Relieved that venues may soon open, cultural promoters remain worried about the curfew
MONTREAL -- Going to live theatre may soon be a reality again in Montreal for the first time since the fall, but promoters say they are worried that the curfew currently in effect is putting them in the spotlight.
However, representatives of Quebec's cultural industries say they are optimistic after meeting earlier this week with the province's Minister of Culture Nathalie Roy.
The government wants to reopen theatres and performance venues even in regions with the highest pandemic alert level, such as Montreal, where residents are not allowed to be away from their homes after 8 p.m.
"We are delighted that there is a real concrete conversation between the cultural industries and the government regarding the reopening; it's really collaborative and positive," said Conseil québécois du théâtre board of directors member Amy Blackmore.
While theatres and performance venues in much of Quebec are allowed to be open - or will be as of March 8 - these venues remain closed in the red zones, where about 60 per cent of Quebecers live.
Blackmore, who attended the meeting with Roy, described it as a "positive step."
She said she was particularly pleased with the provincial government's proposal to allow theatres to collect government assistance for an additional month after they reopen.
This time will help theatres adjust, said
Blackmore, who is also the MainLine Theatre and Montreal Fringe Festival artistic director.
"The venues need to hire staff," she said. "Selling tickets takes time, organizing marketing campaigns."
Blackmore said she was also delighted to learn that school trips to theatres outside the red zones will be permitted from March 15.
"It's nice to see that there is already a plan to bring the students back to theatres," she said.
President of the Guild of Musicians of Quebec Luc Fortin said the government's plan is interesting, but added that he has concerns about the curfew hours, which the government does not appear to intend to modify soon.
"It's very limited," he said, adding that he believes venues will be able to have daytime shows on weekends and shows for children and retirees during the week.
Fortin said he would like the government to push back the curfew hour and come up with a concrete reopening plan.
He admitted, however, that his members will be happy to return to the stage, adding that 40 per cent of them have considered leaving the industry in the past year.
"The essence of music is to perform in front of an audience, so it's good to record at home and post on Facebook, but it's not the same," he said.
Restrictions on their capacity could, however, cause some rooms to remain closed even if they are allowed to reopen.
Concert promoter and co-owner of Le Ritz PDB Meyer Billurcu in Montreal's Mile-Ex neighbourhood said it doesn't make sense to organize shows with a small audience.
"I can't imagine we doing anything unless it's outside," he said. "If you're going to cover all your expenses, pay the artists, pay the sound technicians and everything else, it doesn't make sense to open unless the tickets are very expensive or we can open at full capacity."
The curfew is also a limiting factor, Billurcu said, adding that most of the shows he promotes start after 8 p.m.
The province's vaccination plan, however, gives him some optimism - he's planning shows in November.
Other cultural producers are planning to organize shows outside.
Mathieu Murphy-Perron, artistic and general director of Theatre Tableau D'Hote in Montreal, said his company plans to present an outdoor play in June.
He said he heard the reopening rules will be strict.
"You talk about an incredibly reduced capacity, you talk about spectators who have to wear a mask at all times," he said. "You even talk about the distances the actors have to keep in order to interact with each other - you have to keep the actors at a certain distance."
This will influence the type of shows that can be put on, he noted, "But at least it allows us to present something."
-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021.