Stage Door News

Ottawa: The Great Canadian Theatre Company will not present a subscription season in 2020/21

Friday, October 9, 2020

Hope is an interesting thing. It exists only as a quality of our inner lives, sometimes expressed outwardly with great fervor, but often held close, as a private antidote to fear and its pernicious cousin, worry. The subtle differences between the two latter sensations interest me a great deal, and I like taking time to itemize the ways in which fear and worry inform my approach to a crisis. Despite my distaste for it, fear is enormously useful in identifying anything that is a risk to well being and it encourages a healthy application of critical thinking to any dangerous situation, including, but not limited to: sporting events, food and alcohol consumption, interaction with other humans, political unrest, exposure to contagious diseases, and operating a performing arts facility during said contagion. 

Worry, on the other hand, offers little more than an eerily accurate sensation of its etymological roots—from the Old English word (or German, depending on which expert you trust), wyrgan, meaning “to strangle” or “seize by the throat and tear”. Worry achieves nothing of worth, while it imposes discomfort ranging from mild distraction to the gasping terror of an anxiety attack. Throughout the pandemic shutdown, I have experienced both fear and worry to varying degrees, as they apply to the relationship between GCTC and our stakeholders. My worries have succeeded primarily in chewing up late nights while lying awake, agonizing over the sturdiness of our relationship to theatre lovers in general, and GCTC subscribers in particular. The biggest worry (note that I wrote “worry” and not “fear”) has been that we need to be seen to be taking immediate action. My fears, falling consistently into the category of predictable outcomes, have come true—the pandemic has not abated, nor are we appreciably closer to a solution that will allow us to safely reconvene live theatre in close proximity to each other. And here, finally, is where fear intersects with hope, leaving worry by the wayside while we devise a prudent course of risk assessment and projected outcomes, followed by considered, meaningful action that creates a foundation for a safe return to live performance when the time is right. 

We have asked for, and graciously received, your patience as we tried to find a solution that would allow GCTC to deliver live theatre, according to the standard of excellence prescribed by our mandate. You have responded with messages of support and encouragement, which have given our staff the boost in morale that has allowed us all to keep focused on the task at hand. With autumn upon us, we can no longer ask you to hurry up and wait regarding subscriptions and tickets, and so we offer the following information, hoping that it provides clarity and encouragement.

In response to the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic, we will not present a subscription season in 2020/21, as we cannot meet our stakeholders’ expectations of conventional theatre under the current restrictions. In the meantime, we will keep you apprised of the engagements that we are creating this season. These include solo performances, a community-based outdoor event, online interviews and podcasts, and the commission and development of new works. We hope to return to our regularly scheduled programming, so to speak, in the following season, with six  productions between September 2021 and May 2022, including new works by local artists we are currently supporting in development. 

Although none of this was what we had planned, we hope that these offerings will serve to  keep our relationship intact and healthy and reassure you that we are thinking of all the people who support GCTC. We are banishing worry from the equation, and operating strictly between the lines of hope and fear, where, even if we can’t control the chaos outside, we can take a careful measure of our response and prepare GCTC for a healthy return to standard operations when the time is right. 

Thank you again for your support and understanding. If you have any questions or concerns, please send me an email: I’m happy to provide context for our decisions and equally pleased simply to have an exchange with anyone who loves theatre. 

Thank you.

Eric Coates