Arts bodies look to the future

By Marco Holden Jeffery 

With restrictions easing, art lovers and theatregoers are waiting with bated breath to see how Melbourne’s Arts Precinct bounces back.

There won’t be any crowded galleries or sold-out theatre halls, but Melburnians will soon have the opportunity to experience the city’s vibrant arts scene - just not in a way they might have imagined.

Arts Centre Melbourne will reopen its doors on June 27, offering self-guided tours of the Theatres Building, an exhibition at the Australian Music Vault and a production of Ghostly Machines - a 2014 performance that showcases Hamer Hall’s lighting rigging.

Arts Centre Melbourne CEO Claire Spencer said while she was “excited” to see the venue reopen after a three-month closure, conventional events and performances would be some time off.

“We desperately want to reopen our theatres to the many incredibly talented performers and artists who call our stages home,” she said.

“The reality is how we present performances in the coming months may look very different. But we are a creative industry and I’m confident we’ll come up with a very creative solution.”

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) will also reopen both its international site and the Ian Potter Centre on June 27, implementing timed ticketing and queue management to ensure physical distancing.

NGV has been offering a range of online experiences throughout the lockdown and will continue to do so once the gallery has reopened.

Although theatres will be allowed to reopen on June 22, the 50-person limit on audience members means putting on a production would be prohibitively expensive.

Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) artistic director Brett Sheehy said the venue already got by “on a financial knife-edge” and presenting shows to such small crowds would not be possible.

“The cost of presenting the simplest one-person show to these requirements would see us losing even more than our current 2020 projected box office loss of $9.5 million, given the running costs of the show and venue versus box office income,” he said.

MTC’s neighbours at the Malthouse Theatre are in a similar position, flagging November as the earliest possible reopening date if restrictions aren’t relaxed further.

“We’re looking at potentially sourcing some funding to help prepare and build an outdoor stage that could be used throughout summer, from November to March,” Malthouse spokesperson Tatia Sloley said.

As an alternative to in-person performances, the Malthouse will host three free live-streamed performances of monologues inspired by the experiences of Melburnians in lockdown.

The first of the performances, titled The Lockdown Monologues, streamed successfully on June 3.

“People are hungry to connect at the moment and we hope that The Lockdown Monologues will give audiences the sense of community that we’re all lacking right now,” Malthouse director in residence Bridget Balodis said •

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