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Dayton Live's CEO Talks About A Year Without Theater

Though no one knew it at the time, Dayton Live's launch party in March of 2020 would be the last big party in downtown Dayton before the pandemic.
Jason Reynolds
/
WYSO
Though no one knew it at the time, Dayton Live's launch party in March of 2020 would be the last big party in downtown Dayton before the pandemic.

Dayton Live has lost millions during the pandemic, but they see a new Roaring '20s right around the corner.

It’s been a year since the Victoria Theatre Association changed its name to Dayton Live and hosted a launch party for its new brand.

That event stretched across downtown and saw thousands of guests pack into Dayton Live's performing arts theaters.

Two days later, shows couldn’t go on. The pandemic had reached Ohio, and hundreds of downtown theater events had to be canceled.

Ty Sutton, President and CEO of Dayton Live, says all those cancellations have led to millions of dollars of lost revenue.

"When I say millions, we’re probably approaching five, six, seven million," he says. "It all depends on how you look at it. I think the hardest thing is that we’ve had to lay off so much of our staff."

Dayton Live has had to lay off hundreds of employees, but Sutton says they've found ways to stay relevant.

They’ve been hosting virtual educational events, like Step Afrika and Black Violin, and tens of thousands of students have attended.

They’ve also taken on an advocacy role, helping connect performers and venues with government organizations that have aid available.

More recently, the Dayton Philharmonic and Opera have been able to perform to small audiences with social distancing.

Sutton says he feels confident in-person theater will be back by the fall. In fact, he’s planning the next Broadway Series right now. And he says it’s only a matter of time until employees and crowds are packing the theaters in Dayton again.

"I really think we’ll see a lot of what happened 100 years ago with the Roaring 20s," he says. "After a major pandemic, people just wanted to party. It led to great entertainment and great art—the Golden Age of Jazz and the Harlem Renaissance and all these great things that I think we’re going to get."

And Sutton says Dayton Live will be ready to host those events.