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Walton Arts Center postpones shows until 2021, creates fund to cover revenue loss

The Ghost Light Recovery Fund will help enable WAC to offset lost revenue from canceled performances, maintain facilities and support staff until they can reopen.
Credit: Walton Arts Center

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark — Walton Arts Center has postponed Broadway shows and performances with audiences of more than 200 until January 2021 and launched the Ghost Light Recovery Fund to help cover the revenue shortfall created by the loss of programming due to health and safety restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“It will be some time before we can resume business as usual at our venues,” said Peter Lane, president and CEO of Walton Arts Center. “Because each show involves several hundred cast and crew members and draws thousands of audience members, it is almost impossible to socially distance and remain safe. The health and safety of our audience, performers and staff are our top priorities.”

The 2020-21 season lineup, scheduled to start in September, had been finalized but only shows in the P&G Broadway Series had been announced and on sale for subscribers.

Of those Broadway shows, My Fair Lady has rescheduled from this September to next summer, Wednesday, July 28 through Sunday, August 1, 2021. An Officer and a Gentleman is also shifting by a few weeks next spring to Tuesday, March 30 through Sunday, April 4, 2021.

WAC staff is working now to finalize changes to Mean Girls, originally scheduled for November, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, originally scheduled for December. The remainder in the series will proceed as scheduled: Fiddler on the Roof in April, Come From Away in May, and Freestyle Love Supreme in June.

Those with tickets to large shows or events previously rescheduled to this fall including Arlo Guthrie, Heather McMahan, Art of Wine and Hasan Minhaj will be contacted directly as soon as scheduling changes are finalized.

"Honoring its commitment to bring arts experiences to Northwest Arkansas, Walton Arts Center will focus this fall on performances for smaller audiences with appropriate safety measures," officials wrote in a statement. "Staff will also focus on arts integration training for teachers and creating online content for teachers and parents to use during the upcoming school year."

As they reschedule a majority of 2020's events, Walton Arts Center and the Walmart AMP face the loss of a year’s worth of programming and its largest source of revenue - ticket sales. Even though steps have been taken to reduce expenditures, there is still a deficit of more than $1 million to keep the organization operational, according to WAC officials.

"Community support is more important now than ever before, and the community has responded," officials wrote in a statement. "Donations during the last few months including ticket donations and one-time gifts total more than $534,000 and have become the inspiration for the Ghost Light Recovery Fund."

A ghost light is a long-held theatrical tradition. When theaters are unoccupied, a single light is left burning on to light the way for a safe return to the stage. A ghost light has been on the WAC stage since the programming suspension in March.

The Ghost Light Recovery Fund will help enable WAC to offset lost revenue from canceled performances, continue education and intermission programming, maintain facilities and support staff until full-scale performances can resume.

You can help the Walton Arts Center’s and the Walmart AMP’s second act by donating at www.waltonartscenter.org/ghostlight.

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