The State Theatre in Greenville, North Carolina will reopen on April 8 at 8 p.m. and the theater’s staff will continue to collaborate with local artists and promoters to get back to regularly scheduled performances after a year of closure due to COVID-19.
Mark Thompson, co-owner of the State Theatre and the Lincoln Theatre, located in Raleigh, North Carolina, said he will continue to ensure the theater follows COVID-19 safety protocols. He said the theater will operate as a restaurant and performance venue, with limited capacity, and everyone will be required to wear a face mask.
“Instead of our normal 900 (person) capacity, we will be opened to about 150 capacity and everything will be seated,” Thompson said.
The theater will be opened at 15% capacity, according to the State Theatre’s website. For those who want to attend the upcoming shows, tickets can be purchased in advance online. Thompson said patrons can buy a “pod,” a table that guests can purchase for a group of people. Guests must arrive with their group and sit in the designated “pod” throughout their time spent in the theater.
The guests will be required to wear a face mask at all times while in the building, Thompson said, and can only be removed while eating or drinking. He said he looks forward to the return of the energy and music back within the space of the theater.
“Just hearing live music again, just getting the energy of the music and getting the business back open, looking forward to it,” Thompson said.
The State Theatre has shows planned almost every Friday and Saturday for the rest of April, Thompson said. He said the show on April 8 will be a live in-person performance by Led Zeppelin tribute band Zoso.
The pandemic caused the theater to lose “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” which was not an easy loss, Thompson said. He said he hopes the State Theatre will be able to make back some of the lost money.
“It was not easy having to continue to pay all your bills with zero money coming in, so that was a difficult task,” Thompson said.
Jeff Blinder, a promoter and event coordinator in the Greenville area, said he works with the State Theatre. He said he works with local artists and musicians through the entertainment company he founded, Spazz Presents. Blinder said he coordinated his first event with the State Theatre in February 2020 and kept in touch with the State Theatre while it was closed.
Blinder said will continue to prepare for an event, “Spazz Fest Presents: August Is Ours w/ Versatility, Eclectic 252 & William Seymour,” on April 17 at 7 p.m. at the State Theatre. The event will feature performances from local musicians. He said he encourages his artists to perform at the State Theatre because it is one of the biggest venues his artists can play at in the city.
“The love for the music right now, for people creating music live, there’s not much of that happening right now,” Blinder said. “There’s a few places trying, but right now that room the State Theatre is opening for music, it is a room that is there straight for the music experience.”
In comparison to other locations that give artists a chance to perform, Blinder said the State Theatre is “meant for musicians.” He said other venues are built to have musicians play in the background, while the State Theatre puts focus on the actual music.
Artists and musicians have had a difficult time during the pandemic, Blinder said. The loss of opportunities to share their music has impacted the artists not only financially, but emotionally as well, he said.
“It’s been a whole year and I’ve worked with a lot of artists and musicians over this time frame, and it’s really difficult because a lot of them struggle with life,” Blinder said. “They’re good with music; they’re not good with life.”
Blinder said he thinks to have live shows for artists and musicians will allow the talent to feel appreciated and supported.
Even though the State Theatre will operate at a limited capacity, Blinder said he still tries to reach as many people as possible. He said he uses his Facebook and passes out flyers on East Carolina University’s campus to promote the event. Blinder wants to bring people together to enjoy the show in a safe way.
“I definitely have concerns, my concerns don’t outweigh the fact I think it’s necessary for people to be safe about things and be mindful and be respectful to each other,” Blinder said.
Graduate student in the department of recreational sciences at East Carolina University, Ben Cashion, said he attended four shows at the State Theatre before COVID-19 and plans to attend more. He said he plans to attend the “Spazz Fest” event on April 17.
Cashion plans to buy two “pods” for his group of eight people. He said he has been vaccinated for COVID-19 and thinks as long as people wear face masks, the environment will be safe.
“Seeing all the people and just being able to hear live music, we just haven’t had it and once you sit down to a concert or to a show you realize how much you missed it over the last year,” Cashion said.