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Oriental Theater, Risking Closure by Spring, Launches Fundraiser

The Oriental Theater faces an uncertain future.EXPAND
The Oriental Theater faces an uncertain future.
Michael Emery Hecker
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Like most independent venues, the Oriental Theater is at risk of shutting down. In August, it launched its Safe Sound Series. The string of limited-capacity shows allows ninety people, or 10 percent, into the venue at a time in order to keep it within the city and state's COVID-19 regulations.

"The feedback from people who attend is overwhelmingly positive, and that feels great," says Oriental co-owner Scott Happel. "Also giving artists the opportunity to play what they love and make at least some income has been rewarding. Financially, for us, it helps, but it’s not a long-term solution. It’s helped our money last longer, but it won’t keep us going until next spring."

On Tuesday, October 13, the Oriental is launching a fundraiser to keep its workers employed. People can become a Friend of the Oriental Theater by donating different amounts to the venue. For each donation, fans will be rewarded with tiered prizes. Levels range from $10 to $5,000. A few prizes include a sticker, pin, T-shirt, and hat for $80 and a private party at the theater with a bar tab for $2,500; donors can sponsor the lobby bar for $5,000.

Happel is holding out hope that the federal Save Our Stages and RESTART Act relief efforts for live entertainment venues will pass Congress, but COVID-19 relief efforts are in partisan gridlock.

"Our goal is to keep our doors open and staff employed through the winter and into the spring, when hopefully things start to improve," Happel says. "Every donation will help us toward that goal."

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