Performing arts theatres return to full capacity in N.L. — but is it too late?

·2 min read
Changes to government measures means theatres like the Rotary Arts Centre in Corner Brook can now sell out, as long as everyone is vaccinated and masked.  (Colleen Connors/CBC  - image credit)
Changes to government measures means theatres like the Rotary Arts Centre in Corner Brook can now sell out, as long as everyone is vaccinated and masked. (Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit)

With Newfoundland and Labrador's COVID-19 caseload low and its vaccination rate high, the province's Health Department is allowing events like weddings, funerals and concerts to be held at full capacity again, instead of half.

For venue operators like David Smallwood at the Rotary Arts Centre in Corner Brook, it's welcome news but it might be too late to save the upcoming Christmas theatre season.

Gigs booked in advance

The centre's theatre can house about 90 spectators but was allowing 35 people at most during the pandemic to accommodate physical distancing measures, and Smallwood cut the artist's performance rate from $1,000 to $500 a night for all shows.

While he is delighted with the possibility of a full house, he says most performers booked the stage months in advance and signed contracts for three and four nights to make up for half-capacity seating.

Colleen Connors/CBC
Colleen Connors/CBC

"So we are going to adhere to the contracts we signed. And try, in the meanwhile, to increase the audiences, but it is very likely we will have three nights with 40 or 50 people," said Smallwood.

Chance to give back

Newfoundland band The Once heard news of the new numbers for venues and quickly decided it was an opportunity to give back to the community.

The band an upcoming Christmas show that's touring the Arts & Culture centres across Newfoundland, and instead of trying to sell the extra seats, they are going to give the tickets away to front-line workers.

"There was no worried about it or thinking about the tickets. It is the least we can do, and it feels really good," said band member Geraldine Hollett.

Colleen Connors/CBC
Colleen Connors/CBC

Hollett says the band is working with the Dollar a Day Foundation to help find the right people.

"Instead of trying to sell those seats, which is more than we anticipated … we are just contacting Thrive, Daffodil Place, basically any place they have worked with in the past — the firefighters, any first responders — basically anyone we can find," Hollett said.

Sit so close

As for the Rotary Arts Centre's upcoming lineup, Smallwood says his goal is get the word out that a lot of seats just became available. He says the biggest hurdle venue operators will have to overcome is convincing spectators that it's safe to return to the theatre.

He said the centre will be cleaned regularly and everyone will have to show proof of vaccination and wear a mask for the duration of the performance.

"Now we will try and persuade people that it's safe to come back. It's important to come back. It's important for the venue but even more important for the artists to see that people want to come and hear them perform," he said.

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