A community left in the dark is making its own light

Algonquin Commons Theatre joined over 600 venues, on Sept. 22, to shine red lights outside the venue to represent how the live performance industry is still in the dark. At the beginning of the pandemic, live performance venues in Ottawa were among the first businesses closed because of large audiences, performers and staff it unsafe […]
Photo: Madalyn Howitt
The box office outside of the Algonquin Commons Theatre remains closed until further notice.

Algonquin Commons Theatre joined over 600 venues, on Sept. 22, to shine red lights outside the venue to represent how the live performance industry is still in the dark.

At the beginning of the pandemic, live performance venues in Ottawa were among the first businesses closed because of large audiences, performers and staff it unsafe for all involved.

Light Up Live was then started by Morgan Myler, Harrison Bye and Rob Duncan to raise awareness for the live events industry that has been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statistics Canada reported 44.6 per cent of staff in the arts, entertainment and recreation business were laid off during the pandemic.

The closure of the theatre is also affecting students and audience members who were planning on seeing live shows.

“I’m disappointed the theatre is closed,” said Liam Cromwell, first-year public relations student. “I understand why, but I was looking forward to getting the chance to watch something live with my friends.”

The Students’ Association has assured students and staff that they will open when it is safe.

“The health and safety of our staff, performers, patrons and entire community remain our top priority,” said the Students’ Association in its most recent update. “The Algonquin Commons Theatre remains closed for events and activities. We continue to work and plan for the future, and will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.”

With the theatre closed, performing arts students have been learning virtually over Zoom.

“I miss the in-person aspect the most,” said Christian Gladish, performing arts student. “Whether it’s watching or being in performances. Before, it would be such a wonder to hear the crowd’s reactions to what’s happening on stage, but now we won’t be having that.”

Gladish said they are not holding any performances until the spring at the earliest, but there is no confirmed date.

The students are finding new ways to connect with programs such as Discord, an instant messaging app that allows users to communicate in chat channels. They are also still finding digital ways to have a creative outlet while learning remotely.

“We aren’t able to move around as much since we’re stuck at home,” said Gladish. “But we can still use digital platforms to post edited videos to express ourselves.”

While venues remain closed for the near future, the arts community is adapting to the new challenges in order to stay creative for performers and audiences.

The Students’ Association continues to schedule virtual events to keep the Algonquin community engaged and connected.

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