Northern arts organizations reeling in wake of pandemic

The show must go on but will it? Artistic performances and concerts were the first to go to stop or prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Theatre companies wary of future with physical distancing

Theatre companies are putting productions and fundraising activities on hold until they can figure out how to serve audiences in the wake of this pandemic. (YES Theatre/Facebook)

Artistic performances and concerts were the first businesses to be cancelled to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and leaders with arts organizations are scrambling to figure out how they will survive in the age of a pandemic.

The president of the Timmins Symphony Orchestra was looking forward to a big fundraising concert this weekend. But it was called off.

"We were hoping to raise somewhere around $10,000," Paul Pigeau said.

"We fully anticipated it to be sold out. But like all organizations ... we all do the right thing for the best interest of the community and the province. So we did cancel it. It was something that we could not postpone."

Pigeau said there are a couple of other smaller fundraisers that are also on hold. He said it's still too early to tell what kind of toll this pandemic have on the symphony.

John McHenry, artistic director of the Sudbury Theatre Centre, says many people are turning the tickets they purchased for cancelled shows into donations for the theater centre. (Twitter/@jhnmchnry)

Few options

Over in Sudbury, a theatre company was about to present one of its main stage plays, called An Elder.

Sudbury Theatre Centre Artistic Director John McHenry said there is no plan B.

"It's unfortunate ... it was the last show of the mainstage season. We are frantically phoning everybody and offering credits to their account," he said.

"Many people are turning them into donations to the theater centre, which is very kind of them."

The impact the pandemic will have on the organization will "be considerable."

"Many rentals, like dance companies, have had to pull out as well. We are frantically trying to reschedule them for later on, possibly in September, October, so that it softens the blow a little bit. But it is it is going to be considerable," McHenry said.

He noted the STC may be able to qualify for some financial relief through the federal government.

Theatre will help community 'heal'

Also in Sudbury, the YES Theatre group is reeling from the impact of the pandemic.

"We've had to postpone our big fundraising gala, which was to take place May 11," said artistic director Allessandro Constantini.

"We [were projecting to] bring in about $20,000 fundraising dollars. It's the biggest event of the year."

They've also reduced their summer festival shows down to one, "but that is if we're still able to move forward with it."

He noted that even if the theatre company is able to put on performances again, "will people be comfortable sitting in the theater in the wake of this?"

"I think it's going to really impact our industry for a while," Constantini said, but noted that there is an opportunity that is rising up from this pandemic.

I know that when we are able to return, the theater owners will have a large responsibility to help heal the community- Alessandro Constantini

"It's an opportunity for us to remind the community that [theater is] a place to congregate. That's really what the theater is. It really is a place for the community to come together and just be in this beautiful space," he said

"I know that when we are able to return, the theater owners will have a large responsibility to help heal the community."

Another theatre company, Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario, has also cancelled the remainder of its 2019-2020 season. Their offices are closed to the general public until further notice, though staff members remain active and available from home.

"Our team is exploring the possibility of sharing these productions with you in seasons to come," TNO announced in a news release today.

"We are also diving headfirst into the preparations for our upcoming season and are examining creative ways to unveil it, at the right time. Until then, we're anticipating the moment when theatre will once again be able to bring us together to experience those shared, precious moments."


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