JEFFERSONVILLE — Bill and Phyllis Duke were hoping to bring something new to Southern Indiana when they opened the Clark County Opry in January.
The house was packed for the first show, and the second event also drew a large crowd. But when they opened the doors for the March show, they were surprised by the small turnout.
“No one had really heard anything. Everybody was just kind of speculating,” Phyllis Duke said.
One of the entertainers who performed that evening talked about hearing from her friend, a pharmacist, about people getting sick. By May, the Clark County Opry, which is inside Maxwell’s House of Music at 1710 E. 10th St. in Jeffersonville, was forced to temporarily close due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Dukes planned to have an outdoor show during the summer, but after checking with government officials, they cancelled it. They eventually had to call off all of their shows for August.
But with some light at the end of the tunnel, and the easing of some restrictions for in-person events, the Clark County Opry is set to return to somewhat of a normal lineup.
“We’re booked every Saturday night for the next three months and we’ll decide probably at the end of October and early November if we’re going to go ahead and continue through the winter,” Phyllis Duke said.
Live music and entertainment has suffered as a result of COVID-19 regulations. Several venues have cancelled or postponed shows and even outdoor events have been affected. Jeffersonville and New Albany have cancelled or postponed their outdoor summer concerts, and the Abbey Road on the River festival won’t happen this fall.
Jason Roseberry, executive director of TheatreWorks of SoIN in downtown New Albany, said that when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the community theater organization was in the middle of a run for “Little Women” and it had just started its first rehearsals for the musical “Big Fish.”
They paused their season, but at first hoped to be able to resume later in 2020.
However, it became clear a couple of months ago that resuming the season was not going to happen. TheatreWorks has been “on hold” and in a “sort of paralysis” since the COVID-19 pandemic, Roseberry said.
“We have a small space, and there’s no way we could guarantee the safety of patrons and actors, and we made the decision to cancel the remaining two shows,” Roseberry said.
Now, the community theater company is exploring ways it can continue performances safely amid the pandemic. Roseberry said the organization has been considering virtual plays, and streaming is the most likely outcome for the immediate future.
“We’re looking at what other theater companies are doing, and we think a virtual fashion could work, but it’s a very different medium,” he said. “We’re not sure about the audience — our audience tends to trend a little older.”
TheatreWorks hasn’t made any definite plans, but the nonprofit’s board will meet Sunday to consider potential virtual performances.
At the Clark County Opry, which is believed to be the first venue of its kind in Jeffersonville, the doors are reopening, but attendance has been sparse.
Phyllis Duke said it’s frustrating after the start the business had in January.
“We really need to get back to where we were before,” she said.
It’s “good family entertainment” that gives people something to do on Saturday night, she continued.
She emphasized that social distancing and safety protocols are in place inside the Clark County Opry, and that people can attend a show and feel safe.
“We’re actually making history because something like this has never been in Jeffersonville,” Phyllis Duke said.
For more information, go to clarkcountyopry.com.