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Closing curtain on local summer theatre is tough pill to swallow

'Devastating cancellations' are having a dramatic impact on arts and culture sector and communities, says columnist
cast of The Gentleman Clothier from OOH's 2019 Summer Theatre season credit OOH
This is the cast from The Gentleman's Clothier, a popular Orillia Opera House summer theatre show in 2019. All summer theatre productions in the area have been cancelled due to the pandemic. Contributed photo

Hello and welcome to the second half of May. I guess we can fudge it and say summer has started, with the first official long weekend of the summer, May two-four, under our belts. A different Victoria Day weekend than we are perhaps used to, but I hope everyone enjoyed it and stayed safe, nonetheless.

The latest arts events to fall victim to COVID-19 are the summer theatre shows in our area. Last week, Gravenhurst, Orillia, and King’s Wharf theatres all announced that their 2020 summer theatre seasons have been cancelled.

This is the latest in so many devastating cancellations in our arts and culture sector.  

Summer theatre not only provides revenue for these beloved cultural institutions, it provides loads of summer jobs for actors and musicians, stagehands, back-stage folks, ushers, front of house…and lots of patrons for our downtown stores and restaurants, with the influx of tourists coming to town to see these shows.

With the cancellation of the Mariposa Folk Festival, and Big Sky and Boots and Hearts festivals at Burl’s Creek, this summer is looking very empty of these special events that feed our souls, and that are the bread and butter for our performing artists.

Hopefully, this sector can figure out a way to pivot somehow and monetize the free shows that so many have been doing on Facebook and Instagram, beyond just a tip jar.

Speaking of monetizing, Orillia Museum of Art and History’s executive director Ninette Gyorody has been working hard with her board to kickstart a fundraiser, some virtual events, and what OMAH will look like when it reopens.

Please fill out a survey here to help OMAH reimagine itself post-COVID-19. For more information on what OMAH has going on in these pandemic times, head on over to the Facebook page or check them out on Instagram.

Popular pop band The Free Label, with Orillian Cole Mendez on keys, has a new single out, M.I.A. (Money Isn’t Available). The video is hilarious and irreverent, just like the band itself. You can check it out here.

The Essential Concert series, each Thursday at 8 p.m., features local band VK this week. You can enjoy the Facebook live show here. Any money you feel moved to donate will be going to the Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital Foundation, to help in these pandemic times.

In visual arts news, Hibernation Arts is moving to a new home, 17 Peter St. S., sometime in mid-June. Gallery owner Molly Farquharson says she is pleased to be moving to a larger space, where she can host more people to her monthly concerts and poetry readings.

Nice to see that positive vibe in our arts district, which has been hit hard by the closing of all the galleries early on in the pandemic. Galleries can now reopen but need to do so safely with precautions in place.

Creative Nomad Studios owner Anitta Hamming is trying to help local artists out, with her 2020 Unlimited Show, in the street level windows at Creative Nomad, opposite the library.

The studio is still under renovation, but the windows are large, at street side, and empty, so Hamming had the creative idea to use them as a pandemic safe gallery space, and help artists to get their work seen and sold there. Each piece will be available to be seen in the windows, and available for sale online.

Hamming has also been busy helping downtown store merchants as well, with her online shop, Orillia Marketplace. Not everyone downtown was able to pivot quickly to online shopping, so she did the work for them and put together this attractive and functional online store so buyers can buy from their fav downtown shops easily and safely, online.

Local artist Xavier Fernandes was quick to take advantage of this opportunity to get his woodturned items up for sale online and says he is enjoying the chance to let someone else market his work, so he can concentrate on making his product. You can check out this new online shop here.

Please shop local safely!

Still lots of great concerts, art workshops, classes, trivia games and more through many venues in our area and beyond. Don’t miss the Orillia Public Library’s great collection of all of the above, you can access them all here.

Stay safe, stay home, and if you venture out please wear a mask. You can grab a mask from Hip Chick design here. Protect yourself and those you love!

Send your arts and culture news to, by Tuesday at noon.