Billy Bishop Goes to War, a two-person play with Damon Calderwood and Gordon Robert. (The ACT Arts Centre/Special to The News)

Billy Bishop Goes to War, a two-person play with Damon Calderwood and Gordon Robert. (The ACT Arts Centre/Special to The News)

Maple Ridge arts centre focused on ‘service and survival’

Executive director positioning the ACT for the quickest possible recovery

One- and two-person shows will dominate this years fall line-up at the ACT as the arts centre continues its struggle to survive during the current pandemic.

For now only 50 tickets will be sold for each show, the amount currently allowed under COVID-19 provincial gathering restrictions, even though its mainstage theatre can hold 486 patrons. Merely 10 per cent of the theatre’s viewing capacity.

An opportunity, said executive director Curtis Pendleton, for locals to enjoy a live show safely distanced – in a 250,000 cubic square foot theatre, with nearly 4,000 square feet of audience space, plus an additional 3,500 square foot stage.

“That’s a generous amount of space for 50 people and small numbers of performers to be very distanced while still enjoying the magic and connection that happens in a live event,” she noted.

READ MORE: Maple Ridge theatre launches fall season at only 10 per cent capacity

The focus, right now, is two-pronged, explained Pendleton, “service and survival”.

“To continue to serve the community the best way we can under the conditions we are all living under, and to preserve the core infrastructure we need to continue to care for the facility,” in addition to positioning the organization for the quickest possible recovery, once we are through this crisis, added Pendleton.

Full operations at the ACT won’t be able to resume until Stage 4 of B.C.’s restart plan.

Pendleton believes that could take at least another year, until there is wide distribution of a vaccine.

“It will take some time to rebuild and recover,” she said.

And Pendleton is very aware that under the current circumstances that the ACT will not be able to make up their former revenues.

READ MORE: New executive director of Maple Ridge arts centre starts in February

“We have had to re-vamp our budget projections and our staffing structure to envision sustained loss of revenue over many months,” she explained.

But, Pendleton explained, it is important to the community to reopen and based on surveyed feedback, patrons have indicated to her their “overwhelming desire” to return to the ACT, as opposed to participating in live-streamed events.

In response, the ACT has developed an extensive safety plan which has been vetted by Actsafe, the industry’s safety association.

They have cancelled some of the shows they originally planned because the casts were too large for social distancing on stage and they didn’t make sense economically for a 50-seat event.

And they have only programmed the fall season so far, in order to be able to adapt quickly if new gathering restrictions or health protocols are put in place by the Provincial Health Officer.

In addition to the live theatre performances, that have already started, the ACT Art Gallery has also been reopened with an exhibition originally curated by the Vancouver Biennale called Weaving Cultural Identities: Threads through Time that will be on display until Oct. 17.This will be followed by a Garibaldi Art Club exhibition beginning Oct. 24.

Also, the Arts Learning Programs, are also taking place with lower capacities to allow for social distancing.

So far Pendleton has been hearing good feedback from the patrons who have turned out to enjoy the shows. She is hearing how grateful they are to be back and how, “comfortable they feel seeing the investment we have put into health and safety protocols, cleanliness, and new processes to allow for distancing and contactless interactions”.

“I am very proud of the work of the ACT team to have pulled all this together.”

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