ST. PAUL — The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts laid off staff Tuesday, March 31, and cut the pay of those remaining by 20 percent due to the shutdown of the theater amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ordway CEO Jamie Grant said the St. Paul performing arts center went from 478 active employees to 46.

“It’s the worst day at work I’ve ever had in my life,” Grant said in a late afternoon phone call. Salaried workers who remain will see a 20 percent wage cut. Hourly workers will have their time cut by 20 percent, Grant said.

“Most have jobs related to shows,” Grant said. “If there are no shows, there are no jobs.”

Grant worked at a theater outside Toronto during the SARS epidemic, which affected the theater from 2002 to 2004. “The theater was really hit hard.” That has helped some with planning, he said.

“It took a while for the audience to come back,” he said, adding that Ordway patrons and guests have been “very encouraging.”

And when healing starts after the pandemic has passed, “the Ordway and what we do will really be part of the prescription,” Grant said.