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(Photo of Oakville Players' production of 'Footloose' by Alex Ragozzino)


Compiled by Joe Szekeres, Principal Toronto Columnist/Critic for On Stage Blog and contributor to SlowCity.


As the coronavirus numbers appear on the uptick in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa along with news from The Broadway League that the Great White Way theatres are now closed until June 2021 (and who knows if that order will be extended), I've been wondering if community theatres in our GTA cities and towns will even survive if professional theatres have their doors shut until who knows when.


It also appears that many of our Canadian professional theatres will have their doors shut as well; however, the Mirvish series promises 'Blindness' will open for 100 performances mid November where 50 audience members will sit six feet apart on the Princess of Wales stage. We'll see about this since Toronto is now back in Stage 2 for 28 days.


In any event, I thought it'd be interesting to continue checking in on those who participate in the community theatre scene in the Greater Toronto area to gauge their feelings. Those who were profiled earlier this summer will not be asked this time.


This edition's question: What have you been doing to fill your free and/or spare time that you normally would have given to participation either in community theatre OR going to see a production? Are you planning to forego the interests you picked up to fill in the extra time that you now have?W have you been doing to fill her when it is safe


"With my extra free time, I have been doing a lot more baking and going for a lot more walks with my dog. I have also spent a lot of time gardening. Fortunately, the additional calories from the baking seem to have been canceled out by the extra exercise. I have also been watching a lot of performances on-line. When The Metropolitan Opera was streaming a new opera every day, I watched a lot of operas!


When we are able to go back to rehearsals, I will be more than happy to give up watching productions for the joy of being able to perform again. It is a big part of my life, both community theatre and also singing with The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. I do not think that my dog will allow me to go back to pre-pandemic levels of walking, though. I will probably have to continue with the extra walks, which is not a bad thing."

Marlo Alcock


"As Technical Director/Lighting Designer at the Regent, [the building] in addition to a live event theatre, is also a university lecture hall five days a week. This has always presented a challenge to do ongoing maintenance and upgrades to the facility. However, no classes has been a real bonus for us. Even though we haven't been doing shows, we have been able to do plenty of upgrades. I redesigned, rehung and reprogrammed my entire moving light rig. Dale, my audio tech, and myself have run thousands of feet of Cat6 cable to connect the booth, stage, dressing rooms, we've set up and tested HDMI and VGA links between the stage and booth, reconfigured our motor control system for the line arrays and much more.


When this pandemic hit, most audio and lighting manufacturers opened their training courses for free. I've taken advantage of this, learning the operation of two different lighting consoles, taken advanced classes on my current console (and had the time to implement what I learned) , taken a number of credit courses related to networking, dmx, repair and maintenance for lighting equipment. I've also been involved in drafting COVID protocols for not only the audience when we have an event, but how we will approach a band arriving, setting up, sound checking, etc in a safe manner. In some ways, even without shows, which I really miss, I've been kept busy.

That said, without week-end shows, I've been out hiking every week-end since mid-April and that is one thing I'll have to figure out how to keep doing, likely during the week, when we finally get back to it!"

Colin Hughes


"In June my wife and I welcomed our second child into our family, our boy in now 4 months old and with we have a 3-year old Toddler running around as well. We have forgone putting our Daughter back into daycare as we have been hesitant to introduce any daycare bugs into the household with the baby here. I love working with our local theatre troupe, the Port Perry Borelians and we haven't been able to see our stage-family since this outbreak save for the odd Zoom call or Facetime. With the introduction of our second child, my involvement would have already been tricky. My workforce has also gone 100% remote since March, so between working from home and tending to the kids, new hobbies have been in short supply."

Kyle Dickie


"When COVID hit in March I was preparing to go onto Maternity Leave shortly thereafter in June. I ended up starting my Mat leave early since my workplace was shut down for a few months. 

During that time, I got to spend time with my daughter before our son arrived in June. Since then it has been a crazy (but wonderful) blur of family time. I have not had much time for hobbies short of keeping up on scary movies in October once the kids are asleep! I am missing my theatre friends so much and I can't wait to be reunited with them sometime soon. Kyle and I have always tried to trade off with who will be participating in shows and we will still try to stick to that once things open up again."

Justine Binx

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(Photo of the Borelians' production of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF by Jonathan van Bilsen)


Compiled by Joe Szekeres, Principal Toronto columnist/critic for On Stage Blog and contributor to SlowCity.


As the coronavirus numbers appear on the uptick in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa along with news from The Broadway League that the Great White Way theatres are now closed until June 2021 (and who knows if that order will be extended), I've been wondering if community theatres in our GTA cities and towns will even survive if professional theatres have their doors shut until who knows when.


It also appears that many of our Canadian professional theatres will have their doors shut as well; however, the Mirvish series promises 'Blindness' will open for 100 performances mid November where 50 audience members will sit six feet apart on the Princess of Wales stage. We'll see about this since Toronto is now back in Stage 2 for 28 days.


