The last time I was in a theatre was March 9 for A Few Good Men at the Country Playhouse in St. Jacobs.
Today is August 27. Last night was the first time I have entered a theatre since March 9 – that’s more than 5 months. It’s probably the longest stretch I’ve gone without attending a show or concert since sometime in the early 1980s. All because of a nasty pandemic.
During the earlier stages of the pandemic, we moved our home (and thus, my home office, which is the headquarters for Entertain This Thought) from one side of southwestern Ontario to the other side of Toronto. I am now located in Port Hope. That gives me a new set of theatres to visit. But of course, all the theatres have been closed.
Then last week I was delighted to hear that the Orillia Opera House was opening. Normally, the professional theatre company at the Orillia Opera House (apparently it’s known affectionately as OOH!) usually performs in a smaller 100-seat venue at the OOH. The bigger 677 seat theatre upstairs is used for one-night-only concerts or touring shows. But in these Covid-19 times, the professional company decided to move their play to the big house, but only sell tickets for 50 of the nearly 700 seats.
Not only was it special to return to the theatre, but we also went out for dinner at a RESTAURANT! And we ate IN the restaurant for the first time in many months. Not take-out, not fast food.
We arrived in Orillia and saw Cosmo’s Ristorante with a bright “Open” sign (an Italian restaurant within a short walk to the opera house) and had a delicious dinner. Victor said it was the best lasagne ever, and I had delicious scallops in pesto on pasta.
Here’s how you do it – put on your mask when you leave your car and go into the restaurant. Give the host your full name and phone number so they can contact you if anyone gets Covid (Yikes – that was a little unnerving when the host told us why she needed our information), and make sure they seat you at least 2 metres away from other diners. Then order and take off your mask when the food comes. By the way, Cosmo’s had very fast service – no worries about getting to the theatre on time.
We entered the theatre with masks on. There was some hesitation at the door, as theatre goers paused and looked at each other, trying to decide who goes first while others kept their distance. All the theatre staff were masked and kept their distance. We were seated with no one in a seat less than 10 metres away. Groups of two, three or four were scattered around, everyone staying within their bubble.
We wore our masks for the entire show and kept them on until we were back to our vehicle. But really, there was no reason to have them on the full time, since audience members were so far apart. We left them on because everyone else seemed to be leaving them on.
There was no real intermission because they didn’t want crowds in the washrooms all at the same time. As we were told, it was more of a 7th inning stretch; a brief break for us to stand up for a minute. Rather than the usual pitch dark, the house lights were dimly lit during the performance so that anyone could go to the washroom at any time. The actors assured us that it wouldn’t bother them if anyone needed to get up.
When the show finished, everyone left the theatre with some trepidation, carefully holding back to maintain generous distances. But once we were in the parking lot, the masks came off. I was following one woman at a 10 metre distance, when she stopped in her tracks, pulled off her mask and heaved a great sigh. I was just glad I wasn’t any closer.
It was a wonderful evening, and it just felt so good to be back in a theatre. I look forward to many more visits to the Orillia Opera House. Just wear your mask, keep your distance and washg your hands so we can beat this disease and get everyone back to our theatres. We want to see the crews back to work and the casts back on stage.
On a First Name Basis is funny and touching Norm Foster comedy, starring the vivacious Viviana Zarrillo and her real-life partner Jesse Collins. Since they were already in each other’s bubble, they have no worries about rehearsing and acting together. To read my review, click here.
A final and very important note: Entertain This Thought will not be abandoning theatre in southwestern Ontario. My friend and colleague Vicki Stokes will be reviewing shows for Entertain This Thought at the various Drayton theatres, and in Blyth, Petrolia, London and area, as soon as the theatres reopen.