COVID-19: Why is the play a social gathering, but the theater film is not?

Health officials’ ban leaves theater producers confused and fearful

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Live theater managers are scratching their heads, even tearing their hair out, after the province declared their venues to be social gatherings, but not movie theaters.

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Social gatherings were banned in Dr. Bonnie Henry’s latest COVID-19 restrictions, announced on November 19. But cinemas showing films are exempt, as are bars and restaurants.

“Along with other local theater companies, including The Arts Club and The Firehall Arts Centre, we have worked tirelessly for months to develop transparent COVID safety plans and to put on plays that provide a vital mental health service. and a community outlet for small, socially distanced, masked audiences,” said Aaron Craven, Artistic Director of Mitch and Murray Productions, in an open letter to the Premier, Minister of Health and Vancouver Coastal Health.

the latest restrictions were ordered on November 19, prohibiting social gatherings and events, and
gatherings of any size with someone other than your household or central bubble. For example: no friends or extended family in your home, no gatherings in the garden or in the park, no dates for the children.

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A partial list of prohibited events named directly by Dr. Bonnie Henry includes “musical, theatrical or dance entertainment or performance”.

Mitch and Murray, 1555 West 7th Ave. in Vancouver, were finishing up a series of a play by Duncan MacMillan called LUNGS. Friday night’s performance had to be canceled and the last weekend performances are in limbo.

“We’re in a holding pattern with our audience,” Craven said Friday. “If we don’t hear anything by here (Saturday), we will have to cancel the weekend shows. We are a small outfit with a very small budget, it is quite a blow for us.

“Why have we been grouped together as a social gathering when other businesses with COVID-19 safety plans are still open?” Craven asked. “It does not mean anything.”

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The few professional theater companies in operation have thought of every detail, he added, including staging one- and two-person shows with minimal or no technicalities. LUNGS, for example, only involved Craven and his wife Kate, with no stagehands. Spectators were socially separated and masked.

How is it safer for people to sit for an hour without a mask in a restaurant or cinema than an hour masked in a socially distanced live theater set? Craven asked.

“It’s crazy. The inconsistency is baffling.

“Contexts like ours are not where epidemics occur, but we are either targeted or forgotten. It’s devastating to our industry and the worst kind of surveillance during such a difficult time. »

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Vancouver Coastal Health referred Postmedia to the Department of Health. The ministry did not respond to a timely request to explain why live theater is a social gathering but going to the movies in a cinema is not.

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