The coronavirus pandemic put some serious hurt on the bottom line of numerous entertainment activities over the past 18 months, including Nelson's own Capitol Theatre.
The goal of the Capitol Theatre, a restored 400 seat facility, is to enrich the performing arts locally in the Heritage City as well as provide the best in live theatre, classical ballet and contemporary dance theatre, classical and contemporary music, comedy and a variety of other performances at the theatre building on Victoria Street.
However, COVID-19 put everything on hold.
"The last 18 months have been a rollercoaster; we pivoted, learned how to film artists on stage and to stream, we embraced digital,” says Stephanie Fischer, Executive Director at the Capitol Theatre.
During the summer, the arts public saw a taste of a live performance with the Youth Program presentation of the a version of Little Women, that was rehearsed both inside the theatre and outside.
The finished product was seen during four live performances.
The theatre also delivered four clowning workshops on stage in a COVID safe environment, says Fischer adding theatre management is looking forward to the kick-off of the 2021/22 season.
"We are looking forward to bringing audiences the live experience of theatre in a safe environment," Fisher explained.
"We hope that our patrons will trust us to deliver a wonderful, immersive dive into the world of music, dance and theatre on stage with all the emotions we feel when we turn away from the screens and feel the power of live arts."
The fresh season, Homegrown 2021-2022, features professional local and regional artists in all genres, with a touring artists season that is “jam-packed with amazing talent from across Canada and the US," says Fischer.
Allison Girvan, theatre manager is excited for what is to come.
"I’m looking forward to taking in as much of the Capitol's season as I possibly can," said Girvan, who took over the job as Box Office Manager in January of this year.
"I'm also thrilled to be part of the season with a concert of my own coming up on October 23rd. It’s been a very long time since I've had the privilege of sharing an evening with an audience and feeling that amazing exchange of community energy. I can't wait.”
This year’s youth summer program ran with live audiences and had much success.
"The rehearsal process reminded us how long it had been since the theatre was buzzing with that kind of creative energy," says Girvan
"It was also apparent how much these young actors appreciated being together - learning and expressing themselves as a community, forging the kind of bonds that feel impossibly strong after such a short time together."
Audience members willingly adapted to COVID-19 restrictions and requests.
"Everyone was clear how special it was to support the cast and all the hard work they had done and what a gift it was to be on the receiving end of their talents," said Girvan.
"The appreciation of how long it had been since there had been an exchange of that sort between performer and audience voiced openly, and no one took that experience for granted."
Theatre staff feel incredibly lucky with the timing, because a few days after the final performance, COVID-19 restrictions tightened again. The theatre's COVID safety protocols are rigorous.
"We took many steps to create a safe environment for our patrons," says Fischer.
Steps include extra cleaning and disinfection, covering seats, increasing airflow, and even renovating washrooms with touchless features.
The pandemic created financial challenges as there was a long period without live events due to gathering restrictions. The expansion into digital services like video-on-demand streaming did not translate into earned revenue.
"We lost earned revenues from ticket sales, rentals, concessions - those earned revenues usually account for approximately 80% of our overall revenues. We were able to innovate digitally, but in the end, the overall trend was negative," says Fischer.
The theatre recuperated some lost revenue by renting out theatre space, which included a jury trial of a RCMP officer, and equipment.
The region's premier cultural and entertainment venue was found to be the best place to socially distance members of the jury, council, the accused, witnesses and judge during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, having people back at the theatre is inspiring for Givran.
"It's wonderful to see people excited to come back to the theatre," she said.
"There is so much on offer right now as far as our programming. Truly something for everyone. With limited seating for the foreseeable future, we are encouraging anyone interested in an event to book tickets quickly."
Of course, to watch any performances at the Capitol, spectators must be aware that before entry the public must show the BC Vaccine Card that proves two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
The theatre presents a live-on-stage re-imagined Pantomime, re-imagined to fit the demands of COVID-19 safety.
She hopes people will support the theatre in this major annual Christmas Pantomime fundraiser, December 2-5.
Musical artist Kym Gouchie, an artist who can momentarily make time can stand still, is a crowd favourite at the Capitol Theatre. — Submitted photo