On any given Friday or Saturday night—in normal pre-COVID times—the outdoor space between the Virginia Arts Festival building at the corner of Bank and East Charlotte Streets in Downtown Norfolk would likely be buzzing with arts patrons and event goers, fresh off a dinner date on Granby and all gussied up to see a show at nearby Chrysler Hall or Norfolk Scope.
While we may have to wait just a little longer to find our favorite seats inside those venues, the Arts Festival has a refreshing idea: taking the arts outdoors. The Festival recently announced that it will debut a flexible new performance venue at that very same intersection for spring 2021, with events slated to begin in April.
The new outdoor venue will be called Virginia Arts Festival Bank Street Stage and can accommodate live performances and events while adhering to the CDC’s COVID-19 protocols including socially distanced seating, mask requirements and hand sanitizer stations.
“Arts patrons are hungry for performances, and artists are eager to perform,” noted Virginia Arts Festival Artistic Director Robert Cross in a press release. “We continue to innovate and imagine performance spaces that are suited not just to the current pandemic conditions, but for the future as well.”
The Arts Festival team worked with the City of Norfolk and its economic development entities, including Visit Norfolk, the Downtown Norfolk Council and SevenVenues, to design a space a space they hope will attract new and returning patrons.
They are partnering with a variety of the region’s arts organizations, including the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Virginia Opera, Virginia Stage Company, Norfolk State University Theatre Company, Old Dominion University’s performing arts program, The Governors School for the Arts, the Bay Youth Orchestras of Virginia, Feldman Chamber Music Society and more.
Plans for performances include August Wilson’s play How I Learned What I Learned, co-produced by Virginia Stage Company, Norfolk State University Theatre Company and the Festival; Leonard Bernstein’s one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti, a Virginia Opera, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and Virginia Arts Festival co-production; a musical tribute to Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston co-produced by Norfolk State University Theatre Company and the Festival; a jazz series featuring local favorites including Jae Sinnett, Allen Farnham, Terry Burrell, Jimmy Masters and John Toomey; Zakir Hussain and Masters of Percussion; a chamber music series; and a North Shore Point Downtown concert series.
As of March 17, the lineup was as follows:
Oliver Wood, singer-songwriter
April 12, 7:30 p.m.
Zakir Hussain and the Masters of Percussion
April 13, 7:30 p.m.
August Wilson’s How I Learned What I Learned
Co-produced with Virginia Stage Company and Norfolk State University Theatre Company
April 14-25, show times vary
Trouble in Tahiti
Co-presented with Virginia Opera
May 7-8, show times vary
Co-presented with the Feldman Chamber Society
May 10, 7:30 p.m.
Manuel Barrueco, guitar
Co-presented with Tidewater Classical Guitar Society
May 13, 7:30 p.m.
“It’s a flexible venue, suitable for many different kinds and sizes of events,” said Cross. “It will serve a need in the artistic community, offer a welcoming, safe new space for arts lovers, and bring life back to Norfolk and the region in ways that larger indoor venues cannot do under current circumstances.”
Visit VaFest.org, call 757-282-2822 or follow social media pages @VaArtsFest for the most up-to-date info on tickets and show times.