COVID is coming back to theaters

COVID continues to complicate the lives of actors in the entertainment industry.

COVID is coming back to theaters

COVID continues to complicate the lives of actors in the entertainment industry. Producers, staff members, artists and spectators have to deal with a new summer wave which, like the previous ones, is a source of many headaches.

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In Montreal, several dates of the musical Annie, presented at the Saint-Denis Theater, had to be postponed due to an outbreak of COVID-19. In Terrebonne, five performances of the play Symphorien suffered the same fate. In Quebec, the musical Rock of Ages, playing at the Capitol, was canceled for two consecutive evenings, July 14 and 15, due to cases of COVID. Fortunately, a substitute already in the troupe was able to play two characters.

“Many practices have been modified with the pandemic and continue to be, explains Sébastien Côté, Senior Director of Management and Shows at Quebecor Sports and Entertainment. We had a COVID specialist on the Revolution tour who ensured compliance with the measures on set. With the lifting of the measures, this has come to complicate things. »

Rock of Ages comedians and crew have also resumed wearing masks, and after-show meet and greets with fans no longer take place.

Financial losses

“The biggest financial loss is all the unsold tickets,” Mr. Côté continues. A portion of the tickets were not sold, because with each new wave, there is a fear of the spectator. »

Similarly, for the production of the musical Annie, the postponement and cancellation of performances represented a headache and financial loss.

“We had a summer schedule and fixed dates,” explains producer Émilie Rochon. It was a colossal job to get it all back on track and get everything back on track. As soon as we returned, we started to put the sanitary measures back in place: the mask in public, the distance with the spectators, the washing of hands, we updated the instructions. »

At the Gilles-Vigneault Theater in Saint-Jérôme, the Sainte-Marie-de-la-Mauderne play team has not yet had to deal with cases of COVID which would have forced the postponement of shows. This does not prevent a few worried spectators from asking, every evening, to be reimbursed – even if disinfectant gel and masks are provided at the entrance to the performance hall.

"We are still facing the same challenges as at the start of the pandemic, but we must add to that the physical and psychological fatigue of the teams in place, explains David Laferrière, general manager of the establishment and chairman of the board of directors of the Professional Association of Show Presenters (RIDEAU). The teams being reduced because of the holidays, this weakens the remaining teams. We have labor issues due to COVID-related challenges and the exhaustion of arts-related trades. »

"There are approximately 15% to 20% of spectators who wear the mask," adds Mr. Laferrière. It is the responsibility of each artist to take the measurements. Some productions have hired doubles just in case, which is not the case for us. Still, we walk on a wire, even if we follow the rules to the letter. »

Since the start of the pandemic, Théâtre Gilles-Vigneault has lost two million dollars in ticket refunds.

Collateral damages

COVID also does collateral damage. Performance hall staff, who have to deal with a high level of aggression from customers, leave for various reasons: fatigue, significant physical and psychological exhaustion, coronavirus, career reorientation and often early retirement.

Premiered on July 20, at the Cogeco Amphitheater in Trois-Rivières, the show Vive nos Divas! is the 6th installment in the Cirque du Soleil tribute series. For the moment, no performance has been canceled, and the representative of Cirque du Soleil claims to keep a constant watch on the evolution of the situation in all the markets he visits.

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