I can’t express the joy I had returning to Bobcaygeon’s Lakeview Arts Barn on a mid-August night. It had been far too long since I had opened the big red door, and entered the white painted hall, decorated with photos of actors from shows gone by, Like a mythical place from a mid-summer nights’s dream, the Lakeview Arts Barn is one of my favorite destinations in the Kawarthas. A social hub for decades, the building is also the home of Globus Theater, one of the Kawartha’s few professional theaters. Run by artistic director Sarah Quick and artistic producer James Barrett, Globus Theater nights are magical, filled with decadent food, lots of laughs, a few tears, and a sense of warmth in which the actors, staff and audience come together as strangers, but often leave as friends.
Like most theaters, Globus saw its summer season cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But with September just creeping around the corner and with certain protocols being lifted by the Ontario government, Globus is one of the few theaters that is forging ahead in the fall with brand new live programming underneath their banner Season Within Reason. Featuring play readings, improv series and a two hander to a limited audience of only fifty people per performance, their Season Within Reason marks the first live indoor theater performances in the Kawarthas since March 2020.
Despite the theater being hit hard financially, James and Sarah’s decision to reopen the theater to audiences goes far beyond just creating ticket sales. “I don’t think this is about survival,” Sarah says. “When you’re talking survival you’re talking about financial. This is such a creative process that it has nothing to do with survival. We can’t lose money, but it’s not about making money. Since we can do it, then we should do it. We’re talking to other directors and theaters around Ontario, and they can’t do it because they don’t have the versatile space. They can’t do it, but we can, so we shall.”
“We’ve always worked hard to have what we have now,” James continues. “This was to be our seventeenth summer season. We are opening with an audience of only fifty people. There are loads of theaters that cannot open because they can only have fifty people. We can make it so we don’t lose money, because we’ve lost so much money. But we are giving people who are ready to come out in the world a place to come.”
“As much as the arts has been missed, it’s the social interaction that people have missed as well, and this place is a hub for that,” Sarah adds. “It’s all well and good putting your stuff on line, and I think that’s important to get your stuff out there for people if they are isolated. But to be able to offer to have people come and sit next to each other, and laugh together at the same thing is important.”
From August 27th to 29th James and Sarah are bringing back Karma Sutra, written by Sarah and Peter McGarry. Playing to sell out audience in their 2019 season, Kama Sutra is a perfect two hander comedy that will allow James and Sarah to give audiences a safe theatrical experience.
“We had so much fun with it last year,” tells Sarah. “It was a bit insane, and it showed a bit of a trajectory because when we started our summer theater seventeen years ago we were doing the types of shows you could see on the fringe circuit. They were a little bit edgy and what people weren’t used to seeing and we got in a lot of trouble for it, because they were a little too sexy. If we had done Kama Sutra seventeen years ago we would have been booted out of town. Now, our audience has grown along with us, and its James and Sarah and they trust us. The audience went along with us and we had so much fun, and more laughs than we ever had before.”
“What directors also have to think about is your cast interacting with each other and effectively being in a bubble that entire run,” Sarah adds. “They are going to have to stay together. You can’t billet anymore. So a husband and wife comedy makes it easier to do as well.”
Sarah and James are also creating additional programming with a series of dinner and play reading events. Their first one on August 22nd completely sold out, but they are having three more readings throughout September and early October: Pinkerton Comes to Prospect by James Williams on September 10th, Where You Are by Kristen De Silva on September 19th and Sarah’s new show #Happy on October 1st.
“I don’t think a lot of people know what to expect from a play reading,” says Sarah. “It’s not just someone reading a play. We perform in character, just we don’t have the set and we’re not moving around. But it’s conversational. I want the audience to feel that they are part of something special, but that it’s relaxed.”
“We are choosing to do new Canadian works because that’s kind of our mandate,” Sarah continues. “It gives plays that aren’t being played everywhere to get a little bit of recognition and it gives us an opportunity to have a look at some plays that we wouldn’t be able to do a full production of anyways. We’ve never been able to do a six hander, but this allows us the chance to do a larger cast of actors.”
In the case of the September 10th reading of Pinkerton Comes to Prospect, the show can be expanded far beyond the limitations of traditional Globus productions. “Pinkerton Comes to Prospect is a western style gun slinging saloon type of show, and it’s very complicated props and set wise,” Sarah reveals. “I read it at Lighthouse with the playwright four months ago, and as I was reading it I thought we’d never be able to put this on. But if you’re doing a play reading you can, because you have to just sit there and read ‘He falls into the piano and comes back up with a goldfish.’ Well, that’s way easier than actually have to figure out how he falls into a piano and then comes back up with a gold fish.”
