by Ari Lee/Special to the Langley Advance Times
COVID-19 has interrupted many aspects of socialization – Theatre in the Country, a community-based dinner theatre in Langley, is no exception.
Before the pandemic, the audience would often interact with the actors after each show.
With COVID guidelines set in place, the theatre has to empty as soon as possible.
They have also had to reduce their seating by 75 per cent – having gone from 200 to 50 seats maximum occupied per show.
Reg Parks is the artistic director of Theatre in the Country and he has received sincere gratitude for following the protocols and keeping good practice. Many of his attendees have thanked him for being able to keep the audience and community members safe during his shows.
Another obvious change had to be made amid the pandemic. Theatre in the Country has opted to only showcase productions with smaller casts, Parks cancelling any plans for bigger shows because it would breach COVID-19 guidelines.
Shows having 35 or more actors have to be postponed until after the pandemic is over, he explained.
Parks has also had to limit the lines to food service areas, limit guest counts per table with a maximum of six, and uphold the restaurant guidelines set out by Fraser Health.
While following COVID restrictions, Parks has had to find a new way to cater towards not only his audience, but maintaining his business as well, and in doing so Parks added a third play to his list of showings, instead of the typical two.
“Economically it [COVID-19] has been a significant hit for us,” said Parks.
Even showcasing the theatre’s work has come with many challenges. For instance, Fraser Health requires actors to be behind a barrier when singing.
“We’ve also done 22 online plays where all of the actors are performing from home, and people are watching from home,” explained Parks, noting the online services were convenient as it attracts audiences from all parts of the world.
“We are the only dinner theatre in the Lower Mainland that does classic theatre pieces,” said Parks.
One of the theatre’s shows that Parks has added to his set is the currently running Sleuth, a 1970 classic murder mystery. The focus is around two men working towards their wants and desires with twists and surprises.
Unfortunately, Sleuth is not streamable because Parks was unable to obtain the proper streaming licence.
Parks explained that he is only allowed to obtain licences for certain shows. Licensing agencies are based in New York and have different rules for each of the theatre pieces because they are under contract and have obligations to the authors.
Although Parks is still new to the idea of streaming, the process has been easy.
Parks is thankful that he is able to continue the shows as he acknowledges other places have stricter rules in place.
Sleuth is available at the theatre from Oct. 23 to Nov. 7, Billy Bishop goes to war is showing from Nov. 11 to 14, and TIC Socially Distant is available from Dec.3 to 9.
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