Some concerts, plays, comedy and other shows in Surrey have been cancelled or postponed due to health concerns and also B.C.’s current pandemic restrictions that cut theatre capacities in half.
Another of Surrey Civic Theatres’ “Winter Shows,” a concert by the French-Canadian band The Lost Fingers on Feb. 9, has also been cancelled at the Main Stage.
“What we’re running into is, very simply, artists who have some very grave and legitimate concerns about travelling at this time,” said Kent Gallie, Surrey’s manager of performing arts.
“The Lost Fingers have cancelled their western tour, as has Mary Walsh,” Gallie added. “There were some concerns for her safety while touring, obviously. Coming out from Newfoundland and having to tour around the West Coast was, I think, making her feel quite nervous. I get it, not wanting to travel around on airplanes and being around so many people.”
On Tuesday (Jan. 18), the B.C. government extended to Feb. 16 a health order limiting capacity in theatres and stadiums to 50 per cent, among other measures to battle infection from the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
“We’ll have Mary (Walsh) coming to us in October instead,” Gallie said. “And the Lost Fingers, we’re working with them right now to see if we can get a recorded version of their show to have that on our Digital Stage. We’re hoping to have that confirmed soon.
“We’re also looking at other presentations for our Digital Stage, resurrecting that for people to be able to tune in (online) and watch some entertainment from home over the next few weeks, as we get through this latest wave.”
Originally, nine “Winter Shows” were booked for Surrey Civic Theatres stages in early 2022, featuring a mix of music, comedy, film and theatre from February to June, and now at least two of the performances are off the calendar.
“I think that if we could go ahead with 50 per cent (of capacity) for those February shows, we would have,” Gallie added. “And we are going ahead with 50 per cent at the morning coffee concert (“Oboe d’amour,” on Feb. 3). We don’t have anything after that now until ‘Blindside’ at Centre Stage on March 3, and our plan is to go ahead with that show at 50 per cent, if those restrictions are still in place at that time.”
At Surrey’s Bell Performing Arts Centre, rescheduled is a Just For Laughs-produced show featuring American comedian Maz Jobrani, now on March 24. Also, a Village Church Women’s Conference, set for Jan. 21-22, was cancelled, as was The Children Heart of the Matter Conference (Feb. 4-5). A performance by Edmonton’s Cheremosh Ukranian Dance Company has been pushed from Feb. 11 to Sept. 12, according to Andrew Elliott, the Bell’s associate theatre manager.
“The rest of the February events are going ahead as planned with a 50 per cent capacity,” he said, noting Steel School of Irish Dance’s show Feb. 12, a Star Talent dance competition Feb. 18, TEDxSurrey on Feb. 19, a VSO concert Feb. 20, Surrey Schools’ jazz festival Feb. 25-26 (“no audience, just performers”) and The Lovettes concert, Feb. 27.
Regarding a “FRIENDS! The Musical Parody” show scheduled at the Bell on Tuesday, Feb. 1, Elliot says event planners “are still looking at all the different options.”
Operators of the Bell will grant free rental of the theatre to three local organizations hit hard by the pandemic. Launched Jan. 10, the new Bell Performing Arts Centre Community Program involves a day of free rent of the Sullivan-area theatre, for a play, concert, speaking event, fundraising gala or other events.
Eligible organizations can apply for one of three awards for up to eight hours of theatre rental, including box office services and up to four technicians to work the event. Each award is valued at close to $6,500.
New this year is a Surrey Civic Theatres rental subsidy, in which qualifying organizations can get up to $2,000 for a single-day rental, Gallie explained.
“We don’t reduce our rates,” he noted, “because Civic Theatres is already well subsidized by the city, the rates we have in place are basically to recover costs. Regardless of what the pandemic restrictions are, our costs remain the same, and those costs need to be recovered in order to operate in a fiscally responsible manner, to remain viable. But it’s important to note that the city has committed to supporting organizations through the cultural grant program, through the pandemic.
“My concern,” Gallie added, “is with the community organizations rather than our own presentations through Civic Theatres. We’ve been looking at how we can help those organizations through this, and we’re doing everything we can to help organizations who feel they can’t go ahead at 50 per cent capacity, because of the revenue loss. So we’re working with them to find new dates, later dates, perhaps beyond the current restrictions. Right now we’re in dance season, so a lot of those organizations are looking to put on their year-end dance shows, their spring performances. We’re working with them to make sure those events take place safely, and if they feel they can’t do them at 50 per cent, we’re working with them on alternative dates later on.”
As the pandemic stretches to two full years, Gallie said Surrey Civic Theatres has worked hard to keep staff employed, audiences entertained and safe, and also pay artists for their work.
“It’s important to say that we at Surrey Civic Theatres completely understand that these restrictions are necessary, and that we understand that without some sort of restrictions in place we could end up in a catastrophic situation – it’s bad enough already, as it is,” Gallie said. “So with the health orders, we are in full compliance and will follow those health orders at all times, and we have extensive safety plans in place to make sure our audiences and staff are as safe as possible.”