The last year has been challenging to say the least. Each one of us know all too well a host of unique challenges . For arts organizations, the impact of the shutdown has been enormous and has serious implications, as well. To that end, many of you have asked how Convocations is faring, and what the future will hold for the organization. With that in mind, Todd Wetzel, Assistant Vice Provost, Student Life and Executive Director, Purdue Convocations and Elliott Hall of Music/Hall of Music Productions, provided some answers to these questions and more.

 

Todd Wetzel

Will you be launching a season for 2021-2022?

That is our plan. We are currently building our 119th Season right now, but there are still significant unknowns. The best way to think about this is that we will likely phase into traditional presentations as the year progresses, with an emphasis on in-theatre performances in the Spring of 2022. Along with Purdue’s leadership and the Protect Purdue Health Center, we’re making sure the priorities of a residential collegiate experience are in place first, and then we’ll work to gradually include broader audience populations as it is safe to do so.

Allow me to make a candid point here: it will be essential for audiences to signal their desire to return. While survey data that reflect audiences’ potential desire will be helpful, we’ll need to measure this principally by the traffic at the box office. I’m sorry to paint this so simply—but this will definitely be a moment for arts and culture lovers to put their values into action. Ticket purchases will make a powerful difference, so we invite you to respond with your ticket order when we launch our 2021-2022 Season!

 

Is Convos able to present traditional performances right now?

Sadly, traditionally staged performances with live audiences are not possible at the moment, and in our work to support the Protect Purdue Pledge, we are not inviting guests to campus at this time for the benefit of our students.

However, we launched our 2021 Spring Virtual series with a creative array of special engagements that are both exciting departures and engaging learning encounters—and the entire series is admission FREE. See what we have in store for you here and join in the fun.

 

How are you raising money? Do you need support right now?

In short, contributed support right now is crucial—especially given that we currently don’t have ticket sales revenues. Many of you know that we work on programming timelines that run 12-24 months in advance, so we need the confidence and the capacity that your support provides so we can engage in commitments in advance. If you think about it this way, having our 2019-20 season end in a string of necessary-but-difficult cancellations, combined with the absence of 2020-21 box office revenues and contributed revenues at scale means that we need your help right now to rebuild our capacity. We’ve specifically built our Staging Our Future campaign to make it easy to respond to this very moment—and we invite you to help us return to form!

 

When performances return, how will you manage safety for the artists and the audiences?

Just like you, we’re eagerly following the science and watching the progress on vaccine approvals, distribution, and administration. Everything hinges on herd immunity as the first order of business, and a close second for us at Purdue will be the decision to re-open the campus to visitors while also resuming traditional classroom usage that restores schedule availability to our performance venues.

Our work, in addition to engaging great performances, will be to hold your health and safety as a top priority here at Purdue. We’ll undoubtedly continue to support the recommendations and practices proscribed by the Tippecanoe County Health Department, the Protect Purdue Health Center, and campus policies. For now, expect that we will likely ask for protective measures (such as wearing a mask) for the greater good and these will evolve over time.

 

What have you been doing to cope during this time?

Do you mean, aside from opening the refrigerator and pantry doors too often? Many folks have explored the comparisons between the current pandemic and the Spanish Flu in 1918. I’ve certainly thought about how different it would have been to shelter-in-place without the internet because my deep dives into streaming content of the performing arts have been a huge lifeline. Yet simultaneously, I think we all felt the encroachment of our digital devices and the challenges of preserving the “life” side of the work-life balance, so I also spent serious therapeutic time in the analog joys of reading books (not e-books), playing guitar, and running. Oh, and did I mention cooking and eating? Guess it’s time to go running again…