Presentation House Theatre launches the PHT Creative Hub Co-operative as the first phase in its re-opening plans. Photo: Presentation House Theatre/Facebook.
Presentation House Theatre launches the PHT Creative Hub Co-operative as the first phase in its re-opening plans. Photo: Presentation House Theatre/Facebook.

It is not business as usual quite yet at North Vancouver’s Presentation House Theatre. While it may be one of the first Vancouver theatre facilities to re-open during the pandemic, in its early stage of re-opening, it is reimagining itself as a creative hub amidst the realities of COVID-19.

Launched earlier this month, the PHT Creative Hub Co-operative intends to transform how the company collaborates and shares performing arts with the communities it serves. The new initiative will invite artists from across performance disciplines to return to the building to work on their creative projects.

“As the pandemic so deeply impacted the arts, we saw an opportunity to create a mutually supportive community of artists who feel a sense of connection and ownership with PHT, contributing to it artistically and financially, creating their own work and supporting one another,” says Presentation House Theatre’s artistic director Kim Selody in a media release.

This pandemic has given us all the opportunity to take a bold step and experiment with a new way of working together. I am excited to see what happens next. – Kim Selody

Applications for the PHT Creative Hub Co-operative are currently being accepted. Those artists accepted into the program will have access to book studio and production space to create, experiment, and develop live performing artistic works, including potential viewings by the public. Office and storage spaces are also available, along with an artist lounge, a place to meet, discuss and cross-pollinate ideas with other artists in the Co-op.

In exchange for time in PHT spaces, artists will support the facility and other artists’ activities as volunteers, matching their skill sets and interests to jobs at hand.

“By exchanging labour with each other, we can all explore and build work in our spaces. As we each struggle to find new ways to earn revenue with limited audiences, this ‘micro economy’ allows us to continue to create and work together,” continues Selody.

The new Co-op model required a complete reset of how artists and audiences use spaces in the historic building. With COVID-19 restrictions top-of-mind, the traffic flow inside the building has been reconfigured to allow one-way exits and entrances to most rooms and studios. Passages throughout the building have also been designated as artists-only to avoid them intersecting with public zones.

As well, areas previously used only for rehearsal or project development will become micro-performance spaces with full technical capabilities. Dynamic, flexible, and responsive to health and safety restrictions, these areas will allow boutique performances with limited attendance, once public returns to PHT in the fall.

“We’re committed to this model beyond the current COVID pandemic restrictions,” says Selody. “This pandemic has given us all the opportunity to take a bold step and experiment with a new way of working together. I am excited to see what happens next.”

Early July also marked the return of legacy community rental groups to PHT. With programs ranging from summer camps for kids, dance, yoga and more, all groups have adjusted their offerings to meet current physical distancing and attendance requirements.

PHT will also continue its role as a presenter and producer of professional theatre shows and programs. The final stage of re-opening will take place in early October when PHT will launch its 2020-2021 programming series.

This next stage will include pocket performances with limited attendance, bubble bookings for those in social bubbles, online streaming of shows, and opportunities to visit and view new Co-op works in progress.

“COVID-19 health directives have inspired stringent and ongoing physical safety measures throughout the facilities. PHT staff are committed to meet and exceed all provincial safety guidelines throughout and beyond its re-opening plans,” says the release.

For more information on the PHT Creative Hub Co-operative and the Presentation House Theatre’s re-opening plans, visit phtheatre.org.