Arts Council of Surrey members Maxine Howchin and Carol Girardi close down the art gallery at Newton Cultural Centre. (submitted photo)

MINTY: It’s time to stand by Surrey arts groups as shows, venues close

Month-long Surrey Festival of Dance among events postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns

By Melanie Minty, arts columnist

This year, 2020, began as the year of vision. After all, 20/20 vision is perfect. We touted 2020 as a year of perfect vision. Then the universe changed and the world is facing an invisible foe, a microscopic virus. We can’t see it, but we can detect it. Something so small has effectively closed down our world. The universe has changed.

With amazing technology at our fingertips, we can find out information that will help us reclaim our world, eventually. But can we believe everything we read, especially Facebook and other social media. I was researching a timeline for COVID-19 and found a message from Katherine Maher, executive director of Wikimedia Foundation. It is a reassuring message, and as we all search for information, Maher’s message is cogent, encouraging, and current. Please read some of her message.

“Throughout these challenging times, knowledge must and will remain open for all,” Maher writes. “We find ourselves in remarkable circumstances this year. The COVID-19 pandemic makes clear our global human interconnectedness and the responsibilities we have to one another. We have no precedent for its challenges, but we do know that our best response relies on the sort of global empathy, cooperation, and community building that sit at the heart of our movement.”

She goes on to thank the thousands of contributors and editors that keep a close watch on keeping misinformation at bay. She concludes with this: “We are proving that, even in a time of social distancing, we can celebrate our human bond by coming together online to share facts and information.”

For our performing arts community, online communication isn’t always possible, and in our social isolation we can’t go to movies, live theatre or concerts. Libraries are closed, art galleries are closed. Our world is standing still. While we have been assured of continuing food supplies and financial and medical aid, there will still be some fragile businesses that will close. Maybe forever.

(Column continues below)

The message from Arts Club Theatre Company is loud and clear and deserves a cheer: STAND BY US.

These are troubling times, and Arts Club has now closed all theatres, box offices and production venues. Events and workshops are postponed. Gosh, do you have tickets for cancelled performances? Arts Club promises to be flexible and give you ticket credit of one form or another. They also make a promise to their artists, and to the community. Stand By Us. We will return. This is the new battle cry for 2020. Don’t ask for a refund of your tickets. Pretend you already saw the show and donate the price of the ticket back to Arts Club.

While such professional theatre companies may be lucky and survive, our community theatre clubs need your support now as well. Every season, production and event has been either cancelled or postponed indefintely.

Surrey’s Naked Stage Productions has cancelled Murder by Default. These staged play readings have been at Newton Cultural Centre, but the facility is now closed completely. Keeping everyone safe and following public health mandates is essential, and while we can comply with the mandate and keep our distance, we can keep in mind that the arts will return, Naked Stage and all.

• RELATED STORY: Will the show go on? B.C. music festivals consider options over coronavirus.

Newton Cultural Centre, owned by the city but operated by the Arts Council of Surrey, is indeed naked right now. The last gallery show, scheduled to run until the end of March, has been taken down. The gallery walls are bare. There is no staff on hand. The arts council’s monthly magazine, Spotlight, will not be produced for at least the next two months. There are no arts events to advertise or promote.

FVGSS, A Musical Theatre Society also needs the ‘Stand By Us’ banner. They are still planning a summer musical, but we need to do our part and “flatten the curve” and get this virus contained. Be ready to support FVGSS when they are ready to perform again.

White Rock Players Club is hoping to reopen its Playhouse by May 31. The show will go on! Spamalot is now scheduled to run from Aug. 5 to 29, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is now set for a run from Oct. 7 to 24. White Rock Players Club owns and operates the Playhouse. Please do not phone the box office and ask for a refund. Instead, ask for a donation receipt. Then, when the show does go on again, you can buy tickets again! It is a small price to pay to show our community theatre groups that we can help them survive in this world crisis.

For me, the biggest challenge I have to face is the cancellation of my dance classes and the postponement of the Surrey Festival of Dance. The Surrey Arts Centre is, of course, closed, so the festival, which should take place in April, is postponed until further notice.

I take heart in the word ‘postponed’. I know that people like Arts Council of Surrey president Carol Girardi and Surrey Festival of Dance president James Crosty are keeping current of the situation, and revising plans constantly to keep options open and make the festival happen. Meanwhile I have promised my dance teacher that I will practice. Dance teachers, by the way, probably can’t collect E.I., so maybe keep paying your dance fees to keep your dance studio alive and well. Dance, like community theatre, is a big industry for our city and now is the time to follow the slogan STAND BY US.

We all must make drastic changes in our lifestyle. Yes, I miss my dance friends terribly, and emails and phone calls are a small lifeline. I do understand why these drastic measures have to be done. What I don’t understand is why people are hoarding toilet paper. Seriously. Oh well, I guess the universe hasn’t changed all that much.

Stay safe, keep dancing and sing from your balconies. Find your new normal. Stay tuned for a return of the arts, and Stand By Us. But for now, just don’t stand too close.

Melanie Minty writes twice monthly for the Now-Leader. Email her at melminty@telus.net.

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