Saturday marks a big moment for the Strand Theatre.
The marquee’s lights will be flashing before the 8 p.m. showtime, signaling the theatre’s first public event with full capacity since shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The theatre has had a few other events since its last show in 2020, but when comedian Costaki Economopoulos takes the stage, it will be the first major performance hosted by the 105-year old theatre since the pandemic prevented it from conducting its normal operations.
Normally, by this time in the year, the theatre’s event count is somewhere between the upper 90’s to 100’s, David Finkel said.
The year before the pandemic, the Strand was at No. 103 at this point.
Economopoulos’ performance will be the theatre’s sixth event this year, a significant cutback that the Strand continues to feel financially.
“(It’s) just the way it is,” Finkel said. “It is stressful. It’s the worst. It is exponentially harder than forming the theatre and getting it open. Part of it is the feeling of helplessness. We are not in control of our own destiny. I hate that.”
Economopoulos can relate to the financial worries and stresses that the pandemic brought.
Unable to tour last year, the longtime comedian found himself stuck at home.
“It was terrible,” he said of not being able to be on stage,” he said. “It killed me financially, it killed me emotionally.”
He spent that time focused on his family and he was able to see his mom for a stretch, he said. And he did a lot of writing, creating an hour’s worth of new material for the current nine-day tour.
He also did some comedy shows via Zoom for corporate events while he was unable to be on the road.
But for someone who has been performing on stage since 1994, it was not the same.
“I love it,” he said of being back on the road. “Especially with the challenge and joy and terror of doing a new hour, it was a lot of work on my part. I did some homework last year.”
Economopoulos is in the middle of nine shows in nine days.
That means doing interviews with local radio stations and newspapers while driving to the next gig.
On Saturday, which includes opening act Willie Griswold (the son of Tom Griswold of the Bob and Tom Show), Economopoulos will be telling jokes about the pandemic, his childhood and about his own children.
One thing he is staying away from for this particular tour is politics.
He used to tell political jokes but grew tired of it.
“Every social media outlet, every news program, every late show, everyone’s doing it,” he said. “I don’t want to do it right now.”
This is his fifth time appearing at the Strand.
Four days before his appearance in Shelbyville, he was asked about his experience at the local theatre. He said he loves the Strand for the people and the structure itself.
“I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve always had great shows (at the Strand),” he said. “That place has a very good combination of, it’s got some history, the layout is beautiful, it’s run by people that love that place, and it’s a creative place. “The audience is happy that you’re there. I’ve always enjoyed that place.”
He credited Finkel and the rest of the volunteers for keeping the doors open.
“They’re trying to keep this place afloat,” he said. “They’re in a tough spot but they’re hanging in there. They’re good folks.”
While Finkel and the group of volunteers are excited to have Economopoulos, he does not anticipate being back to normal operations until February 2022.
“We’re excited to get comedy back,” he said. “We’re excited to get a show that will utilize the theatre as it’s meant to be.”
There is no capacity restriction and masks will be optional. Hand sanitizer will be available.
The bar will also be open as will the concession stand.
Tickets can be purchased at https://strandpac.square.site/.