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The Pulse was in the middle of performances of “The Shakespeare Stealer” when the COVID-19 epidemic closed their curtains and put a halt on their productions for the unforeseeable future.
“We lost seven performances,” said Cynthia Wartzok, director at Pulse House. “We were unable to do school performances and three public performances.”
Not only were performances of their ongoing production put on hold by coronavirus, but the theatre had already held auditions and “had a great cast lined up” for the musical “Nunsense” and were unable to go into rehearsals.
Wartzok says it has never been easy keeping the doors to The Pulse open in their 33 years of business, but the coronavirus closures are unlike anything they’ve experienced before.
“We’ve had our challenges,” Wartzok said. “2017 and 2018 were tough years because Ron and I both were fighting cancer at the same time and we were closed briefly when we were going through treatments. We took some financial hits during that time, but had recently begun to rebuild and were able to keep going.”
In mid-March the order to close up shop came for Pulse and a number of local businesses – at first through CDC recommendations for smaller group sizes, then through a state mandate. All of those plans to rebuild were immediately thrown off track.
“Like most small businesses, it is hard to plan because there is no way to know when we will be able to open the doors again,” Wartzok said.
Shortly after they closed their doors, Wartzok immediately thought of the impact the closure would have on the Pulse volunteers.
“It struck me that everyone feels so isolated, alone and helpless,” Wartzok said. “The arts are about making connections. The whole process of rehearsal, building a show and performances are dependent on human interaction and communication.”
That’s when she came up with the idea of a Virtual Talent Show featuring Pulse volunteers to bring the community together despite being separated.
While the virtual talent show had its share of technical hiccups, Pulse created a Facebook group called “Pulse Virtual Talent Show” where they were able to successfully share all of the submitted videos.
Pulse plans to keep the group active through the coming weeks where Pulse members and audiences can view the videos at their own leisure.
“The number of group members is growing fast,” Wartzok said. “Although this was created with the Pulse volunteers in mind, anyone is allowed to submit a video. The idea is to connect us all through the arts.”
The financial fears afflicting The Pulse Opera House are not singular. Wartzok says many theatres across the nation and the world are facing hardships amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Most arts groups are struggling because we are all so dependent on audiences,” Wartzok said. “All of us need donations right now to keep us going.”
Despite the uncertainty of when The Pulse will fill those seats in the audience again and strike the lights for their next performance, Wartzok remains hopeful thanks to support from the community.
“We have always gotten through tough times with the support of the community,” Wartzok said. “We all have faith that we will get through this. It has always been a project that was fueled by volunteers, generous donors and community.”
Since the closure, Pulse has already received a few donations which Wartzok says will help the theatre immensely. While the stage is the center of attention during productions, Wartzok says The Pulse is vital to the life of the community it resides in.
“The Pulse provides a place for artists to do what they love,” Wartzok said. “We work with local and area schools providing school performances and opportunities for young people. Some of the shows are based on books and we work with the library creating book clubs for adults and activities for children.”
When Warren lost buildings due to a fire that struck the town a few years ago, Pulse players got together to throw a fundraiser for local volunteer firefighters.
“We feel hopeful because we believe that what we are doing is important,” Wartzok said.
When the doors are once again able to reopen, the Pulse still has the same stage set ready to go along with rights to seven more productions of “The Shakespeare Stealer.” Wartzok says rehearsals for “Nunsense A-Men” would also be able to start up with show dates quick on the heels.
“When we reopen, we need audiences,” Wartzok said. “The best way to help us would be to come to a show and bring friends!”
In the meantime, they will rely on the support and generous contributions from their community. The Pulse is a 501(c)3 organization. Donations may be sent to: Pulse Opera House, P.O. Box 631, Warren, IN 46792.