The stage lights will soon be back on at Metro Theatre.
The theatre company will at last get to conclude its 57th season with Charley’s Aunt opening tonight (Friday) with evening and matinee performances until Oct. 17. The century-old British comedy was supposed to hit the stage back in April when COVID-19 closed the Marine Drive venue for months.
While some theatre companies simply cancelled their season finale production last spring, Metro had already invested too much time and money to just simply move on.
“The set is three different locations and then there’s all the costumes since it’s a period show,” explained producer and Ladner resident Catherine Morrison. “What some theatre groups did if they had a show in April, May or June is they just wrote it off and hoped their subscribers wouldn’t ask for their money back. We did the opposite. We said we owe you this play from last season. We were set to open April 3 and we are going to attempt to give it to you now.”
Complicating the theatre shutdown was the typical expenses that come with the Metropolitan Co-operative Theatre Society owning the building, along with its theme shop on Oak Street, and the paid contract staff that all were given temporary lay-offs.
“We had rentals scheduled for May and June and of course they were cancelled which meant all that money we were expecting we didn’t get and we still had all our expenses. If we literally go an entire year dark we would probably never re-open. It would basically take all of our finances to pay for the year with no income coming in,” continued Morrison.
The COVID-19 safety protocols to re-open the theatre are immense. The building has a capacity of 310 but only a maximum of 50 people can attend each performance. Tickets that were initially sold for the spring performances had to be re-assigned different seats with social distancing factored in. There will be no concession or bar available and the intermission has been shortened significantly. Masks must be worn, as well, patrons must use hand sanitizers at the entrance to the theatre.
Backstage, temporary dressing rooms have been built since Charley’s Aunt features a large cast.
Despite all the new protocols, Metro has managed to clear the many hurdles and will move into its 58th season with Five Alarm slated to open Oct. 29.
“We are doing everything we possibly can to keep our actors safe, our box office staff safe and most importantly our audience safe because we want people to return,” added Morrison. “The response has very heartening. A huge number of our season subscribers have re-subscribed with 220 who have already sent us money for next season. It shows their faith and they want Metro to re-open.”