Coronavirus: Imperial Theatre to host first live performance since pandemic began

The main lobby of the Imperial Theatre in Saint John, N.B., with COVID-19 safety protocol in place ahead of its first live performance since the pandemic began. Tim Roszell/Global News

The Imperial Theatre in Saint John will host a live performance Friday for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.

Juno-award-winning artist Rose Cousins is scheduled to perform on the main stage, and while little has changed in the theatre itself, patrons will notice some changes aimed at keeping them safe.

Imperial Theatre Executive Director Angela Campbell said the theatre can host only about 250 guests in the 850-seat venue in order to maintain two metres of physical distancing.

Guests will also be required to wear masks unless they are in their seats.

Read more: Movie theatres are starting to reopen — but are they safe?

The theatre will operate on a limited capacity within its washroom facilities and will have attendants at each door ensuring the limits are being respected.

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There are spacing lines installed on the floor of the lobby and plexiglass windows greet consumers at both the box office and bar areas.

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“Art really helped us cope,” Campbell said of the pandemic-mandated downtime. “There’s a big portion of the community who is craving that live experience again.

“The digital world definitely got us through the last six months, but I think people are now ready for that live experience again.”

Campbell said the theatre laid off 25 casual staff during the pandemic. She said 15 full-time staff were able to continue working thanks to the federal government’s wage subsidy.

The main stage of the Imperial Theatre in Saint John, N.B., ahead of its first live-act performance in six months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tim Roszell/Global News

Campbell said smaller shows are likely for the foreseeable future as travel and group restrictions make it difficult to book elaborate stage shows.

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She said the theatre is only booking performers who reside within the Atlantic bubble.

READ MORE: Saint John Common Council to consider funding cut to Imperial Theatre

“An artist has to come in and self-isolate in every province for two weeks before they’re allowed to perform, or do that when they go home. (It) makes it very prohibitive for them to be able to work effectively and make it financially viable for them to do that,” Campbell said.

Even with restrictions and smaller numbers, Campbell said she could barely contain her excitement over hosting a live show again.

“We are so happy to be able to do what we do which is connect audiences and artists together,” she said.

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