DRAYTON – With the province now in stage three of its reopening plan, it remains unclear when in-person performances will resume at the Drayton Festival Theatre.
Drayton Entertainment, which operates the theatre and five others across Ontario, has not held an in-person performance since March of 2020.
Recently, the company has been holding monthly Ultimate 50/50 Draws as a lifeline.
Despite the success of the 50/50 draws, Drayton Entertainment artistic director and CEO Alex Mustakas said the contests have only allowed the company to “keep the lights on.”
“This has helped bridge the gap, but honestly we have a long way to go to recoup the losses of 2020 and 2021,” Mustakas stated in an email.
“It’s been a great way to stay connected with our patrons, as it’s been fun to follow the prize pot growing, playing to win the jackpot, and at the same time helping a registered charitable arts organization.”
Mustakas noted that entering stage three of Ontario’s reopening plan is a significant milestone for Drayton Entertainment, as now the organization is able to begin considering what its reopening plans might look like for live theatre.
“We miss our artists and audiences immensely. The arts are an important part of society, and they bring communities together,” Mustakas said.
“We are feeling hopeful for the first time in a long time, yet still remain cautious.”
Mustakas noted that further clarity is still needed regarding capacities inside an auditorium.
“At present they say 50 per cent, but the fine print still discusses social distancing, hence reducing that 50 per cent capacity for most auditoriums,” he stated.
Mustakas also said outdoor performances are not a viable option for Drayton Entertainment, noting the unpredictable Canadian weather and financial concerns, as revenue from ticket sales would still be unlikely to offset operating costs.
“We’d rather wait and do it right,” he said.
Although Mustakas believes it will be a slow road to recovery for the arts and culture, tourism, and hospitality industries, he is still optimistic about the eventual return of live, in-person shows at the Drayton Festival Theatre.
“People are craving the communal experience only live theatre can provide,” Mustakas said.
“Our patrons are telling us they can’t wait to be back. They’re also telling us they will be back when it is safe to do so.”
Mustakas said Drayton Entertainment will continue to plan for its reopening.
“We anticipate maybe soft openings in late fall with a couple of smaller shows, and then by Christmas we’re into pre-pandemic levels of programming, assuming we aren’t into a new wave of transmissions,” he stated.