Photo by Nick Bolton/Unsplash.
Photo by Nick Bolton/Unsplash.

On November 19, the British Columbia Provincial Health Officer ordered individuals, workplaces, and businesses in B.C. to significantly reduce social interactions and travel. The order will continue until midnight on December 7.

Alongside individual restrictions to limit social gatherings to household or core bubbles only, the order also has suspended all community-based gatherings, including musical and theatre performances.

Notices of in-person show cancellations until at least December 7 have already started to pop on local theatre group websites and on social media, including the Arts Club, Firehall Arts Centre, Presentation House Theatre and the Chutzpah! Festival. And while some groups are continuing with livestream and pre-recorded performances, many smaller arts groups do not have the infrastructure or finances to do so.

However, some are questioning the order that allows for restaurants and bars to remain open.

(Update: the original November 19 order also exempted movie cinemas from closing. In a revised order on November 23, cinemas were also ordered to close until at least December 7. Bars and restaurants can continue to operate “if they have a COVID-19 Safety Plan and employee protocols in place”).

In an open letter, Aaron Craven, the artistic director of Mitch and Murray Productions, has called the latest order a “crippling blow” to the already fragile live theatre community. About to complete their run of Lungs at Vancouver’s Studio 16 this weekend, the company has been forced to close early.

In a Tweet, the Arts Club has issued its own open letter, this time to the Minister of Health Adrian Dix, registering “shock and dismay” at the lockdown targeting live theatre while other businesses remain open.

The Firehall Arts Centre has requested the establishment of a task force to assess the safety of live performance venues during the pandemic.

Vancouver Presents reached out to both the Minister of Health and Dr. Bonnie Henry’s office for comment but did not receive a response at the time of publication. We will update should we receive a response.

Editor’s Note (20 November 2020): This article was updated to include details of the Arts Club open letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix and the Firehall Arts Centre’s request for the establishment of a task force.