Blyth Festival to connect with 2020 season pass holders
BY DENNY SCOTT
The Blyth Festival is requesting that pass holders for the cancelled 2020 season reach out to the organization to either seek a refund or donate the value of those passes to the Festival.
Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt said the uncertainty of next year, paired with the near-certainty that whatever does happen next year will be limited in scope due to COVID-19, is leading the Festival to look at refunding passes or thankfully accepting donations of the cost.
“The only thing we know about the outdoor season next year is we’re going to be doing shows,” he said, referring to having outdoor shows at the former soccer field at the Blyth Campground. “We’re not sure how many shows that will be. We don’t anticipate a full season.”
Garratt said that in previous years, there had been five or more shows, leading to the group selling packs of five-show passes. He said the outstanding passes could be difficult to accommodate this year.
“The sheer number of tickets we will be able to sell is a fraction of what we sold in past years,” he said. “It’s going to impact how many performers we can hire for the theatre and determine whether we can have two companies or one company.”
He said the number of cast and crew will dictate how many shows can be mounted.
Garratt also said the outdoor shows will likely welcome smaller audiences than traditional offerings.
“Memorial Hall holds about 400 people,” he said. “We’re thinking, if we’re as lucky with [controlling] COVID-19 next year as we have been this year, we’ll be looking at 100 people per show.”
Garratt said the audiences will be different and the number of shows will be diminished as well, saying the outdoor shows will be at the mercy of the elements. That doesn't just mean rain, he said, as shows likely won’t be able to run when the temperatures increase to uncomfortable or unsafe highs. He pointed to several weeks over the past summer where temperatures were very high, making it uncomfortable to be outside.
“We have to think about what that will mean in terms of whether we can do a matinee show at 2 p.m.,” he said. “I’m not sure you can. We have to rethink so much of what we can do.”
He said that, in trying to figure out how many performances can be put on, with an audience of 100 people, the outstanding passes would essentially account for every seat available at next year’s performances. He also said that people with multi-show packs might not get the value of their previous purchase, saying that it’s unlikely the Festival could put on that many different productions.
“We’re reaching out to people who are holding tickets,” he said. “We’re grateful that people have kept the faith. Many people have donated, but many have said they will attend shows next year.”
Garratt went on to say that the Festival has to be pragmatic about what can reasonably be accommodated.
The 2021 season isn’t the only thing that’s being re-invented, Garratt said, as the group is currently looking at how a box office can be operated with the relocation. The organization is also looking at getting away from paper tickets due to the danger of passing items between people due to the pandemic.
“It’s been suggested by theatre organizations looking at guidelines and protocols,” he said. “As we listen to them, we get the best advice we can and paper tickets are flagged as a risk and we have to mitigate risk where we can.”
For more information, contact the Blyth Festival box office at 1-877-862-5984 or online at blythfestival.com.