But possibly the most innovative of the shows Globus is doing during their Season Within Reason is the three night improv series called Bobgaygeonation Street of Our Lives running September 24th to 26th. A three part improv series featuring Globus alumnists Chris Gibbs, Dave Pearce and Kerry Griffin. A parody on soap operas, Bobcaygeonation Street of Our Lives is a true multi-media event featuring both live and video performances being brought to a live audience, as well as audiences at home via live streaming, allowing audiences everywhere to take in the full three night run.
“It’s an amalgamation of Coronation Street and Days of Our Lives and we want to do this soap opera type scenario whereby, in the theater, there will be fifty people in the audience and we’ll have three performers on the stage and they are going to do a show that grows each night,” Sarah explains. “So the audience will give them the premise like a typical improv show. They will act it on stage, and it’ll be streamed to people watching back in their homes. We’re going to drop in little scenes that are being filmed at our summer theater camps, so the kids are going to be able to star in it as well, and the actors won’t have seen those scenes, and will have to react to them.”
“So we do the first show, and each preceding show will build on it, and people not in the live audience will be able to see the shows on-line,” James continues. “The original concept was that even if the fifty people didn’t happen we could live stream. As everything we don’t know if things will get crazy again, and if lock down will reoccur and if they are going to knock back our fifty to ten people again. We need to plan things that won’t hurt the company if it isn’t going to happen, or if we have to reimagine it in a different way.”
But while the theater is reopening, Globus still has a lot of work to do to recover from the difficult deficit left from the cancellation of the summer season. Throughout the summer Globus has been trying to recoup its loses via a matching funds campaign with support from the John C. and Sally Horsfall Eaton Foundation. With a goal of $100,000 (to be matched for a total of $200,000) the campaign is on-going.
“The theater has been a charity for many years, and we’ve always put it out gently that we are a registered charity if people want to donate,” says James. “But we’ve never actively asked people for money. Then this all happened and we saw that other theaters were having fund matching campaigns.”
Searching for solutions, James called on John and Sally Eaton for help. John, grandson of Timothy Eaton, ran the Eaton’s empire, and he and his wife are supporters of Globus who go to every event James and Sarah put on.
“We knew John and Sally had a foundation and we wondered if they’d be in the position to help,” James tells. “So I emailed them and asked if I could talk to them and they said yes. I explained to them what our situation was, and they asked a very large amount of financial questions. They asked what we were looking for, and I said if we had a matching fund of $100,000 that would get us through to next summer. They said ‘From what you told us, we could probably do $50,000 and you’d have to come up with the other $50,000. ‘I thought that was amazing, but the next day they called us and told me ‘Don’t worry about the other $50,000. We’ll match the entire $100,000.’ It’s a matching fund. They aren’t just giving us money. The community needs to show the support of the theater, and they will match that support. It’s a lot of money to raise, but we’re working on it.”
To donate to Globus’ Save Our Stage Fund visit http://lakeviewartsbarn.com/donate-1.
Although it’s been a difficult summer for theaters all over the province, Globus Theater is still keeping itself alive, but it’s still an uphill battle with lots of uncertainty. Although they’d like to continue programing beyond October, time will tell if it’ll be possible.
“This has been our lives since the shutdown happened,” James says. “Most of the jobs have gone back to some sort of normal, but with us it could be so easily yanked. So yes, we have ideas of what we are going to do past this, but only if we’re allowed to do it. We just don’t know.
“If you have artist friends on Facebook, you know how much the arts are suffering,” Sarah adds. “But why I think that arts organizations still need to say we are suffering is because so much of the world has gone back to normal, especially if you are in a tourism town like Bobcaygeon. Everybody’s having their holidays, the bars have never been busier and everything is great. But arts organizations aren’t able to open at full capacity, and even if we were able to the amount of different protocols that need to be put into place before a show could go on is insane. You can’t finance a full show. Even if you have four or five actors it’ll cost you $35000 to finance the show for two weeks. If suddenly COVID took down someone in your cast, or one of your audience members got sick, and then you’d have to cancel the whole show. That’s too risky.”
But risk or no risk, for now the show is going on at Globus Theater. Just remember that each show has only fifty seats available, so call now to reserve your seat. For more information on the Season within Reason and for ticket options, visit Globus’ website at http://lakeviewartsbarn.com/globus-current-season or call Becca in the box office at 705-738-2037 or 1-800-304-7897.