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Entertainment venues find creative ways to survive COVID-19



The situation at The Comedy Closet is tumultuous. According to owner Joe Coughlin, before the CDC closed event venues, the local comedy club hosted mic nights and brought some big names in comedy to town. In March, however, Coughlins’ business had to shut down the shows altogether. If Comedy Closet reopened now, it could only safely accommodate around 20 comedy fans.

Industries across the country have struggled with COVID-19, and the entertainment industry is no exception.

Coughlin, like many venue owners, finds creative ways to make live shows work. In the future, he said, he could start hosting shows in the parking lot at the site, where people can watch the comedian on a screen in the parking lot while others pay more to enter and see the live show. However, Coughlin is concerned about the future of the club.

There’s so much in the air, says Coughlin.

While Coughlin is doing everything in his power to ensure the club can reopen and bring some comedy to Columbia, he cannot promise that they will reopen when he is safe again. He said he is currently looking for investors to help the venue continue to bring humor to Columbia in the long term.

Another venue hit by a wave of change this year is the Koger Center for the Arts, which has hosted a variety of local and traveling events such as nationwide Broadway tours, graduation ceremonies, and USC School performances. of Music before COVID-19.

We haven’t done anything since March 14, said center director Nate Terracio.

Due to not being able to have large crowds, the space has largely become a class building, Terracio said. Rather than accommodating ensembles of 50 to 60 people, they had to find not one space, but sometimes five spaces for them to break into small groups to rehearse. The large size of the center provided a safe space for students to spread out, work on homework online, or take music lessons.

Our main focus has been to prepare for the return of the students to campus … and now that has happened we can move on to that other part of what we do here which is providing entertainment, said Terracio .

The Koger Center plans to start recording and broadcasting its upcoming events, such as jazz and other musical performances.

Not only did the CDC’s restrictions on gatherings affect the venue, but they also impacted the artists themselves. Psychedelic rap musician Blane Conant, or WritersBlock, performed at local music venue Art Bar often before COVID. Conant said playing is an indescribable feeling that allows him to connect with strangers. He’s not sure if the performances will ever look the same, but he hopes the concert hiatus will make everyone appreciate the live shows more.

This also applies to comedians. Laughter, something the comedian feeds on, is delayed on Zoom.

You don’t feel like you’re in control of the room, Coughlin said. Everyone can’t wait to get back on stage with a live crowd. This is where the actor draws his energy.

Terracio said that live performances are important from an audience perspective because these moments are “how we grow as a society and grow as individuals.”

“There is no substitute for this,” Terracio said.

WritersBlock is available on streaming platforms, the Koger Center is online streaming events and you can stay informed with Comedy Closet on Facebook.

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