Blyth Festival to light up Memorial Hall for Visibility Day
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
On Sept. 22, the Blyth Festival will be one of many live theatre venues to light up their building as part of the Day of Visibility for the Live Event Community to be held across the country.
Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt said Memorial Hall will be lit up red that night. Not only is it being done in solidarity with the movement for live venues across the country, but to also serve as a reminder to the people of Huron County that the Blyth Festival is still here and it will be operating as soon as it’s safe.
In an interview with The Citizen, Garratt said live theatres were among the first venues to close when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and they will likely be the last to reopen. Due to the close proximity of the seating and the enclosed space of a theatre, there are still many questions that need to be answered before theatres can reopen, Garratt said, but this initiative tells people that live theatre is here to stay and that it will be back soon.
“Event organizers are asking venues and landmarks across the country to light up their buildings and marquees in red on Tuesday, Sept. 22 to raise awareness for an industry that remains dark,” reads the project website: lightuplive.ca.
Thus far, over 150 venues have pledged to take part.
Garratt said that while he is hopeful and has continued to pay for plays the Festival has commissioned in recent years, which stands at 13 plays right now, it’s difficult to forecast what the future holds.
Memorial Hall, for example, can hold just over 400 people. If performances were limited to 50 people, it would be impossible to fit that many people in the hall safety, employing physical distancing. Even then, he said, it would be unfeasible to host a performance for that number of people and recoup costs for the Festival, so the virus is certainly concerning for the arts and culture sector.
The entire sector, he said, contributes so much to economies all over the world, so it’s essential that the theatre community gets back to work once it’s safe to do so. In Blyth, for example, things have been quiet in the summer without the Festival and it’s been easy to notice the difference between an average summer with the Festival producing a season and the summer of 2020.
He also said the cultural impact is huge. The effect live theatre can have on people through a shared experience in a single theatre is enormous, he said, so he hopes there is a future for those kinds of experiences. For some, he said, their lives have literally been changed in a theatre and those opportunities need to continue.
For more information on the Day of Visibility for the Live Event Community, visit its website at lightuplive.ca.