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Allen Sanders is the general manager at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre. (Photo: Advertiser file)

When Allen Sanders turns on the lights at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre, the sight of an empty stage and seats weighs on him. 

No cheering fans. No sound checks. No staff. 

“We were the first people to be shut down. We’ll be the last ones to start up,” Sanders said. “That’s just the way it is.” 

With safety on the line from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, you can’t restart an active arts and entertainment scene like flipping on a light switch. Even with Gov. Kay Ivey’s announcement allowing large entertainment venues and athletic activities to open as of May 22, the changes won’t be instant in Montgomery. 

“We have a number of things that are in the cue, but of course we won’t be able to move forward on any of those at this point until we get word from the mayor,” said Ken Reynolds of the Montgomery’s Special Events Department.  

Community theater productions across the River Region are also in limbo, including those at the nationally recognized Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Even if the virus dangers clear by summer, there wouldn’t be time for ASF to get projects running soon. 

“It takes six months to a year to put together the caliber of productions we make at ASF,” said Rick Dildine, ASF’s artistic director.

The wait for a chance at a jackpot ends June 8, when Wind Creek facilities open their three Alabama facilities back to the public. 

“We are eager to get reopened, and it’s been a daily process to look at what’s going on,” said Jay Dorris, president and CEO of Wind Creek Hospitality, which operates electronic bingo facilities locally in Montgomery and Wetumpka.

Many restaurants and bars across the River Region have been gradually opening with live musicians. Sanders, who is also a local musician, said there’s no simple way to bring live shows back. 

“You can’t just push the easy button,” he said. 

Alabama Shakespeare Festival

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