Theatres, restaurants frustrated by Ontario’s slow reopening plan  

By Connor Chase

Perhaps one of the hardest industries to be hit by both the persistence and unpredictability of lockdowns has been live theatre. After the Ontario government released its latest re-opening plan in late May, Globus Theatre’s frustration came out in their community newsletter.

“Since March of last year we have tried to react to every setback with hope and resilience. There is no doubt that you have helped us to do that and encouraged our efforts every step of the way. But today, we have lost that hope, and our resilience is at a low ebb. We are sad. And defeated. And tired.”

Sarah Quick, artistic director of Globus Theatre near Bobcaygeon, says the newsletter was certainly penned in frustration, but for good reason. The livelihood of actors and other talents in the industry is facing such precarity that many are reluctantly exiting the profession.

“We’re all used to having a very insecure future (in the theatre world), but we normally know there’s something around the corner,” says Quick.

She says actors are “generally used to being resourceful as artists, changing and adapting to the next gig.”

“But to be creative you have to have a finished product at the end of the process. We’re fine with working super hard, but if there’s no product at the end, it’s soul destroying. It destroys creativity.”

The artistic director is seeing an unfortunate trend where more and more actors are “having to, by necessity, abandon the industry and go elsewhere. It will have a devastating impact on the revitalization of communities like ours.”

Another source of frustration for Quick and for other theatres is the limitation for outdoor gatherings. She says blanket restrictions that fail to sufficiently account for the differences between urban and rural events makes no sense.

“We have 22 acres here. We could almost put everybody on their own individual acre,” Quick joked.

The silver lining for Globus during the pandemic was the enthusiastic support that ushered in a successful 2020 fundraiser. The theatre was able to hire a senior outreach coordinator, tasked with bringing the theatre experience to customers in innovative new ways. Globus used technology to offer a variety of events, such as a digital play reading of the uplifting comedy ‘Old Love’ on Valentine’s Day for Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon. On St Patrick’s Day, the theatre hosted a digital reading of ‘Having Relations,’ a comedy about exploring one’s Irish heritage, complete with an international cast of actors performing the play virtually, which was also streamed in six retirement homes.

Restaurants represent another industry that has been hindered by Ontario’s ever-changing lockdown statuses. Erastus Burley, manager of the Pie Eyed Monk restaurant and brewery shares a sense of frustration regarding outdoor restrictions.

“It’s hard to understand the scientific reasoning behind allowing two people who live together to play golf, but not to go eat on a patio,” says Burley.

“Restaurants have to do the most contact tracing, there’s lots of PPE requirements, wearing goggles, masks, and everything is sanitized when a new customer arrives. It’s frustrating that we weren’t included with the other industries,” that were allowed to open on some level, he says.

Burley points out there are large industries that continue to operate when employees get the virus, suggesting the political will isn’t there to close them down. “But it’s easy to close a restaurant,” he says.

Burley was optimistic about the enlarged patio scene though, which city council has allowed, but it’s not the solution for a full recovery he says. “The recovery phase isn’t just the summer, and the amount of lost revenue isn’t going to be made up by a couple of picnic tables.”

Being outside in the summer is something that “feeds the vibe” of the downtown community, the restaurant manager notes and says Lindsay’s new downtown revitalization project will only add to that feeling.

Patience goes a long way, says Burley, and the Monk is looking forward to a “tremendous late summer and an incredible fall.”

“Unless something dramatic changes, we’ll be celebrating Christmas with our families,” he says.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.