How COVID-19 Has Affected Live Entertainment
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
COVID-19 effectively swept across the world, changing us as it went. This virus affected us
socially, economically and physically across the country.
Live entertainment was first to be restricted and gravely impacted throughout this pandemic. We have seen companies and organizations adapt to new surroundings, learn how to pivot their creativity and business and quite frankly hold on and survive. One of the things that push boundaries on creativity is meeting an obstacle and finding ways to navigate it. COVID-19 presented an obstacle; however, it also directed us to share entertainment around the world.
March 11th, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the existence of a global pandemic. Shortly after that, the world started to look a lot different in downtown Toronto and the rest of Canada. Live entertainment was first on the chopping block of things to close due to COVID-19, which means it's also the last to come back. Everything that required an audience - music, dance, theatre, sports - had to get creative and find different platforms for showcasing entertainment. Concerts moved to live-streaming. Dance and theatre created virtual performances. Certain sporting events had the advantage of keeping with television but without audiences in the stands. Our lives swiftly shifted to an entirely online presence, and theatres across Canada closed. Canadian Opera Company and The National Ballet Company announced the cancellation of their 2020/21 season. Smaller theatre companies jumped online to continue to produce for their audiences. We saw a tremendous amount of resilience and people taking different strategies in a tumultuous time.
However, this pandemic came at a considerable cost. Predictions are that around 1/3 of theatre venues across Canada will close by 2021.
A jump away down south, the 41 Broadway theatres have been closed since March 12th, 2020. All surrounding live entertainment are affected, including promoters, performers, crew, technicians, suppliers and venues.
Amid this swirling pandemic, we have found ourselves adapting. We are creating entertainment spaces with social distancing, masking, plexiglass dividers and heightened sanitization. There have been new drive-in concerts, outside dance performances, socially distanced events. As many know, the condensed version of these events can only go so far.
We have seen quite a massive surge directed towards online entertainment. In Roy Thompson hall, artists held over 1000 viewers online to watch them perform live. Fall For Dance Theatre put its entire program online for dance members to enjoy, not only in Toronto but all across Canada. Factory Theatre presented its all-digital season. Canada has lucked out and seen online performances from across the world that they would not have been able to otherwise. Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch presented its installation via live stream on November 21st. The entertainment industry has always needed adaptability and resilience. Covid-19 put this at an all-time high. I feel optimistic; we see an end in sight, and now is the time for creators to develop new ideas. Finding ways to write that script or song, construct that choreography, rest and regroup and adapt to new ways of creating that before we had not seen. I found myself rehearsing over zoom, which previously I would have detested but surprisingly found the process to have worked. Will this change our thinking in how we collaborate with others? Can this perhaps bridge the gap between east to west of Canada in the arts? The Performance Collective comes at an exciting time. Now more than ever, the idea of collaboration can uplift our community and strive for innovative productions.
While this article takes an optimistic tone, do not mistake the devastation of business and jobs lost. Loss is not just in the live entertainment sector. The federal and provincial governments have presented tax relief, rent relief, CERB, CRB and other monies allocated. At the same time, across the country, it is still a far cry from making sure venues and companies do not close permanently, specifically larger theatres that hold 1000 seats or more.
We see the online world explode, gearing up for the day when our spaces will fill up once more with people crammed into a small hallway before they enter the high ceiled theatre or the tightly packed fringe show. A summer filled with music and dance festivals is on the horizon; we feel more vital now that it is returning.
The biggest lessons brought to the forefront for artists are the importance of adaptability, creative incubation, community privileges and injustices. How can we use the arts to push our society forward after Covid-19? Will we remember to feel gratitude at the beautiful careers we have chosen, bumps and all. Indeed, we are all in this together.
Much thanks to Gilles Paquin, CEO and Founder of Paquin Entertainment and Julien Paquin, President of Paquin Artist Agency, for their insight and input.