WILL COMMUNITY THEATRES SURVIVE THE PANDEMIC? (Edition 3)
(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."
"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!"
"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."
"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."