The Hidden Cost of Pivoting

The second blog by Guest Blogger Rebecca Anne Bloom

 

I remember when I first started performing. Feeling nervous, pre-show jitters. Sensing the sizzling energy of a house full of patrons ready to see some magic unfold. There is nothing like a live performance – an experience that many people have been without since the pandemic hit. 

A blue sky with fluffy white clouds. Picnic tables with red umbrellas are set up on a grassy field/lawn This past week, Globus Theatre opened their Patio Theatre Festival with an almost sold-out play reading of Norm Foster’s Here on the Flight Path. I both greeted patrons and acted in the show, experiencing the excitement of opening night in many ways. I spent time chatting with audience members, many of whom enthusiastically exclaimed how thrilled they were to be out soaking in the theatre along with the sun. Then, I felt the age-old tingle of joy from being on stage, enjoying the sound of laughter and cheers ringing in the air. But despite finally opening the theatre after over six months of being dark, I couldn’t breathe a sigh of relief. For one thing, I didn‘t have time, since on Sunday we had a three-show day, having moved a performance from another day due to rain. But I also carried the weight of a summer theatre season that had been shortened and dismantled due to the province’s staggered re-opening plan.

A large room, a rehearsal hall perhaps, with a wooden floor and pillars. A few chairs are scattered around the room

The original topic for my second blog was going to be how professional theatre venues can be an economic driver for small tourist towns. For Globus Theatre, we were looking forward to recouping some of the losses that 2020 brought. We envisioned an extended summer season from May to September, filled with guaranteed crowd pleasers as well as new and exciting Canadian works. From play readings to concerts and memorable plays, our season was announced and ready to go. But, when the Ontario government announced in early June that there was a new reopening plan, our dreams were dashed. Everything quickly had to change and let me tell you, it’s hard to create a sense of optimism when indoor theatre performances are closed until at least August. It’s even harder to say theatres are economic drivers at the moment, when many are struggling to keep their doors open.  I watched members of artistic teams cry after they heard the news. I sat in board meetings and listened heavy hearted as we crunched numbers and struggled to revise best laid plans. I’ve come to dislike the word ‘pivot’. Behind all the social media posts, the press releases and interviews that enthusiastically describe the latest ‘pivot’ from a local theatre venue, there is a mountain of grief and heartbreak. 

Globus turned on a dime, switching to online shows and take out dinners. From there, our team built and painted picnic tables, assembled umbrellas and tested sound equipment. We booked entertainment, created a new patio menu, patiently waited for Stage 2 to open and scoured weather forecasts just before opening night. There are many factors in play when it comes to changing up a theatre season, and even more when it involves the outdoors. Over the past weekend, at almost every table, I heard the chipper murmur of patrons:

 “Isn’t it great that something cA musician plays on an outdoor stage. Picnic tables with blue umbrellas are set up for patrons to watch the show. A red barn is off to the leftan happen in the theatre?”

“Finally!”

“Tell us more about your recent pivot to the outdoors.”

“You should keep doing theatre outside!”

“I bet you’re excited to be back.”

The support from our customers has truly been overwhelming and yes, I am excited to have our season underway. But many theatres were not built for outdoor performance. And many did not foresee having to pivot to digital shows, outdoor stages, and alternative ways to stay afloat in 2021.

As we continue through this latest adventure, I resign to the fact that we cannot predict the future. No one anticipated the pandemic, and we cannot see where it will lead us. Our staff are amazing, they worked tirelessly to make the opening a success. But I know we eagerly look forward to being back to our regular theatre programming. In the meantime, we set our eyes on our next large-scale show, an interactive murder mystery called The Great Cottage Catastrophe that allows the audience to turn detective! We’re busy putting all the pieces into place and creating the Downtown Detective Trail in Bobcaygeon – a ‘live scavenger hunt’ with clues performed by kids from Globus’ School of Dramatic Art. It’s going to be a boatload of fun – hey, maybe I’ll see you there!

 

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