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Here's what some Ontario theatre companies have planned for summer 2021

As more Ontarians get vaccinated, live performance companies are planning their returns to the stage, but questions remain around when the province's theatre scene will make a full return to normal. 

Stratford Festival, Canadian Stage are planning for outdoor performances, if allowed

The Princess of Wales Theatre, located at 300 King St W., in Toronto. While some live performance companies are planning for outdoor performances this summer, it's unclear when audience members will once again be able to fill theatre seats. (Mirvish)

As more Ontarians get vaccinated, live performance companies are planning their returns to the stage — but questions remain around when the province's theatre scene will make a full return to normal. 

If permitted under provincial COVID-19 protocols, the Stratford Festival plans to go forward with an outdoor summer season, while the Canadian Stage theatre company has also planned a full season of performances set to take place under open skies, including live shows in High Park. 

Here's what we know so far about what some popular Ontario theatre companies have planned for the summer. 

Stratford Festival plans for outdoor summer lineup 

After its 2020 season was cancelled by COVID-19, the Stratford Festival plans to stage outdoor productions over the coming months.

The renowned southwestern Ontario theatre company announced its 2021 lineup in March, which it will present starting June 22, under canopies to adhere to COVID-19 pandemic protocols.

Antoni Cimolino, the festival's artistic director, said organizers had to start planning last year for the likelihood that COVID-19 restrictions would still be in place this summer. 

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"We had to plan for a COVID environment. We cannot ignore the virus," said Cimolino. 

Organizers say due to health and safety protocols, performers will not be in multiple productions at the same time, as is typical at the festival.

Instead, each play will have a distinct group of actors, with no more than eight cast members per production.

"We won't be seeing full-out musicals, we won't be seeing big casts in these productions," Cimolino said. 

 

Audiences will have access to five cabarets and six productions, including two Shakespeare plays about lovers kept apart: Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The lineup also includes two plays from the 2020 playbill: Edward Albee's Three Tall Women and Tomson Highway's The Rez Sisters.

Canadian Stage shares its amphitheatre space 

Meanwhile, in lieu of the annual Shakespeare in the Park festivalthe Canadian Stage is planning to go ahead with this year's Dream in High Park from June through to the end of September. 

This year, the company will open the High Park ampitheatre space to 20 other arts companies, with performances ranging from theatre, dance, comedy, contemporary and baroque music.

"This year the beloved High Park amphitheatre will feature months of non-stop performance offerings to a culture-starved city," the company said in a news release issued Thursday. 

 

Artistic Director Brendan Healy said the entire theatre sector is "really suffering" right now, so it was important to share the space. 

"It just didn't feel right to be the only ones to use it," he said. 

Healy said the space can typically allow for 1,000 viewers, but this year that will be reduced to 100.

Audience members will be required to wear masks and physically distance from one another and a COVID-19 safety officer will be on site every night. 

The company will also implement contact tracing and explore how to best let people into the park prior to a performance. 

Mirvish Productions hasn't released any dates 

For Mirvish Productions, plans for the upcoming season aren't as clear. 

"If only we knew," said John Karastamatis, director of communications. 

In a typical pre-pandemic year, the company would run over 20 shows and draw around two million people. 

Karastamatis said they had a season lined up before the pandemic hit, which the company has since tried to go ahead with several times. 

Productions planned for that season, such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Love Never Dies, will be made a priority when the company is able to fill seats again, Karastamatis said. 

Over the last year, the company, like many other organizations, has gone virtual to connect with their audiences. 

"We started an e-magazine, which has all kinds of stuff, to engage with our audience," Karastamatis said. 

"The cliché is we're all in this together, and that is true. We are all in this together."

WATCH | One Toronto theatre brings audio experience to its viewers: 

Toronto's Factory Theatre aims to bring audiences to the theatre through sound

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Both those who put on plays and those who enjoy them agree: that mantra is exactly what has and will keep theatre thriving.

"We've all been waiting for it for a really long time now," said Toronto theatre-goer Chedan Srivasdava.

"Beggars really can't be choosers." 

Chedan Srivasdava says he would be thrilled to attend outdoor theatre performances this summer. (Michael Cole/CBC)
 

As long as plays can be done in a safe manner, Srivasdava said he will attend outdoor performances this summer. 

"Just staying cooped-up inside, it's definitely taking a toll on everyone's mental health," he said.  "With summer coming in, it's definitely something I am looking forward to." 

With files from Jessica Ng and The Canadian Press

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