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Shadowbox Live CEO Stacie Boord on Reopening, Lifted Health Orders & More

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman Shadowbox Live CEO Stacie Boord on Reopening, Lifted Health Orders & MoreShadowbox Live's "Leather & Lace" is a stop on the Columbus Makes Art Passport. Photo by Tommy Feisel.
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Shadowbox Live returned to live audiences on Thursday, May 20.

America’s largest resident ensemble theatre company will welcome fans back to live shows with performances of The Beatles tribute show The Legends of Liverpool, as well as the new original sketch comedy and rock ‘n’ roll show Let’s Get It On: Live Edition. In addition, Shadowbox Live will once again present their hit show Leather and Lace: A Musical Tribute to the Women of Rock-n-Roll this summer.

Ahead of reopening weekend, Shadowbox Live CEO Stacie Boord sat virtually with Columbus Underground to talk lessons of the pandemic, the surprise lifting of health orders by Governor Mike DeWine, and more.

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Columbus Underground: Tell me about what all is happening right now in preparation for the first live opening in over 14 months?

Stacie Boord: There’s so much to unpack with it. The feelings of finally, we’re back doing what we do. We’ve been able to stay busy and give back to our community and really be innovative. A lot of lessons were learned. Some things were really super successful, some things, eh. But we had the courage to try and we did it. It was 15 months that we were able to accomplish things that we never would have had time to dive into with our normal production schedule.

There’s a reason our name is Shadowbox Live — because our heart is in the live experience. We used video as a means to capture artwork in a different way. But [in] this renewed commitment to the live experience, how can we take what we’ve learned and elevate our in-person experience? And how do we stretch ourselves as artists to do that?

And then we’ve got these protocols in place to keep everybody safe. Then the governor’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, by the way, June 2, don’t worry about any of that.'” [laughs]

I think that the important thing for us right now is we’re going to do what’s comfortable for us. We’re not going to go back to business as normal. There’s a lot of reasons for that operationally and logistically that we can’t just do that. We’re probably going to stay masked for a little bit longer. I want to get a temperature, I want to [see] how this is going to work. We’re going to maintain our table sales of two and four through the end of the year. I don’t think people are going to be comfortable sitting with people they don’t know, maybe not ever. This may be a whole new thing. So that’s where we are right now. It’s one big experiment.

CU: I just want to dig more into that. What are you looking most forward to as far as going back to live performances?

SB: Connecting with the audience. The fact that our audience comes and sees us do things that have never been done before, they’re willing to pay money and to support it, and they go into it blindly, is like the most amazing thing ever. We’re so fortunate. And during this time, trying to do our art form — comedy — without an audience. Like, they are our art form. We don’t know necessarily where the jokes are, or where the ending is, or what part doesn’t really motivate the sketch until we get in front of an audience. We’ve had previews this past weekend with very small audiences, and we learned so much about it. We were able to make changes on Friday that we put back up on Saturday and it was better. And then we made changes again, and we’re putting it up on this coming Saturday. It was just such a beautiful reminder of what an amazing partnership we have with our audience when it comes to our art form.

CU: What other lessons came out of the pandemic in the last 14-15 months? What did you take away from having to get creative with virtual shows?

SB: I didn’t learn, but it validated how amazing my colleagues are, and my board. Talk about being on their A-game, holy shit.

We need to slow down. And real innovation requires real rest. Before the pandemic, we were already down that path.

But I think it’s taking a hard look at our industry…and the repercussions of a fast-paced schedule. I think that there’s so much to unpack when it comes to that. We’re reevaluating things, and how we can best serve our audience and our artists at the same time, and our community.

CU: Did the virtual shows provide any benefit? Would you consider implementing some sort of hybrid performance or something that you provided over the pandemic and continuing any of that?

SB: Yeah, absolutely. Our virtual field trips that we created were incredibly powerful. We were able to serve so many more kids because of that. And we’ll do that so we can release something in 2022 for the students. Because I still don’t think we’re gonna be able to bring in kids like we were before.

Also, we learned a lot on how we might be able to use video to elevate our in-person performances, and what we want to explore regarding new technology, so that’s something that we’re absolutely doing. Our very first virtual fundraiser was a huge success, we’d never done anything like that before. And we decided to do it again. We just did it a couple of weeks ago, and again it was another success. We’re able to have entertainment, to update our donors and our viewers wherever they may be in the world as to what we’re working on and what we’re doing, and have a specific call to action. Our stage was in dire need of repair. So we were able to raise enough money to be able to do that before we did this reopening, which is fantastic. We don’t have to worry about unevenness on the stage, which is huge.

So I think that that’s a real possibility of keeping every year. We gained so many new donors during that time. It allows people to just give $20 and that’s awesome, and we appreciate it, and they can participate at any level they want. But a lot of these new donors are coming in, in sizable amounts. I’m like, holy shit, awesome. Thank you.

CU: And you kind of touched on this earlier, but what are the concerns as far as the lifting of mask mandates? Do you expect people to give you more of a hard time about it?

SB: I think anyone who comes to Shadowbox understands that we’re gonna do what we feel is right for our audience and for our artists. And we may ask those that are vaccinated to come in with a mask, but when you sit down, just like you do in a restaurant, you can take it off. This is not a heavy lift. Just meet us halfway, that’s all I’m asking. And we will remove that when we feel comfortable. Now we perform with clear masks, we’re determining when we feel comfortable taking those off.

I’m really not worried about it. We hope that everyone will be respectful of coming in. We’re not asking for the moon here. And we’re gonna roll with it. Like, hell, I don’t know what it’s gonna look like a month from now. We’re just gonna have to wait and see. And we’ll do our best to update people on what our protocols are.

And people can participate when they feel comfortable doing so. When it aligns with what they feel is authentic to them, that’s great and we welcome them. And if they need to wait a few more months, we respect that too.

For reservations, information and more show dates, visit www.shadowboxlive.org.

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