In 1982, when this photo was taken, my vision for the Firehall was to create a cultural venue that would not only work in partnership with the resident companies at that time but, also, would be a producer and presenter of theatre , dance, and multi-disciplinary works reflecting the diversity of Canadians. And Firehall staff and board have worked continually to realize that vision starting in 1985-86 as one of only two professional theatre companies in Canada actively working towards inclusivity on stage.
But here and now in 2020, the theatre is closed and only the “ghost light” lights the stage at night and I contemplate what the new reality will be when we are safe to assemble in public once again. Will our audiences have gotten so used to being encouraged to watch all of their entertainment on screen return to live performances? Will they have any money in their budget to go out and enjoy a play or a dance performance? And what is it that we do or can do to bring them back to our wonderful intimate little venue for a performance?
And I return to the original vision of so many years ago and recognise what really was being envisaged was a place where people could gather to share in the witnessing and enjoyment of good stories and good storytelling through live performances, be it theatre or dance. The true goal was to create a safe space where people who might not know each other could gather and share laughter, tears, thoughts and experiences together. A place where artists and arts workers could share their talents with an audience that would breathe with them in the serious moments and laugh with them in the lighter moments.
And while the world has indeed been changed and will for some time continue to be impacted by this pandemic, when it is safe people will come out of their houses and they will want to share communal experiences. That is who we are as human beings – we like to be with and do things with others. So as we wait in anticipation of welcoming audiences back to the theatre, we are considering many ways to enrich audiences experiences at the theatre while also considering how we engage with the artists we work with and all of the different ways we can undertake live performances. And in the meantime, we will stay in touch until such time as we can meet again in the theatre.
Stay safe, laugh as much as you can, and remember you are not alone – we are all in this together.