Levitt Pavilion’s season in limbo: ‘Hoping we can dance together on the lawn again’

The summer season for Levitt Pavilion was locked by early February. The facility's executive director, Lisa Wagner, had been counting down the days until she could announce the schedule on April 24.

Of course, as with music venues worldwide, those plans are on hold.

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“We’re not making any decisions on the schedule right now,” Wagner said. “We’re having a lot of meetings just to keep talking about what this could look like for us. The hope is the governor will start to lift some of the shelter-at-home order at the May 1 news conference. That might give us a guesstimate of when mass gatherings might be allowed. If we have to stay at home longer, that certainly speaks to a new scenario.”

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The first concert of the season was originally scheduled for May 28. That launch date remains uncertain but Wagner says Levitt Pavilion will open for performances when it’s deemed safe to do so.

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“It’s a real tricky time,” she said. “We love what we do and we want to be able to do it, but we definitely want to defer to the safety of our audiences through the advice of our authorities. Gov. DeWine and Dr. Acton have led us exquisitely through this. I really cannot applaud their leadership more. We’re very, very blessed to have that leadership in the state of Ohio.

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“A lot of stuff is up in the air,” Wagner said. “We don’t know what it will look like but we’ve been reassured by the Levitt Foundation that whether we do 50 concerts or not, they’re going to fund us with operational support. Foundations have been hit really hard, obviously, by the market so that was a huge statement. We’re so grateful for their investment in our community.” The national Levitt Foundation put up the challenge grant to get the pavilion under way several years ago, and now helps support this and other pavilions around the country with financial backing and some performance bookings.

Once it’s safe to gather in groups again, live events should be a big destination for many people in search of a good time and a bit of human contact, Wagner said.

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“The Levitt is a community gathering space that was a healing venue last year after the shootings in the Oregon District and the tornadoes,” she said. “It’s a place where people feel like they can come together. It’s a place of hope because music is such a huge unifier.

“I feel pretty strongly I can speak on behalf of our board of directors, our staff and volunteers that we’d very much love to come together as a community,” she added. “Everybody is hoping we can dance together on the lawn again and show our resiliency.”

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