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Aug. 11, 2020 | Tuesday
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Shaw Festival cancels performances up till Aug. 1
Shaw Festival CEO Tim Jennings. (Supplied)

The Shaw Festival has cancelled all performances until at least Aug. 1, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival announced Friday it is abiding by the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s municipal order restricting organized mass gatherings throughout July, but will continue to follow the guidance of public health agencies, government and its insurer to determine when live theatre can safely return to stage.

Previously, the company had cancelled all public events until July 1, hoping to stage at least a portion of the season.

"While we are not surprised by the need for further cancellations, it’s very hard to see more of our season evaporate,” Shaw CEO Tim Jennings said in a statement.

“I am proud to say we have kept almost all of our artists and arts workers employed, so that we can be ready to return to our stages just as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Earlier this month, the Shaw suspended the contracts of about 70 ensemble members, musicians and other independent contractors, while also laying-off several part-time seasonal staff.

However, almost all of them were rehired immediately, along with Shaw workers, as temporary, full-time employees under a new program that is being supported through the federal government’s Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

The newly minted team of nearly 80 Education and Community Outreach Specialists (ECOS) is expanding the festival’s repertoire by increasing digital patron engagement, creating specialized online events for Friends of the Shaw and developing resources for various education partners.

“We can't have a human, connected theatre without healthy humans, so we will do whatever it takes to keep everyone safe, whether they work here or are itching to come and watch us play,” said artistic director Tim Carroll.

“In the meantime, our artists, artisans and staff will continue to find ways to engage with our patrons and communities online – we hope you’ll join us. Stay well, and we will see you as soon as we can.” ​

The festival’s administrative and box offices are closed by provincial order until June 9 but people with tickets for cancelled performances will have the full value of their tickets held on their account.

A small group of box office representatives is working remotely to contact ticket holders to discuss options such as holding money on account for future exchanges, converting the ticket value to a charitable donation or issuing a refund.

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