When the pandemic made its way to Missoula in March and new restrictions were handed down by state and local officials, Missoula Community Theater was forced to cancel a number of musical productions.
At the same time, MCT Inc., called more than five dozen tour directors with the Missoula Children’s Theater off the road.
Terri Elander, international and public relations director at MCT Inc., said none of the decisions came easy.
“As spring was coming into focus, it became evident that we needed to pull our tour directors off the road and cancel the rest of the winter-spring tour,” Elander said. “It was a major decision. We brought 66 people back to Missoula and furloughed them because we had no more tours.”
MCT encouraged those employees to file for unemployment benefits. Canceling the children’s theater season represented a loss to the company of more than $1.5 million.
At the same time, Missoula Community Theater was gearing up for its final weekend of the musical Spitfire Grill, which it canceled. It also canceled the three-week run of Matilda, which was set to follow.
“Those losses there are certainly $2 million or more in income,” said Elander. “We have no programming on stage or any live programming going on right now.”
As the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic become clearer than they were a month ago, state economists believe certain industries will take deeper hit, including the arts. And the arts are vital to Missoula’s economy, bringing in tens of millions of dollars each year while supporting hundreds of local jobs.
With no shows on tap, MCT Inc. remains closed, less a few employees. But it’s already looking to the future with cautious optimism.
“We’re in the stages of planning,” said Elander. “There’s a lot of work we’re doing now to plan for our summer programs with hopes that we can continue those, be it our tour program or our local day camps and performing arts camps.”
The setback, while temporary, has brought the importance of the arts back into focus, Elander added.
“The arts are generally the first to be cut from budgets, whether it’s government funding or other types of funding,” said Elander. “But everything we’re doing to provide entertainment and comfort for our souls and entertainment for our days is arts. It’s very important and I hope people continue to remember and appreciate that.”