You can stage a play in many places in Canada right now as long as the right safety precautions are in place – but will audiences show up if you do?
The Arts Club in Vancouver has been one of the very few major performing companies in this country outside of Quebec to take a chance on staging shows indoors this fall, programming a “micro-season” of three solo shows for physically distanced audiences capped at 50.
It opened No Child…, the first play in that series, on Sept. 24 – and director Omari Newton’s production received positive reviews from local theatre-starved critics, including The Globe and Mail’s Marsha Lederman.
But the box office results to date for both in-person performances of that show and a ticketed online stream of it have not lived up to the Arts Club’s hopes, according to a plea artistic director Ashlie Corcoran put up on Facebook last week.
“Not as many people are coming to the theatre as we’d hoped,” Corcoran wrote. “Not as many people are purchasing streaming tickets to the theatre as we’d hoped.”
“It makes me worried about the level of programming we will be able to do in the midterm future while we stick handle our way through this long-term pandemic.”
The Arts Club shared some of their numbers with the online publication Stir before the long weekend: At that point, No Child… had sold 1,300 tickets out of a possible 4,000 – and the fall series it is a part of had only hit “about 25 per cent of its sales target.”
As for the online option, the Arts Club had sold 70 tickets to the show’s opening-night livestream – and, since then, only an additional 130 tickets to access the recorded version.
Reached on Tuesday morning, Corcoran said sales hadn’t picked up since she spoke with Stir – and, in fact, the Arts Club sold only 11 more in-person tickets and 7 streams over the long weekend.
“So, if you care about live performance & culture, and you live in Vancouver – please come see our show,” Corcoran pleaded in her Facebook post last week. “If you are nervous about the virus … please stream our show from the comfort of your home.”
Interested in new musicals? The Canadian Music Theatre Project (CMTP) at Sheridan College is famous for being the place where the international hit Come From Away got its start, workshopped by the school’s final-year musical-theatre students before it was picked up by producers who took it to Broadway.
CMTP is still workshopping new shows this year – and its 2020 Festival of New Musicals will be presented virtually this year. Forty-five minute presentations of three shows will be streamed live on YouTube this Sunday, Oct. 18 – and then remain online for public viewing until 9 p.m. (ET) on Oct. 25.
Living the Dream, “a contemporary look at relationships and loneliness in the Instagram era,” is first up at 2 p.m. The show features music and lyrics by Anika Johnson and Barbara Johnston and a book by Nick Green – a trio of artists who first worked together on the musical Fangirl, which premiered in an unusual location last year: the event space at The Globe and Mail.
Burden of proof, a musical that “explores the challenges met by LGBTQ+ refugee claimants in Canada,” presents next at 5 p.m. It features music by Scott Christian and La-Nai Gabriel and book and lyrics by Rob Kempson (and its music director is Lily Ling, who was the first-ever female music director of Hamilton).
Almost a Full Moon, a musical based on the Christmas album of the same name by Hawksley Workman, is at 8 p.m. (Full disclosure: My wife, Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, has written the book for that one.)
If your interests lie in avant-garde music theatre and opera, Chicago’s Third Eye Theatre Ensemble is livestreaming a free double-bill of short works on Oct. 17.
Stitch, an A cappella opera by the Canadian team of composer Juliet Palmer and librettist Anna Chatterton concerning “three women trapped in manufacturing for the oppressive fast fashion industry,” is the first show; Witness, an “Appalachian folk-inspired, organic exploration of transgender identity for voice and banjo” by Alexandra Enyart, is the second one.
I remember being impressed by Stitch in its Toronto premiere back in 2008; it is nice to see it continuing to have a life in performance. According to Third Eye: “Through these two pieces, we explore universal yearning to both see and be seen.”
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