Street, have been open to audiences since late July. Mondavi Center on the UC Davis campus is offering a full season of its eclectic presentations beginning in October.
Mondavi executive director Don Roth says being on campus has been an advantage for the presenter because the university has been focused on returning to live instruction. “We’re a classroom as well, and we’ll open in September for students to come back,” Roth says.
A major component of when and if the Mondavi could return to presenting was the question of whether artists were ready to go out on tour. Roth says they are. Opening with Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and moving through shows such as Eliza Jane Schneider’s expansive spoken-word piece “Freedom of Speech,” jazz vocalist Veronica Swift, and perennials the Alexander String Quartet, the season sets up like many others despite the planning limitations and uncertainty of health protocols.
“The university is ready to open up again and our staff and crew are ready to put it together in a healthy and safe way,” Roth says. Audiences are responding positively to the season announcement and tickets are selling well. “There’s an uptick in people subscribing online, which we didn’t do in the past— it was mostly on paper and in person. All the feedback I’ve been getting on that has been positive,” Roth says. “We think it will be a memorable season. People are ready to get back together.”
The Mondavi also played a significant role in Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera’s efforts to sustain itself and its patrons during the shutdown. Though the Phil had pivoted toward digital offerings, those didn’t really take hold until they recorded in Mondavi’s Jackson Hall this spring.
“The Mondavi Center was actually able to open its doors for us, so we recorded four separate days of events with 20 musicians at a time,” says Alice Sauro, the Phil’s executive director. “We created four digital presentations, which were just fantastic.” The programs were offered free to subscribers, ticket holders and donors. “That’s how we pivoted, and our audience response was very good to that,” Sauro says. The Phil has scheduled an ambitious seven-program 2021–22 season bookended by the two concerts canceled at the end of the 2019–20 season. They open in September with the Saint-Saën’s organ symphony at Memorial Auditorium and close in May of 2022 with a fully staged opera at SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center, Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.”
“We thought what better way to get everybody together in a nice big building and celebrate Memorial and its beautiful organ,” Sauro says.
While Capital Stage has announced a six-play season, which opened at the end of August, B Street Theatre is approaching opening with a little more caution. Buck Busfield, B Street’s producing artistic director, says, “We are eager to reopen, but ultimately that will be left to the public’s comfort level. We are sending out regular surveys to help us gauge attendance, and the results are uncertain. But we are ready and planning for concerts in August and plays in September. Our artistic staff has remained intact, gratefully, and even expanded our core during shutdown. Most keenly we miss our friends and seeing them at The Sofia.”