CHEK Upside: The stage is set for live performance venues to return to full capacity

CHEK Upside: The stage is set for live performance venues to return to full capacity
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The curtains will no longer be drawn at McPherson Playhouse as the show will be going on.

It’s one of many live performance venues across the province that are getting ready to re-open at full capacity.

“We know what we have to do, we have a focus, we have direction, we have answers, we have clarity,” said Franz Lehrbass, executive director of the Royal and McPherson Theatres Society. “So we can just get busy, jump in and make stuff happen.”

B.C. health officials announced this week that venues can return to full capacity as early as Monday, as long as there’s a requirement for proof of vaccination and no additional regional restrictions. Masks are also mandatory in public indoor settings.

“COVID has basically been an ongoing rollercoaster of good news, bad news… hope, despair,” Lehrbass said.

READ MORE: B.C. to drop capacity limits for indoor events on Oct. 25

This recent announcement of loosening of restrictions is welcome news, he added.

“In the Royal Theatre, we have 1,400 seat capacity. If you can only put 50 people in there, that’s nothing for a promoter to be able to make money,” Lehrbass explained, noting most of the time they need 60 to 70 per cent of seats filled just to break even.

There’s a lot of work to be done, he added, but performers are keen to get back up on stage with a live audience.

“That’s why these buildings were built,” Lehrbass said. “It’s that connection to the live-in-the-moment response to what happens. Every performance is this unique sharing of human thought and emotion and experience and it’s a back and forth kind of thing…. That magic just wasn’t there.”

READ MORE: A live show every week to once a month: How the pandemic has impacted performing artists

For musician Pablo Cardenas, having a live audience lets him connect to the audience in a more meaningful way than virtually through a screen.

“It makes a big difference when you can see more of them in the room and its direct feedback we need as musicians,” he said, adding he builds off the reaction from the audience while playing.

Cardenas often performs at Hermann’s Jazz Club, a live music venue that’s taking a phased approach to get back to full capacity due to their ticketing system.

“We’ve been hit very hard by this and so this gives opportunities to musicians and theatre companies alike to be able to go back to their regular operating costs and for their revenue to be back to normal,” said Ashley Wey, artistic director and booking manager at Hermann’s.

The Hermann’s team is also building a performance arts centre above the live music venue, she added, and the team is excited to see that space at full capacity as well.

Upcoming shows at Hermann’s can be found here and Royal & McPherson Theatres schedule can be found here.

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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