Along with other arts organizations, the Shaw Festival is asking the province government to reduce reopening restrictions on the performing arts.
On a post on social media, and in an open letter from the festival distributed through the Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce newsletter Monday, the Shaw is asking for fairness with other organizations.
The Facebook post says the provincial government’s reopening plan is “a dead-end for performing arts, outdoor venues, festivals, and events.
“After a year of shuttered venues, lost revenue streams and amongst the most severe levels of unemployment compared to any other industry in Canada, we are ready to safely reopen our stages for artists and audiences. But the current guidelines would leave arts and culture behind, denying arts lovers the equal access that restaurants, sports, and religious services will be allowed to offer,” the Shaw Festival Facebook post says.
The Shaw is calling on the government to allow them to resume rehearsals in the first step of reopening plan, so casts and crews will be ready when performances can begin in Step 2.
The post also asks the government to allow filming inside performance spaces during Step 1, which will begin when at least 60 percent of adults have received at least one dose of a vaccination, and COVID-19 daily case numbers, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions continue to decline, so theatres can at least offer digital content.
The Shaw is also requesting capacity limits for outdoor and indoor theatres based on square footage, “so we can maximize safe audience access in different sized venues.”
These are accommodations that have already been granted to industries like sport, film and television and meetings and events, it says.
Under Step 1 as it stands now up to 10 people can gather outdoors, outdoor dining will open up to four people per table. Outdoor religious services can be offered with limited capacities, and day camps and campsites will be allowed to reopen.
An open letter released by the festival Monday says “the dropping COVID case-counts, coupled with the opportunity to work outdoors and online, should offer a light at the end of the tunnel for performing arts organizations, outdoor venues, festivals and events.”
Instead, “as it stands, the government’s recently announced Roadmap to Reopening only offers a dead-end to the performing arts at a time when we are perhaps needed most. And we need your help. In the coming days and weeks, Ontario senior officials will meet to determine the specific regulatory details of the Roadmap to Reopen, including the offices of Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams, Ministers and Deputy Ministers, and public health officials.”
The letter says the current guidelines will ‘leave arts and culture behind, denying arts lovers the equal access that restaurants, sports, and religious services will be allowed to offer.”
Provincial decisions and changes expected “in the next few days will determine the fate of our stages for the next year. If we are treated with parity to equivalent peer sectors, we can look forward to a summer of outdoor performance and a robust theatre season next year. But if we are denied equitable reopening, our stages will remain dark and our artists will remain out of work for many months to come.”
The letter calls for Shaw supporters to make their voices heard, demanding fairness for arts and culture in Ontario as part of the #FairnessForArtsON campaign that Ontario performing arts organizations have launched.
“We are not asking for special treatment,” the letter says, “only to be afforded the same reopening terms that equivalent peer industries have been given already.”
The letter, signed “Your friends at the Shaw,” and the Shaw Festival Facebook post suggest supporters visit canadianlivemusic.ca/fairnessforartson/ to send letters to the Premier, Ministers, MPPs, municipal leaders and representatives.