Pandemic disrupts several local arts events

Arts and entertainment organizations on the Sunshine Coast are responding with closures, event cancellations and postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and those that remain in operation say they are exercising caution and monitoring daily developments.

The largest venue on the Coast is in Sechelt, at the 400-plus-seat, semi-open-air pavilion at Rockwood Centre, but it now is inactive until the weather warms up or beyond, depending on health safety concerns. The next largest, with 240 seats, is Raven’s Cry Theatre, which is very active year-round. But management there closed the facility on March 16, when provincial health officials instituted a 50-person maximum for events.

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“Our number one priority is to ensure the safety of our patrons and our staff while we navigate these troubling times,” theatre management said in an announcement. “The closure will be for a period of one month with the possibility that is extended further or reduced depending on the outcome of the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent recovery.”

The 144-seat Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons has not officially closed but is, in effect, shuttered because it’s used almost entirely by renters, and all events renting the venue there for the next month have either cancelled or rescheduled until later in the year.

Among the Playhouse events were the Sunshine Coast Film Society (SCFS), which postponed two screenings of the Oscar-winning film Parasite scheduled for March 16 and 17. SCFS said it intends to screen the film eventually and that currently held tickets would be honoured. Three more films on the society’s schedule – The Biggest Little Farm, Wild Rose, and the special event, Edge of the Knife – have been indefinitely postponed or cancelled. Information will be updated on the society’s website.

Singer-guitarist Joël Fafard told Coast Reporter he has rescheduled his March 14 concert at the Playhouse for Oct. 10. The reading-performance troupe Off the Page hopes to mount David King’s comedy How Things Have Changed at the venue on April 26 after cancelling the March 15 production.

Gibsons Public Art Gallery announced in a release on March 16 that it would close until Tuesday, April 7, “in the interest and safety of our staff, our volunteers our members and the community at large.” The gallery said it “will be monitoring this closely and further updates will be made available via our website and social media posts.”

Gibsons Public Market remains open, although most regularly scheduled events there have been suspended. The Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre will be closed, but noted in a release that staff would still on hand to care for marine life in the aquariums there.

The Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives said it closed on March 17 until further notice. “This decision has been made to protect the health of our visitors, volunteers, and staff during this challenging time,” the museum said in a release.

A release from the Arts Centre reads: "After careful consideration, and following further updates from our provincial Ministry of Health, Municipality, and Sunshine Coast Physicians Advisory Committee, we have decided that the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre, Doris Crowston Gallery is closed to the public as of March 18. All of our upcoming programs are postponed until further notice."

The Pender Harbour Choir said that it had cancelled its Steppin’ Out fundraiser scheduled for March 27, with “no plan to reschedule at the moment.” The concert by Brickhouse on April 11 at the Pender Harbour Community Hall has been cancelled, as has the March 28 performance by the Slocan Ramblers at The School of Music.

As concerns about disease transmission continue to mount, the status of any event should be checked in advance. Said Coast Cultural Alliance board director Linda Williams in an interview about the community disruption, “Tomorrow is another day, as they say. And that really means something now.”

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