Though coronavirus cases are on the rise again in Dallas County, some live music venues that are struggling to survive this lengthy pandemic are starting to fill their marquees. After several weeks of hosting outdoor concerts, Oak Cliff’s Kessler Theater is reopening this weekend for indoor shows, launching with local artists Remy Reilly and Abraham Alexander on Saturday. The theater is welcoming back patrons at about 30 percent capacity for indoor shows while continuing its outdoor Kessler Green series each weekend.
“It’s an odd time for our industry in general, and we take the safety and health and comfort of our patrons, our staff, and, of course, the artists really seriously,” says Kessler Presents director of operations Diana Cox. “We spent many hours with measuring tapes in the theater figuring out what our capacity would look like.”
As of October 14, Gov. Abbott is allowing fine arts venues to operate at 75 percent capacity. When the Kessler calculated how many people could fit in its venue while practicing social distancing, it landed on a much more conservative number. The theater’s current configuration seats up to 140 people.
Now, guests will select their seats when purchasing tickets so the theater can ensure safe distancing in the room. To make up for the reduced number of seats, the Kessler is booking each artist for two performances per night, an early show and a late show with a break to sanitize the space in between.
Next weekend, they’ve booked Charley Crockett two nights in a row, providing four opportunities to see the lauded Texas blues artist in an intimate, considered setting. (As of writing, only tickets for Friday night’s early show remain.)
“He was an artist that was getting ready to want to get back out and perform and has played our venue in the past several times, knows our reputation, and quite frankly, he trusts us to do this in a safe way,” says Cox. “We’re just trying to take things as they come, but we feel confident with our reopening plans, that it will be a safe environment, and still can be an enjoyable environment for live music.”
The venue has new safety protocols for patrons, musicians, and staff to follow, as well as an improved HVAC system for improved circulation. But for guests (and artists) who aren’t quite ready to return to an enclosed gathering space, the theater’s new Kessler Green offers a safer alternative for watching live music.
Local artists perform on the green every Thursday through Saturday at 5 p.m. through the end of October. There are rotating food trucks and vendors and full bar service available during the outdoor events.
“It’s the lawn space immediately behind the Kessler. We’ve always wanted to do something with it, and it just seemed like the time was ripe for outdoor events–now, especially,” says Cox.
This week, Mike Dillon performs on Thursday, Elaina Kay on Friday, and a mystery artist on Saturday.