Westben taking its 2021 season outdoors

·2 min read

To adapt to the current times, Westben Theatre is developing two new outdoor venues so in-person concerts can take place in 2021.

"We were just trying to think of how to be viable during COVID-19. It looks like next summer’s probably going to be restrictive as well. We can normally seat 400 people in the barn, but we thought if we were limited to 50 again, that we needed to think of something else, " said Donna Bennett, marketing and advancement director at Westben.

The last couple of months, the theatre’s board has been looking at the property to see where the venues could go, Bennett said.

"The barn is on a 50-acre farm, and there’s a beautiful meadow and a pond, and up behind it is like a natural amphitheatre. We had it recently mowed off to see what it actually would look like and it’s just perfect for an outdoor venue, " she said.

The stage will be situated by the pond and spectators can sit on blankets and lawn chairs on the hill to watch performances, Bennett said.

"The second venue is in another spot on the property. It’s a nice little private campfire area. So, we can probably get 100 on the field and 30 around the campfire, " she said.

The theatre will be fundraising and applying for grants to help pay for the two new venues, Bennett said.

"We will be launching an outdoor venue campaign and we’ll partner with our members and sponsors and be asking the public for sure, " she said.

After having to cancel all 26 shows planned this past summer due to the pandemic, Bennett said staff members were feeling disappointed.

"Westben’s mandate is bringing people together through music, so at first it was just so sad and shocking, " she said.

The two new outdoor venues have given staff hope for the future, Bennett said.

"We’re not sitting back and being sad anymore, we’re excited about the future, " she said.

Since March, the theatre has posted 66 videos online for viewers to watch free-of-charge.

"We’ve really jumped online to try and stay connected with our members and our sponsors and our ticket buyers, " Bennett said.

The next online concert will take place on Nov. 21, with drummer and singer-songwriter Jordan Mowat from Alderville First Nation. Mowat is the son of Alderville Chief Dave Mowat.

NOTE: To watch the digital concerts, visit westbendigitalvenue.ca/ or youtube.com/user/WestbenDonna.

Marissa Lentz is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: mlentz@peterboroughdaily.com

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Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner