Artists exude excitement as they return to stages and live audiences

Claudia Steele

 

The Jubilee Auditorium begins to hold shows again after spending nearly a year and a half closed due to COVID-19. Edmonton, October 6, 2021. MACEWAN MAGPIE/Claudia Steele

 

A smile lights up a local Edmonton actor as she talks about her return to the stage. After almost 19 months away due to COVID-19, Sonja Gould walked back on stage to perform as Nina Ferrer in Evelyn Strange at The Bailey Theatre in Camrose, Alberta. “I almost felt a tear because you know it has been so long, I haven’t done a show since March 2020, and for an actor, that is a long, long time,” Gould said.

Gould says that she has never found anything that makes her quite as happy as when she is on stage, and getting the opportunity to perform again has been incredible.

Check out the full interview with Sonja Gould below.

 

The sentiment of overwhelming excitement over returning to live performances has been echoed by other artists like Bailey Stefan-Houle and Christian Ford, who are both members of the Edmonton band, Lauriers. Their band played at The Aviary on Aug. 28, 2021, to an audience of about 60 to 70 people, and Stefan-Houle says it was probably one of the best shows they have played.

“I think we were riding that high just being in front of people again. We spent a year and a half in our basement writing stuff and being able to share that with people was pretty sweet,” Ford said.

Although the energy in the audience seemed apprehensive at first, Stefan-Houle and Ford say that there were a lot more people up and dancing at this show than in pre-pandemic shows. “It started off with everyone in their seats, which was pretty normal for pre-pandemic because people would usually just sit at their seats and listen, whereas [this time] I felt that after a couple of songs, people were just coming to the front and dancing and kind of interacting with other people,” said Stefan-Houle.

This kind of apprehension isn’t limited to audiences. Gould had her own concerns about being around other unvaccinated individuals. Still, with The Bailey Theatre’s fully vaccinated policy for artists and crew Gould feels excellent about being around her peers and being able to enjoy the acting process. Gould explains that being able to perform and practice without masks is very important for actors, and that could not be done safely if artists and crew were not fully vaccinated.

“The mask covers half of your face, and as an actor, your face is very important. So, to provide these emotions to come across [on stage], it is very hard to have a mask on, so I am very grateful that we get to do the show without wearing masks but, of course, making sure that we are being safe,” said Gould.

Beyond artists and audiences deprived of performances since March 2020, employees of the venues are also thrilled to return to work. Connor Bewick, an employee at the Jubilee Auditorium, doing ticket taking, concession and bartending, is happy to slowly start seeing an increase in work. He says he has only worked one show so far as most of the shows they are holding are local due to closed borders, but he is seeing very positive changes. “The changes that the management has put in place since we have been gone are definitely all about keeping us safe,” Bewick said.

The Jubilee has stated, on their website, that they will be following all government guidelines, which include mandatory masks in Edmonton as of Sept.3, 2021. Bewick says that from his understanding, the Jubilee will also take part in the vaccine exemption program in an effort to keep everyone safe. 

When talking about why going back to theatres and live productions is such a big deal, Bewick says that it is also essential to keep in mind that while many jobs can be done from home or have continued, this one cannot. “When people hear that actors are out of work, they don’t realize that means all artists are out of work at this point and are all waiting for things to get back to normal,” said Bewick

After a long time in limbo, the arts community sees some light at the end of the tunnel, but that isn’t without caution and lowered expectations. It is imperative to remember that shows are still at risk of being cancelled and rescheduled if the need arises. 

Nonetheless, there was a genuine agreement among all that this is one community that really needs all your support and a massive round of applause for its resilience.

 

 

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