RICHARD REGAN, our Chief Executive Officer, looks back at the Auditorium Theatre’s past year and what’s next for the Theatre.
A year ago today, on October 1, 2019, I became CEO of the Auditorium Theatre, returning to the theatre I love after serving as General Manager from 1999-2006. As we all know, the year has not turned out quite as we had expected.
I began my journey as the Auditorium Theatre opened its 130th Anniversary Season. Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater and Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre opened our “Made in Chicago” Dance Series, and the performance was an incredible start to my tenure.
Later that month, I stood with huge crowds on State Street on an unusually warm October evening to see the Auditorium Theatre’s float in the City of Chicago’s annual Arts in the Dark Parade. This was an amazing display highlighting the depth and creativity of the city’s arts community, and reminded me of the important role the Auditorium Theatre has played in our community since 1889.
The 2019-20 Season continued with our Annual Fall Gala, Chicago Celebrates Sondheim!, and I began to plan the 2020-21 Season, my first season as CEO. On December 9th, our 130th anniversary, we hosted a free open house. A few weeks later, we celebrated a long partnership with the final performances of the Joffrey’s Nutcracker on our stage.
In January, we marked the 15th anniversary of Too Hot to Handel, a show that began when I was GM of the Auditorium Theatre. It felt full circle. Our popular Nat Geo Live series welcomed its largest audience yet to hear all about Big Cats.
In February, as we planned for our busiest weeks ahead, we started to hear news of a new virus making its way across the world. When Trinity Irish Dance Company performed on Leap Day 2020, we put safety precautions in place at the theatre. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater soon arrived for their annual residency in their Chicago home at the Auditorium. There was more talk about the virus – which now had a name, Covid-19 – as it arrived in the United States. The speakers at our next Nat Geo Live event on March 10th were not sure they should come to Chicago. They did – but with no meet and greet afterwards. It turned out to be the last show of our 2019-20 Season. The state and city mandated our temporary closure on March 12th, 2020.
We quickly pivoted and created online content to stay in touch with both artists our patrons. We called our subscribers, donors, ticket buyers, and ambassadors to check in. Our days since then have been spent rescheduling shows, postponing shows, and unfortunately cancelling some shows, as well as implementing budget cuts and staff layoffs.
We never announced that 2020-21 Season I worked on last fall. Even as the pandemic progressed, I sincerely hoped I would celebrate my one-year anniversary as CEO with all of you at a performance in our historic theatre.
While we cannot predict the future, we have begun planning some shows in the late summer and fall of 2021. We hope to announce the 2021-22 Season in the spring or summer of 2021. We are also working on re-opening plans and protocols, and if we can safely open sooner, we will.
A year ago today was my first day as CEO of the Auditorium Theatre, about 130 years after this great theatre opened. The theatre has survived two World Wars, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, the Great Recession, almost becoming a parking lot, civil unrest… the list goes on.
The Auditorium Theatre will survive this time in our history and we will open our doors again. We will continue to engage with our friends and patrons in the coming months with more virtual events and programming, and in-person historic tours will return later this month. Most importantly, I look forward to welcoming back each and every one of you as you come once again to see live performances on our historic stage.
In these times, we all need friends, and I am truly grateful for each of you and your continued support of the Auditorium Theatre.
Photo of Auditorium Theatre by Jean Renée.