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As we look with wariness on a holiday season once again marked by Covid variant concerns and reminders to mask up and socially distance, the Classic Theatre Festival is pleased to offer a glimmer of hope for its audience members with a planned relaunch in the summer of 2022. Like all professional theatres, the Festival was forced to shutter its doors during the first wave of the pandemic, a sad moment following the successful completion of the company’s first decade in Perth, Ontario. In 2019, the Festival enjoyed a busy summer with a dinner theatre presentation, three mainstage shows, a historic walking play and, through its parent company, Burning Passions Theatre, a youth theatre touring show addressing body image and eating disorders. “It felt like going from 100 miles an hour to a sudden, full stop, but canceling was the easiest and hardest decision we ever made,” explains Artistic Producer Laurel Smith. “Performer, staff, and audience safety are always a paramount concern, so after much research and consultation with public health authorities and our peers in the professional theatre world, we were among the first to cancel our 2020 season. It was incredibly hard, though, because at the time, it felt like we would never again be able to return to the stage.” Almost two years later, Smith says the remarkable strides made with vaccination – combined with far better knowledge of the attributes of the airborne virus and protective safety measures – have allowed live event spaces to slowly and safely return to in-person performance. “Like everyone else, we are learning the Greek alphabet with each new variant,” says Smith, adding, “While Omicron is a concern right now, we feel comfortable that, based on public health trends and the experience of other professional theatres, that we can safely re-open next summer.” The Festival is planning to relaunch in downtown Ottawa’s historic Arts Court Theatre, another decision that grew out of the uncertainty of a decade marked by the real-world drama of climate change and pandemic anxiety. As a result, the company will be investing in health protocols that will make going to the theatre a safe experience, “Things have changed for all arts organizations after two years of relative dormancy, and unfortunately, the costs and challenges of putting on the Festival in Perth are just no longer viable with the new normal,” Smith explains. “Arts Court Theatre is a wonderful space in a beautiful heritage building, and with over half of our audience based in Ottawa, it seemed like a great fit. We also know that a lot of audience members from Lanark County often visit Ottawa because it is only an hour away, so we look forward to seeing our Perth and area friends next year as well.” As Smith reflects on an experiment that began in 2010 – a new professional theatre in a new region – she recalls the “Field of Dreams” moment when she saw that, “if we build it and we market it, they… Continue reading