In any event, I thought it'd be interesting to continue checking in on those who participate in the community theatre scene in the Greater Toronto area to gauge their feelings. Those who were profiled earlier this summer will not be asked this time.


This edition's question: "If we all had a crystal ball, how comfortable would you feel returning either to a community theatre to watch a performance OR to participate in one WITHOUT a safe vaccine in place?"


"Obviously the ideal situation would be for a vaccine to resolve the pandemic so that we can resume the activities we love without restrictions, but there are places in the world showing that strict adherence to things like wearing masks and regularly washing hands and disinfecting high touch areas are keeping the virus at bay far more effectively than in places with half-implemented measures and a fear of shutting things down when necessary. Knowing the discussions that have been going on behind the scenes I would feel far more comfortable returning to a theatre where rules are being enforced than to several businesses that I have stopped frequenting because they clearly aren't, even by members of the staff.

As a performer, I would say it depends. I would not participate in a production of Mamma Mia! on the Scarborough Village Stage because there is simply no way to even remotely have physical distancing of a cast that size in a space that size. Nor is the show conducive to physical distancing. But consider a show like The Last Five Years - the ultimate physical distancing show. A cast of 2 who only ever need to be on stage together briefly for one song in the middle of the show, and even then with creative staging could keep their distance from one another. (Why do I suddenly feel like this is going to be the Jason Robert Brown version of the year that community theatres finally got the rights to Les Mis?) If I was reasonably sure that the group producing the show was going to adhere to public health recommendations, then I might consider participating."

Mike Scott


"I feel very comfortable. I see the work all the community groups are doing to plan and the fact that they are keeping safety as their top priority. Some of what's happening now is going to be our new normal, perhaps for a long time. We need to learn to work within this new reality. If groups are using common sense and enforcing government guidelines I don't see why we can't return. Obviously it would be amazing to have a vaccine to resolve the pandemic so we can go back to normal but I don't think we can hide ourselves away until that happens. I attended the first physically distanced, in person rehearsal for our upcoming streaming production of Songs For A New World. The cast had been working online with the music director and this was their first time in the same room. When they finished singing the opening song there was palpable emotion in the air. Some of us were in tears, others were laughing out loud but it was clear that everyone had needed this moment. I need theatre in my life."

Dot Routledge


"With proper precautions in place, absolutely.  As a recent retiree, theatre was something for me to do.  I have worker behind the scenes and on the stage. I dearly miss all the great people.  As I gaze into my crystal ball, I see set builders hard at work and stage managers pulling their hair out while actors strut and ask for cues.  The calendar in the green room though is sadly blurry.


[With all this said], I don’t think it should be rushed.  Vaccines take time to create and test.  I am confident that there will be a safe return I do look forward to a safer time everywhere, not just in theatre."

Mike Doucette


"I think until there's a vaccine that has been out long enough that it's been widely adopted, there's really no "zero risk" way to live short of never leaving your home and never having anybody over either. Anything else carries some degree of risk and it's important for each of us to assess that risk based on our particular situations (age, family members at risk, work situation, anxiety levels, etc) and only take on risks we feel are low enough to be worth taking.


The first two months of this, my weekly grocery shops almost sent me into a panic every time, just because so much was unknown and the shopping experience suddenly felt more dangerous. After those first few months (and after buying lots of masks - I have 18 now), I was able to do my shopping without stressing. Doing what I needed in order to keep safe had become second nature.


Even when a vaccine is approved, it will be a long while before enough supply is available and plus we don't know how effective the vaccine will be, whether the virus will mutate quickly enough to render the vaccines less effective, it's just so much unknown. I would be hesitant to commit to much of anything until either we have a vaccine or we find other solutions that could make theatre safe prior to a vaccine's availability (and that could be a pipe dream or something so cost-prohibitive that it would never happen)."

Lincoln Trudeau


"It's going to take time for everyone to get comfortable in the theatres again be it actors, crew or patrons. Any who's spent time on stage knows that the two weeks leading up to any show is stressful and actors are prone to falling ill as it is. This past year will be fresh in everyone's mind's if they're even in the same room with a sick colleague, let alone be close to someone in a scene. I think we'll see a resurgence (we already are), in the one-person show. We'll also have theatres start to bring back the audiences in small batches with socially-distanced seating. The only thing that I think will help here, is time. It will come back and I bet you'll see an increase of attendance, over the next few years, at local community theatre shows."

Kyle Dickie


"I believe it will just take all of us quite a bit of time to acclimatize to this new normal, whether we are venturing out to a movie theatre or a live show. While acting on stage I can vouch that the run of a show is quite tiring (and exhilarating) and those of us backstage rarely get away with not getting run down and catching a cold. Now I think all of us will be extra diligent with taking precautions for ourselves but also our cast and crew mates. This also extends to our patrons. As a community they are why we push ourselves, who we strive to entertain and who we will try to keep safe as we slowly get back to our beloved theatre." 

