Red Lights signal hope and support for live entertainment

September 25, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Lisa Lahue, Technical Director at Theatre Orangeville, explained all those red light illuminations you may have noticed in town over the past week, in a recent sit-down with the Citizen. 

“The first red lights beaming out will be from the Theatre, the Tourism Office [on Buena Vista at Hwy 10], the Rehearsal Hall [at the west end of Broadway on County Road 3, combined with the CLD building] and on Orange Lawrence’s statue. We’re doing that as one of 500 communities across Canada. We’ve reached out to all of our sponsors, so as to extend this support for live entertainment, to put a red ghost light in their buildings until Oct. 16.”

Had COVID-19 not had its way, Theatre Orangeville would have kicked off its 2020/21 season with a grand opening night performance on Oct. 16. Alas, plans for a new season have been postponed due to the ongoing pandemic.

While local theatre enthusiasts likely won’t have the opportunity to sit down and get comfy in their favourite seat at the Orangeville Opera House any time soon, they will be able to show their support for the local arts scene, by getting involved in the internationwide red light initiative. 

“Eight to 12 sponsors have been directly involved with the theatre,” Ms. Lahue told the Citizen, adding, “We can also invite patrons and other people in town to join in.”

A ghost light is a single fixture, a light, put centre stage when the stage and the theatre are empty and dark, as a safety measure.

“Now it’s a symbol of hope and hope for better times” said Ms Lahue. “This is used to put on the stage when there’s no one on the stage, until the time when someone is there.

“This is an international movement,” she went on to say. “The red lights were on, in the U.K. and Germany in June and a couple of weeks ago, the U.S. did theirs.”

It was on June 22, when Germany took their “Night of Light 2020” to heart, using ‘Emergency Red’ as the colour of choice to indicate the plight of the live entertainment industry in Germany, worth approximately 130 billion euros, and employing a million people across the nation. Around 8,000 companies have participated in this Red Alert of the crisis hitting live entertainment.

In the United States, on Sept. 1, as many as 2,500 venues were lighted for their Red Alert #Restart, in support of music venues, thereby urging Congress to pass the Restart Act, which would have provided much needed assistance for the live entertainment industry, as well as other businesses devastated by the pandemic. Despite over 1.5 million emails being sent to legislators, as well as a letter signed by several celebrities, the Save our Stages legislation was “left on the table when Congress went to recess last month.”

“This week is the Canadian movement,” said Lisa Lahue. “This is an international effort, as other countries take up the movement. I’m sure there’ll be many other Red Lights shining to support live entertainment around the world.”

She said, “This is to bring an awareness that live entertainment is the first industry to be shut down and the last to open again, this is a way of bringing that awareness forward.”

On Theatre Orangeville’s Facebook page, they say, “On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the Day of Visibility for the Live Entertainment Community takes place with a red light activation from live event venues from coast to coast and promoted through all social media channels.

“By using #LightUpLive and #WeMakeEvents, we give light and hope to our industry and the long road to recovery ahead.”

Also bathed in red light, although unseen by the public, except online, is the set of Too Close to Home, which still stands in situ, on the stage. The Opening Night of that play, on March 13, 2020, was the last time we were all together at the theatre.

Said Lisa Lahue, “Moving forward both in October, the first new online show will be in mid October and we’ll proceed from here on with two shows a month in the online format. They’ll be produced in the theatre; there’ll be lights on our stage and we’ll produce it as though you’re there; there with us.”

In a video, David Nairn, Theatre Orangeville’s Artistic Director, talks to us all about the necessity of keeping the theatre closed in accordance with current rules and in the best interest of everyone’s health. He promises that “your theatre,” as he quite rightly calls it, will not only survive, but thrive throughout the pandemic. 

Because performances on the stage are not possible in these weird and unheard-of times, it stands to reason that the highly innovative and well connected with the rest of the theatre world people involved with Theatre Orangeville have come up with ways, both ticketed and free, to keep us all entertained.

The success of the online Starlight Gala was so significant that it proved people are willing to buy tickets to see online performances, especially when a single ticket can entertain your whole bubble. 

With so much entertainment having been free online for many months, there was some concern that patrons would get used to the idea. However, Stratford Festival, as example, has been sending out trailers to shows for which it is selling tickets. It stands to reason that theatres would see their way to a degree of self-support and that loyal audiences would approve, although the majority of arts events and organizations do also depend on grants and donations, even at the best of times.

As future online events are planned, notices will appear on Theatre Orangeville’s social media; Facebook is their launching pad. 

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