FLORENCE, S.C. — In a business where the show must always go on, for at least the next six weeks or so, it can’t.
The coronavirus pandemic and America’s current state of social distancing have left Florence’s largest performance venues scrambling to adjust schedules and rework plans as bans on gatherings don’t appear to be lifting any time soon.
The Florence Center was set to host two big national acts in April — singer/comedian Rodney Carrington and country music favorite Brantley Gilbert. The Rodney Carrington show, previously scheduled for April 25, is now set for Aug. 29. Florence Center general manager Paul Beard said center officials are still trying to set a new date for Brantley Gilbert.
“We’re still waiting to hear back from Brantley Gilbert’s people on rescheduling, but so far, we haven’t had to cancel a single major event,” Beard said. “We’ve been able to reschedule for later dates.”
Make no mistake, though. Rescheduling events at the last minute, especially national acts, has not been an easy task.
“There are a lot of factors that come into play,” Beard said. “We schedule three years out on some of these events so we already have dates on the books, some that may not even have been announced to the public yet. And with national acts, the biggest thing that comes into play is routing. They don’t want to do a show in Atlanta one night and the next in San Francisco then back over to Detroit. They schedule geographically so that’s where the juggling comes in.”
So far, Florence Center has postponed all events scheduled through the first week of May, but Beard said they are constantly reassessing the situation and may very well be looking at pushing back at least another month of events.
“By and large, everything for right now has been postponed to a later date,” Beard said. “Basically, everything scheduled for March through May will now happen August through October. It’s definitely put a damper on this year’s budget, which is disappointing because we were well on our way to a record-setting year budget-wise. But on the bright side of things, the way our budget runs, we’ll be well on our way to a record-setting year next fiscal year.”
Francis Marion Performing Arts Center Director A.T. “Bud” Simmons is facing the same challenges, as all events at the center also are put on hold for the time being. The PAC was set to host a few big names of its own in the upcoming weeks, including the Allman-Betts Band and Shawn Colvin.
The Allman-Betts Band show has been rescheduled for Aug. 19, and Simmons said his team is working with Colvin’s team to reschedule her concert, originally set for April 25. Many smaller, local events also had to be canceled for now, including spring performances by the Columbia City Ballet and the S.C. Dance Theatre. The PAC’s annual children’s program for spring that typically draws school classes from across the region is canceled and will not be rescheduled.
Like Beard, Simmons is working hard to reschedule performances rather than cancel but ultimately, the decision when it comes to national acts is often based on routing.
“This is new territory for all of us, so we don’t have all the answers yet. We’re all learning as we go,” Simmons said. “But with the national acts, they may have 45 dates in the next two months that they’ve got to try to reschedule. It’s not just us. So they have to look at it from the standpoint of when can we get back to the Southeast and how are we going to squeeze all these shows in? It really is a big jigsaw puzzle with a lot of pieces that have to fit just right.”
All tickets already purchased for PAC and Florence Center events will be honored on the rescheduled dates. For any other ticket inquiries including potential refunds, people should reach out to TicketMaster or whatever outlet they used to purchase tickets.