The Stratford Festival has suspended its entire 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previously, the festival had canceled performances until the end of May. But festival organizers are now saying that there is no way to safely resume performances given the high number of spectators and artists who come into contact with each other during a typical season.
“Unfortunately, we have to accept the fact that, since it is based on large public gatherings, the theater will be one of the last sectors to recover from this pandemic,” said artistic director Antoni Cimolino in a statement.
The four theaters of the festival each have a capacity of between 260 and 1,800 seats. The theater company itself has 150 actors who generally act in two or three productions at the same time, which poses an “extremely high risk of contagion”, according to the press release.
About $ 135 million in economic activity in the Stratford area is generated by the theater festival, Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson told CBC News.
All kinds of local businesses, from restaurants and hotels to landscaping and plumbing services, are linked to the festival in one way or another, he said.
“It’s a real spider and web effect, and it’s something that concerns us, of course,” said Mathieson.
The festival also creates 3,000 jobs in the community and generates $ 65 million in taxes, he said.
Executive Director Anita Gaffney said the move also meant delaying the opening of the new Tom Patterson Theater.
“We had so much anticipation for the coming season, so it is really heartbreaking to have to make this decision,” she said.
Organizers say they can organize special fall and holiday productions if it becomes safe.