Like all Arts and Theatre institutions across the country, Presentation House Theatre (PHT) has had to think of ways to recreate themselves while dealing with COVID era restrictions and closures.
After much organizational soul searching, research, and preparation in response to COVID-19, today, Presentation House Theatre launches the PHT Creative Hub Co-operative, transforming how the company collaborates and shares performing arts with its communities. To start PHT’s gradual reopening plan, this initiative will see Artist from across performance disciplines the first returning to the building to work on their own creative projects.
“As the pandemic so deeply impacted the arts, we saw an opportunity,” said Kim Selody, PHT Artistic Director, “to create a mutually supportive community of artists who feel a sense of connection and ownership with PHT, contributing to it artistically and financially, creating their own work and supporting one another.”
Co-op members have access to bookable studio and production space to create, experiment, and develop live performing artistic works, including potential viewings by the public. Office and storage spaces are available, along with the “Artist Lounge”, a place to meet, discuss and enjoy “cross-pollinating” ideas with other artists in the Co-op. In exchange for time in PHT spaces, artists support the facility and other artists’ activities as volunteers, matching individual skill sets and interests to jobs at hand.
“By exchanging labour with each other, we can all explore and build work in our spaces. As we each struggle to find new ways to earn revenue with limited audiences, this ‘micro economy’ allows us to continue to create and work together,” continues Selody.
The new Co-op model required a complete reset of how spaces in the historic building are used by artists and audiences. With COVID-19 restrictions top of mind, PHT staff reconfigured traffic flow to allow one-way exits and entrances to most rooms and studios. Passages throughout the building are designated for artists-only to avoid them intersecting with public zones. Areas previously used only for rehearsal or project development have been refitted as micro-performance spaces with full technical capabilities. Dynamic, flexible, and responsive to health and safety restrictions, these areas will allow boutique performances with limited attendance, once public returns to PHT in the fall.
“We’re committed to this model beyond the current COVID pandemic restrictions,” shares Selody. “This pandemic has given us all the opportunity to take a bold step, and experiment with a new way of working together. I am excited to see what happens next.”
Early July also marks the return of legacy community rental groups to PHT. With programs ranging from summer camps for kids, dance, yoga and more, all groups have adjusted their offerings to meet current physical distancing and attendance requirements.
PHT will also continue its role as a presenter and producer of professional theatre shows and programs. The final stage of reopening will take place in early October when PHT launches its 2020/21 programming series. Audiences can expect exciting innovations such as pocket performances with limited attendance, bubble bookings for those in social bubbles, online streaming of shows, and opportunities to visit and view new Co-op works in progress.