TNW plans return to stage in 2021

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that season ticket holders were reimbursed for the shows that were cancelled. The Citizen regrets the error.

Theatre NorthWest is hoping to be able to put on half a normal season of plays for 2020-21, but that all depends on public health restrictions being eased enough to allow audiences in the building.

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Currently, under Phase 3 of the B.C. Restart Plan, gatherings are limited to 50 people. Once you count the actors, technicians and front-house staff, Theatre NorthWest would be limited to audiences of 35 to 40 people under current public health rules, executive director Marnie Hamagami said.

"We have to wait until we can have a bigger audience. We won't be doing a show, if that doesn't happen," she said. "Right now all the theatres across the country are shut down. It all depends on it being allowed."

In addition to the challenges posed by audience sizes, there are few plays that would allow the cast to effectively social distance themselves from each other, Hamagami said.

"For us the important thing is the health and safety of our community, our artists and staff," she said. "Obviously we can't billet (out-of-town) actors in homes. We are going to have to reflect a lot on how we do things."

Theatre NorthWest looked at alternative ways to deliver shows, but the logistical challenges were significant. Live-streaming plays is expensive, requires technical expertise and  working agreements with the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), Hamagami said.

"We are a live-theatre company. It's like taking the Toronto Blue Jays and telling them, 'OK, you're going to play basketball now,'" she said.

Films based on live shows, like the recently-released production of Hamilton starting Lin-Manuel Miranda, are filmed over multiple weeks.

"You're not seeing a one-take show," she said.

If all goes well, Theatre NorthWest will open its season with the comedy Mom's the Word, running from April 16 to May 5, 2021.

The show – written by Vancouver actors and playwrights Linda A. Carson, Jill Daum, Alison Kelly, Robin Nichol, Barbara Pollard and Deborah Williams – focuses on the highs and lows of early motherhood.

"It's hilarious," Hamagami said.

Hamagami said they initially planned to end the season with the play, but after COVID-19 upended their plans, Theatre NorthWest is also aiming to bring The Marvellous Wonderettes to the stage May 21 to June 9.

The musical by Roger Bean focuses on a squad of song leaders – musical cheerleaders – who step up at the last minute to perform at their high school's senior prom in 1958. The musical features an anachronistic list of pop hits from the 1950s and '60s, including Mr. Sandman, Lollipop, It's My Party, RESPECT and more.

Despite having to cancel a significant portion of shows they would normally put on this year, Theatre NorthWest is in better position than many theatre companies across Canada and around the globe, Hamagami said.

Those who want to support Theatre Northwest can purchase a $25 Ticket to Nothing.

Tickets are available online at www.theatrenorthwest.com or call 250-563-6969, ext. 304.

"The best way to support Theatre NorthWest is following the (public health rules), staying at home," Hamagami said.

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