Conseil québécois du théâtre
compagnie: creature/creature Pièce: STRIKE/THRU au Festival Phénoména. Photo: Caroline Hayeur
And so where are we at with theatres reopening?
23 février 2021 | PARTAGER :        

Following the February 16th. announcement regarding the opening of movie theatres for the spring break, the performing arts community could not understand why there was no decision announcing a date for the opening of theatres in the red zone at the same time, as these two particular types of facilities are equally safe in terms of public health and safety.

Following this announcement, the CQT has been busy discussing this issue with political authorities as well as with our members and performing arts partners in order to clarify the situation and determine what our next steps should be.

We think it is unacceptable that the announcement regarding the opening of the movie theatres took place without the government considering the terms under which the performing arts sector could undertake their own reopening. We are deeply concerned about this inconsistency and strongly criticize it. In the meantime, however, in consultation with our colleagues, we have come to the conclusion that a spring break opening would be premature anyway for most presenters. Last week, we published an article that will help you better understand the position the CQT has taken regarding an advance notice before opening the theatres themselves.

At this point, we are working on two very closely related fronts.  On the one hand, there is the important effort needed to identify the place of art in our society, and on the other, there is the requirement for practical application and flexibilities necessary to ensure that the openings of theatrical venues in red zones are sustainable and feasible. We are trying to find the best way to address these two issues together.

Where are we now?

We have been in discussions since Friday, February 19th. with the MCCQ along with other organizations representing the performing arts in order to identify the parameters of what a reopening could look like.  We do understand that even if the government hopes that the opening of the theatres will be "for good" as noted by our Premier, we are told that the break remains a big question mark as if cases start up again, all good intentions could be completely negated.  It is important to note that we all read the media reports over the past weekend stating that the public health department was in favour of keeping cultural venues, including theatres, open. This is new information to us and we will be following up on it in the coming days.

In order to reopen our venues, there are still two very important technical elements that must be considered which are the basis of our discussions.

Notification before reopening

Over the past few days, we have been told that some companies and individuals feel they can open much more quickly than others. Within other performing arts groups and distribution networks, we also note that the realities vary greatly depending on disciplines and contexts. Some venues need more time because all of their support staff have been unemployed for months and repatriating these teams does not happen overnight. Some venues tell us that, in terms of ticket sales, they feel ready, yet others tell us that tickets are selling very badly in this unproductive period and that they need to get marketing and ticketing campaigns up and running again. Some locations need time to assess the feasibility of reopening within the parameters of the curfew (see below).
Therefore now we are initiating discussions that will cover an approach for the reopening in a more phased method with the proviso that the Mesure exceptionnelle de soutien à la diffusion will still be available for venues that require more time before they reopen. We underline here that this financial support has enabled our sector to rehearse, prepare and pay fees for several months now. Places that need more time to reopen must continue to have access to this support in order not to compromise their abilities to continue these essential activities.


The other major logistical hurdle is the curfew, and here we see, yet again, how unbalanced its impact is depending on the context.  Some rumours state that almost all of Quebec could possibly fall into the orange zone category after the Spring Break (unless there is an increase in the number of cases), which would push the curfew back to 9:30 pm. But for the metropolitan region, these rumours are less reassuring.  Therefore, we are now discussing the contexts pertaining to the resumption of activities in the red zone with a curfew still at 20h. Once again, it will be essential to demonstrate that if a performance could not take place because of the curfew (as the schedule could not be revised), the company would still be eligible for the Mesure de soutien à la diffusion.

We understand that these issues may seem quite insignificant and even a little weak in view of the passion that drives us and the fundamental place that art should have in our society. But it is also the role of the CQT to ensure that all the elements are securely in place when reopening happens in order to avoid finding ourselves once again in an ambiguous position where reopening would be theoretically possible, but in reality could be very complex or even harmful to parts of the creative chain.  We also know that a large number of artists and craftspeople are not currently tied to a theatre or a production in rehearsal.  

Now we must begin to reflect on how we can resume our activities and what position each dynamic force within our milieu will take in the process.  We will be inviting you to participate in a large agora meeting on march 27th, where you will have the opportunity to communicate directly with us to talk about your needs and expectations concerning these issues.

We are also aware that at times you may feel that we are not there for you, or that you might like us to voice things differently. But we need you to know that we are there every working hour and much more and that a large part of the CQT team and its volunteers are very dedicated to addressing these issues.  We have spent the past week holding meetings, having discussions with key individuals and surveying our members and partners. We are hard at work. We are listening to your comments and we are trying to adapt our methods of communication as much as possible so that our activities are more in line with the various realities of our sector.

We are not privy to the workings of the higher decision-making bodies, but we do believe it is reasonable to expect a gradual reopening within a few weeks, unless there is an unpleasant health surprise, as we have stated.

If you have not already done so, we encourage you to become a member of the CQT in order to receive the Strategic CQT publication regularly, so that you can remain up-to-date with what we are doing.
Anne Trudel                                                                          Catherine Voyer-Léger
President and Chief Executive Officer                                  Executive Director

Photo: compagnie: creature/creature Pièce: STRIKE/THRU au Festival Phénoména © Caroline Hayeur
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