NORFOLK, VA. – For nearly four decades, Hugh Copeland has been the “Hugh” behind hooray players, providing community theater around Hampton Roads.

“People like to be here,” Copeland told News 3. “It’s one of the things that draws people to an area – all of the arts.”

Seats at the Perry Family Theater in Norfolk’s NEON District are now empty, but in a few weeks’ time the Hooray players will be welcoming people to their first public performance in the hall since March 13, 2020.

“Friday the 13th,” said Copeland.

It was an unexpected curtain for Copeland’s theater company when they performed Disney’s “Moana Jr.” opened.

“We were on stage at 5.15pm that night and got microphone checks, people warmed up, and someone came on stage and said, ‘I’m very sorry. The mayor and the governor have closed the city. There won’t be a show tonight, ”said Copeland. “Of course we were devastated.”

And when the pandemic started, questions arose too.

“‘What are we going to do? How are we going to go on?'” He said.

Her group turned to live streaming, outdoor performances, and help from the Hampton Roads Chamber for federal aid.

“It was more than important,” said Copeland. “It was the key element.”

Jim Carroll, Executive Director of the Small Business Development Center for Hampton Roads, worked with local entertainment venues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Some have been closed since March and some have been partially opened,” Carroll told News 3.

Lately he’s been providing information on funds, including Shuttered Venue Operator Grant.

Carroll said it is supposed to help pay some operating costs.

“It’s a complement to what’s already out there,” he said. “If you lose your people, you’ve lost your people, and we’re talking about entertainment venues. These are not ordinary people; These are individuals with specific skills. “

It is a resource that Copeland is studying.

“It doesn’t pay the cost of producing the show,” said Copeland. “What it does is make it possible to keep everyone involved.”

A resource to consider as you prepare for your next gig inside the walls of the Perry Family Theater.

“I’m pretty sure if we play for a full house at the Roper or Sandler Center we’ll have the energy,” said Copeland. “It will remind us of what our mission was: to provide theater for the community that is affordable for everyone.”

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