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Local theatres team up for virtual gala

July 16, 2020   ·   0 Comments

It is likely a long wait before theatre fans can enjoy the thrill of experiencing a play or a musical together under the same vaulted roof, but local theatrical companies are coming together for a virtual show intended to be a shot-in-the-arm for Aurora’s arts scene.

Next Saturday, July 25, Marquee Theatrical Productions and Theatre Aurora will host One Stage Live, a virtual arts fundraiser to support both organizations which have been hurting since the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to shut their doors just prior to March Break.

A combination of live and pre-recorded performances, the virtual gala will take place 7 p.m., streaming directly through Marquee’s YouTube channel @marqueetp.

“The idea came from our Board of Directors [and we started planning] by watching YouTube videos of other groups who have done similar things – now we’re trying our version of it,” says Marquee’s Sheryl Thomas. “The live portion will be broadcast from Theatre Aurora’s lobby with two hosts, and we have the artist Dube who will be doing his life painting. We have pre-recorded performances by various artists who belong to both groups, so it will be a two-hour show.”

In addition to the performances, there will also be culinary demonstrations – of a sort.

Viewers will be walked through the creation of a cocktail by a very special mixologist, representing a show that is a favourite of Marquee.

The special mixologist is under wraps, but the name of the cocktail, “The Time Warp”, should be something of a teaser!

“Ultimately, this is a telethon,” says Ms. Thomas. “We’re asking people to visit our new webpage and there is a donate button there and proceeds will be split 50/50 between Marquee and Theatre Aurora.”

Since COVID-19 forced the closure of Marquee’s three Industrial Parkway North-based studios in the middle of March, the experience has been “horrible” for the company, she says. They lost 30 performances at the end of their season, which was a huge blow to the dozens of young and seasoned actors, as well as crew, who had put in innumerable hours of work to get to that point.

On top of that, their hugely successful March Break programs were scuttled and their summer camp programs have been greatly impacted.

Both initiatives are “a huge bloodline” for Marquee, according to Ms. Thomas and having to run at an extremely limited capacity is hurting not only their bottom line, but the mental health of participants, for whom such camps are an invaluable creative outlet.

Summer camp programs usually welcome 60 campers each day. Last Friday morning, they were able to welcome just 11.

“I can tell you the feedback we are getting from parents, I had an email from a parent today who was very worried about her child’s mental health and the anxiety that was coming just from this situation and having to be at home all the time,” says Ms. Thomas. “They were very thankful we actually did open our doors and we’re taking every precaution as per the guidelines we need to make it happen.”

But, every cloud has a silver lining and Ms. Thomas says she believes that the situation has underscored to many the importance that arts and culture programs have on communities like Aurora.

“You don’t know what you have until you don’t have it anymore,” she says. “People have been saying, ‘that’s it for theatre, it ain’t gonna happen anymore’ and some people are hanging onto the hope it will come around again. It will probably be a while, but we’re going to roll with it.

“For me, what I will remember about [the height of the pandemic] is how people came together just to keep everything going. I know I have worked very hard at it, but those who took part in what we tried to offer, we learned as we went along. Some people were patient with it, some people didn’t understand why we had to take the measures we did. It is interesting, but I am just so thankful for the people who requested that we continue to do what we did, even if it was just online, because it was the only normalcy they had in their kids’ life. Even though it was on a Zoom call, they at least got to see their friends again and have fun that way. The vote of confidence from the parents speaks volumes to what we do.”

By Brock Weir



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