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Keeping the faith that we will hear that applause again one day soon; because the show must go on!

artsorange 100x100By Tammy Fox

April 16th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

I find it beyond belief that we have been existing in this Twilight Zone of a pandemic for over an entire year now.  COVID has, and continues to have, absolutely devastating effects on everyone – personally, professionally, economically, socially – you name it.

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Tammy Fox, Executive Director, Burlington Performing Arts Centre

We invested a great deal of time, effort and funds in developing a sold COVID-safety plan for BPAC last summer so that by early fall we would be in a position to welcome back reduced-capacity audiences in the safest way possible.  We increased our air filtration, purchased plexiglass screens and every type of PPE available.

We invested in a socially-distanced ticketing system and seating plans, as well as patron self-screening software.  We thoroughly sanitize the venue at least three times daily.  When we were finally permitted live audiences of up to 50 people for October and November we scrambled to put together an exciting ‘mini-season’ of incredible artists, like Tom Cochrane, Chantal Kreviazuk, The Spoons and more.

We sold out every performance and I watched as my technical staff’s eyes welled up with tears on our ‘opening night’, overcome with emotion at having the opportunity to finally return after 6 months of suspended operation to what it is that we all do best.  To the industry that we love.  And then just like that we were slammed back into the ‘red zone’ and the stage lights went dim once again.

Now we are once again in lockdown.  We are struggling to understand why we are not permitted to support our community and the Canadian arts ecology when we all need it most, by at the very least offering livestream performances.  A typical livestream production might involve 5 – 10 people, between staff and artists, carefully and safely socially distanced in our incredibly spacious venue – but no, the province has deemed that too risky.

Film shoots involving 100 cast and crew are ok.  For a long while, allowing hundreds to cram into malls and big box stores was ok.  But no livestreaming allowed!  Once simply can’t help but feel that the notion of the arts being somehow superfluous, non-essential to the health and spirit of a community is now up in lights on the marquee for all to see.  It’s a very scary time for our industry, which has been deemed ‘the hardest hit’.  Our industry will be the very last permitted to return to full operations.  Ours will take the longest to fully recover.

With that said, there is an incredible amount of heart and effort going into advocacy efforts for the live entertainment sector.  Federal agencies are doing what they can to keep us sustainable until life can return to ‘normal’.  I do believe that people are eager to return.  I feel that people are now truly becoming aware of the cavernous gap left in our lives and in our communities when the performing arts go dark.  You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone – but absence will make the heart grow fonder!

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There will come a day when there will once again be a full house

At present, I think that the best that we can hope for is offer a series of performances outdoors on our Plaza this summer. I hope to see us being permitted to operate at a percentage of capacity by the fall.  At some point someone has to do the math and see that 250 patrons spread out across a 718-seat venue is safer than 50 people crammed into a Walmart check-out line.

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An outdoor performance on the plaza where the best seats were on a marble bench.

In the meantime, we are constantly trying to find ways to support our staff, our patrons and our local artists and arts organizations and to keep our volunteers informed and engaged.  We have been working with the HDSB by offering students a virtual education series, and we are developing an artist residency program that will see us offering our space and services to local artists.  And mostly, we are working towards remaining optimistic and keeping the faith that we will hear that applause again one day soon.  It will happen.

Because the show must go on!

Tammy Fox is the Executive Director of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre

 

 

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