MORRISBURG – The curtain has dropped on the Upper Canada Playhouse’s 2020 summer season. The playhouse announced April 20th that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, its four-show summer season is cancelled. The four scheduled shows for 2020 will headline the Playhouse’s 2021 summer season instead.
UCP previously announced the cancellation of its two spring musical performances, rescheduling those to the 2021 season.
The scheduled Fall and Christmas shows are not affected presently. The fate of those performances will be decided at a later date and staff are looking forward to keeping the possibility of offering those shows on the schedule. So far, it looks like the 2021 season will be the 2020 season the theatre didn’t get to offer.
“This difficult decision made sense on many fronts with the summer season being so close, and the social distancing policies that COVID-19 requires affecting live performances,” said UCP artistic director Donnie Bowes in a release. “Our chief focus right now is keeping in touch with our audience and letting them know what our plans are going forward.”
The playhouse’s main season included Norm Foster’s new comedy Renovations for Six; Kristen Da Silva’s country comedy Sugar Road; Foster’s classic comedy Ned Durango Comes to Big Oak; and Ray Cooney and John Chapman’s comedy Move Over, Mrs. Markham.
“It’s a shame, because the theatre provides entertainment for many people as well as work for a lot of actors, technicians, and many local employees. It’s also a substantial boost to the local economy and tourist trade,” Bowes said.
Also cancelled for this year is the UCP summer theatre school program.
“The loss of the Playhouse season along with the spin-offs will have a great impact on South Dundas,” said Mayor Steven Byvelds. “The Playhouse is responsible for bringing many people to Morrisburg, mainly during its summer season. We will miss them along with all extra business they bring to this community.”
Byvelds said this year will be a tough tourist season because of the restrictions and the UCP season cancellation will not help matters. “I fully understand the reasons behind this and we do need to continue to do what we are doing with physical distancing to stay healthy. Hopefully when this all ends, they will have a great season to make up for some of the losses.”
Bowes said that the theatre had been in close contact with other theatres and professional associations across the country, discussing how other theatres were restructuring their seasons.
“Of course it’s tough,” said Bowes. “Show business is a terrific business to be in. You can’t beat the live experience with a large audience. In past tough times the theatre has historically helped folks feel a little better.”
He added that live theatre like Vaudeville performances thrived during the Great Depression.
“Unfortunately we can’t turn to theatre right now for an entertaining diversion because of the social distancing limitations that we all know are needed to conquer this crisis,” said Bowes. “But just imagine how great it will be when we can all enjoy live music and laughter again. And we will. You can bet on that.”
For ticket holders, the Playhouse will begin calling patrons starting May 4th to offer refunds or gift certificates for next year’s season. To be compliant with current health regulations and the mandated provincial orders, the box office is not open to the public and Bowes asked people to contact the box office by phone, email, or fax only.
Bowes said that theatres are stubborn things and that just as the sign in the UCP parking lot reads, “We’ll be back! Stay tuned, and stay safe.”