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SHOW MUST GO ON: Because of the pandemic, live performances are socially distanced outdoors at Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers.

Dinner and a show sure looks different these days at Alliance for the Arts, a creative hub for self-expression in Fort Myers. Instead of theater seats, audience members sprawl out on marked squares to see live performances under the stars. The live theater season, which launched in October, is set entirely outside for the sake of social distancing.

The arts industry has been no exception to COVID-19’s effects, after all.

When the pandemic first hit, the Alliance for the Arts had to cancel most of its planned events, Executive Director Lydia Black says. “We were one of the first industries to close, and certainly one of the last to be able to reopen, because our business is gathering people together.”

But the show must go on, and in a serendipitous twist, the organization had just finished a significant outdoor expansion now known as Alliance ArtsPark. The public space has plenty of room for fresh-air fun.

“We could never have predicted a pandemic, but over the last two years, we have invested in landscaping, sidewalks, lighting and a new paint job,” Black says. ArtsPark is anchored by the Caloosahatchee Water Wall, a towering structure created by artist Michael Singer.

“We’re seeing a ton of people use the outside facility,” she adds.

Shortened performances take place on the intimate GreenMarket Stage, initially intended for live music, gardening workshops and the weekly Saturday GreenMarket.

“With the help of a local Eagle Scout troop, we’ve expanded the stage to be able to offer a larger space for socially distant performances and concerts,” Black says. “We wanted to be able to responsibly bring small groups of people together to enjoy the arts.”

Smaller casts treat guests to classic plays such as Duck Variations, which kicked off the show season in October, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which followed in November, along with James McClure’s Laundry and Bourbon.

The live performances are just one way the Alliance for the Arts is keeping the community together, Black said.

“When trouble hits and people feel isolated from each other, we think of how we can encourage people to remain creative and connected,” she says. “We truly believe in our mission to inspire and transform lives and engage our community in the arts.”

The socially distanced shows are set to have a two-week run once a month, with the season planned through March. Visit artinlee.org for more information.

Photo Credit: Vanessa Rogers; Courtesy Alliance for the Arts

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