Hannah Rudderham
Hannah Rudderham
April 4, 2020

Fredericton Playhouse and the Effects of COVID-19 on the Arts

Fredericton Playhouse’s exterior extends positive message, “clean hands, clear heads, open hearts.”

The Fredericton Playhouse closed to the public until further notice on March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 30 performances have been cancelled so far.

“We started out by canceling about three weeks’ worth of performances and now we're just continuing to cancel them, you know, on a rolling basis,” said Tim Yerxa, the Playhouse’s executive director. 

Those that wish to be refunded for their tickets are being tended to as best as possible. But, with social distancing in effect and the Playhouse’s closure, only those who paid with a credit card can get a refund until the reopening of the Playhouse. 

The arts community around the world has taken hits—Broadway shut down, concerts cancelled, festivals postponed. 

Live theatre brings people together for a shared experience, and that can’t happen right now due to social distancing measures. Some performers and musicians have gone live on social media and performed virtual concerts for their fans. But others, such as the people who work in venues and performance spaces, don’t have that option. 

“It has a big impact on those of us who work in doing concerts and theatre and dance performances and so on,” Yerxa said. 

Leo Hayes High School stages their annual production at the Fredericton Playhouse and were scheduled to hit the stage shortly after it closed. So, in lieu of their live performance of “9 to 5 the Musical,” the students performed some of the songs from the comfort of their own homes with the videos being compiled into a shortened version of what would’ve been the culmination of over a year’s work. The video can be found on the Fredericton Playhouse’s Facebook page.

At the Playhouse, full time staff are still working—mostly from their homes, but casual employees like technicians, bartenders, merchandise sellers and ticketing personnel will not be scheduled for shifts until the Playhouse reopens. 

“When there’s no show, there’s no work for the casual employees,” Yerxa said. 

Yerxa said the Playhouse, along with artists who are currently out of work, will be suffering financial loss due to the pandemic. But, there’s still ways to help keep artists afloat. The Playhouse is a volunteer-directed charitable organization and donations can be made on their website. 

A lot of performers are holding live streams where donations can be contributed. The Social Distancing Festival is a site dedicated to bringing together worldwide talent and showcasing it in a time when art and entertainment is needed more than ever. 

Some of the online art content includes a live stream by Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley, two daily concerts with stage and screen stars with all proceeds going to the Actor’s Fund. Play reading series have been hosted online to showcase plays in lieu of gathering at a venue. Open Mic nights have taken place on video conferencing platforms like Zoom! with donations supporting local arts organizations. 

But despite online efforts, the intensifying economic downturn will impact the art community that relies on the coming together of people.

“Those organizations that rely on donations from people and from ticket sales are going to feel the impact of the economic downturn in Canada,” Yerxa said.

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