The month of July at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center usually means the hustle and bustle of the New Bedford Festival Theater. This year's performance was supposed to be Annie. May and June usually feature a number of local dancing school recitals. But these are not normal times, and the Zeiterion sits dark this weekend.

As it turns out, the Zeiterion will remain dark through May, June, and July as the Commonwealth struggles with COVID-19.

Governor Charlie Baker's mandate to shut down all non-essential business is set to expire on May 4; however, that is only for the time being. It remains to be seen whether or not that order will be extended beyond May 4. The governor says that all depends on the way the virus plays out and how the numbers look over the next two weeks.

Regardless of whether or not some non-essential businesses are given the green light to reopen with modifications on May 4 (which seems like a long shot at this point), it is unthinkable that the crowds the Zeiterion is designed to accommodate would be allowed to assemble at all in the foreseeable future.

Sadly for the Zeiterion, this means furloughs for 70 percent of its staff. Michael Tavares, President of the Zeiterion Board of Trustees stated, “We made the difficult decision to furlough most of our staff temporarily, in order to protect the financial stability of our organization. The Board is committed to preserving The Z as the heart of our community well into the future and is taking the necessary short-term measures to ensure the best outcome.”

New Bedford Festival Theater is working to secure the rights to perform Annie next summer at the Zeiterion when, we all hope and pray, the world will be a healthier and safer place to come together in crowds much bigger than the Z's capacity.

The show won't go on. Until at least August.

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