Theatre and event halls will no longer be empty for School of Creative and Performing Arts performances, but COVID-19 restrictions will be followed. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Nov. 25, 2021

School of Creative and Performing Arts welcomes back live audiences for 2021-2022 performing season

Performers will get chance to strut their stuff in front of masked, physically distanced spectators

The University of Calgary’s School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) is prepared to once again open its doors for live audiences for the 2021-2022 performing season. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and faculty have had to perform in largely empty venues since May of 2020, with those performances being streamed online. However, this fall audiences are once again be able to take their seats in the SCPA’s theatres and concert halls — albeit with restrictions.  

“It’s hugely important to perform live,” says Dr. Bruce Barton, PhD, director of the SCPA. “For performance students, virtually every moment of their degree is preparation for the moment when they’ll meet an audience.”

Performance in front of an audience is crucial in all three of the SCPA’s disciplines — music, dance and drama — says Barton, and not only because it gives them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned. 

Audience members to follow COVID-19 protocol

“It’s a different environment to be in front of a room full of strangers and to meet the demands of a live audience,” says Barton. 

While live audiences will be in attendance this season, Barton says this will not be a complete return to normalcy, as the SCPA complies with both the university’s and the industry’s guidelines regarding COVID-19. 

All audience members will need to be masked and to attest to their vaccination status or demonstrate a negative rapid test. All SCPA venues will also limit audiences to two-thirds capacity to allow for physical distancing. 

Barton says that, for instance, the first Main Stage Drama production of the year — The Bus Stop by Nobel Prize-winning author Gao Xingjian, opening in the Reeve Theatre on Nov. 26 — will sell tickets for up to 106 of its 168 seats. 

Smaller crowds, 'more intimate relationship'

He says this will have both negative and positive effects. On the one hand, Barton says, performers won’t have the special experience of a full house, but on the other hand, a “ closer, more intimate relationship” is created between the performers and audience members with these smaller crowds. 

“There’s something missing, but there’s something gained,” Barton says. 

The pandemic has forced many performances, both academic and professional, to transition to these smaller audience settings, and Barton says this is something the SCPA will continue to offer and explore as they move forward. 

With both performers and audiences being limited in how much they have been able to see each other over the past year and a half, Barton says people should expect to see some “very hungry performers and performances.

People have been on a very strict diet for a very long time. The performers have been deprived of an audience, and audiences have been deprived of performances.

Barton says another thing which will differentiate this season from others is the degree to which the school has made efforts to address issues of diversity, inclusion and reconciliation. 

The drama season productions deal directly with issues of cultural difference and diversity, and there is a heightened degree of diversity within both the dance and music division offerings. 

Barton says the school will also continue to stream performances online, as this allows access to the performances for people who aren’t able to attend in person, such as the families and friends of international students. 

“People will be able to see some offerings that will be familiar,” says Barton. “but they’ll also be able to discover a variety of new types of performance, both in terms of content and the forms in which those experiences are delivered.”

See the full SCPA performance schedule