Justine Binx




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(Jennie Archambault and Paul Love in Ajax Community Theatre's production of RUMOURS. Photo by Jan Donnelly appeared originally in slowcity.ca)


By Joe Szekeres, Columnist for Slow City and Toronto Columnist/Critic for ONSTAGE BLOG


As the corona virus numbers appear to be on the uptick in three Ontario hot spots along with news from The Broadway League that the Great White Way theatres are now closed until June 2021 (and who knows if that order will be extended), I've been wondering if community theatres in our GTA cities and towns will even survive if professional theatres have their doors shut until who knows when.


Earlier this summer, I compiled a series 'WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH COMMUNITY THEATRE FOLKS?' and am still continuing the series 'MOVING FORWARD': A CONVERSATION' with professional artists. The idea behind both of these profile series was to check in on those who see theatre as an enjoyable part of their lives outside of their career and job AND those who are paid to work in the industry and how this pandemic has influenced their lives.


I thought it'd be interesting to continue checking in on those who participate in the community theatre scene in the Greater Toronto area to gauge their feelings. Those who were profiled earlier this summer will not be asked this time.


For each column, I will ask one question and have members of various GTA community theatre groups respond to the question. Another goal behind this series is to invite dialogue so please feel free to respond to any comments made by those questioned.


QUESTION: "It looks as if any form of live entertainment in the media of theatre may not return possibly until 2022 (if a safe vaccine is in place for actors and audience members)." Is this a fair assessment in your opinion?


"I don't think it is a fair assessment. We're seeing a lot of new and interesting projects coming from some big professional companies that although not traditional theatre are still a version of it. Things like Mirvish's 'Blindness' or CanStage's 'Dance in High Park' series. There have also been a handful of smaller productions around the city by indie companies. 


At Scarborough Music Theatre we are looking at smaller cast shows of 2-4 people. Normally we wouldn't even consider a show that small but we're looking at this as an opportunity to try something new and to keep our community engaged. In this case some pieces that would allow us maximum distance from the audience as well as being able to distance on and backstage.  Certainly it won't be a revenue generating proposition but there are a lot of people out there who are desperate for a return to theatre on and off stage and if we can figure out how to do that safely for all involved (and we are working on it) then we will.  Most certainly a challenge but not one that can't be conquered."

Dot Routledge



"That would be a hard statement to disagree with, especially now with COVID cases on the rise again. I know so many of us are itching to get back to theatre again; when the pandemic first started, we were less than a month from opening for "Kiss The Moon, Kiss The Sun" at Whitby Courthouse Theatre and then the show was bumped til Nov 2020 and now tentatively to April 2021. I've still been going over my lines every couple weeks just to not have to re-learn them from scratch and I'm trying to keep optimistic about April though it would only make sense to do if it can be done in a way that is safe for everyone involved in the production (cast and crew) as well as for the audience.


Besides BEING safe, it also has to FEEL safe to the average theatregoer. In recent months, restaurants and bars have re-opened and I've gone to some the odd time to meet with a friend and while the few places I've been to have had good safety protocols, the places have been fairly empty: not just because of distanced tables but because even with tables spread out, those few tables have not even been close to being filled. So many people are still scared and I can't blame anyone for that: we still have so much to learn about how bad COVID is and the long-term damage it's capable of."

Lincoln Trudeau



"I think it's fair to say that live entertainment in the form of *traditional* theatre as we think of it may not return until there's a safe vaccine in place, but I also think that we will have an opportunity to see things in forms that we may not have thought of before. Mirvish recently announced the physically distanced sound installation 'Blindness'. 'Canada's Drag Race' is doing their Drive In tour.


For Scarborough Music Theatre plans include, when they are able to, programming smaller cast shows of 2-4 people that might not normally be considered for part of a season because conventional wisdom suggests that larger casts sell more tickets and more tickets means a higher likelihood of breaking even. But these are not conventional times and even when a vaccine is in place it will take some time for things to return to something more like conventional. Certainly the intimacy of community theatre spaces create challenges beyond what large professional houses may have because it will be easier to have a viable physically distanced audience in the 1,200 seat Royal Alex than the 250 seat Scarborough Village Theatre, but I don't think that these are challenges that can not be overcome."

Mike Scott


"I think that it is a fair assessment. As much as “the play's the thing", survival is paramount. If Broadway can remain closed, certainly community theatre can. Unless people are healthy and safe, it would be folly to open the doors. I think that there are too many sides to the vaccine issue to discuss in this forum.  Polio was eradicated a proper vaccine so hopefully this will be the case here as well.  “All the worlds a stage”, but nothing without actors and an audience to paraphrase."

Mike Doucette


"That's fair enough...in a nutshell anything before the end of 2021 is really optimistic. For example, I think Broadway and the Metropolitan Opera are trying to be optimistic though I think for planning purposes it's probably better to be more realistic. That said, I would guess things will not be normal for a couple of years. There will be people who will not come back. Some change has been permanent."

Ed Ho




theatre may not return until possibly 2022 (with a safe vaccine in place) Is this a fair assessment in your opinion?

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