Astor closes the curtains
Once again, the doors of the Astor Theater are closed.
The historic theater was closed under revised government health guidelines in late December in response to the virulence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
“We’re just kind of on a wait-and-see attitude right now,” said Jean Robinson-Dexter, chief executive. “We will try to reschedule anything we had confirmed or were in the process of booking for later dates.”
Another uncertainty is what capacity the theater would be allowed, once things start to open up again.
The theater was last closed at the end of last April until mid-June, when the sanitary restrictions were relaxed. Subsequently, youth camps and live events took place. Local artists put on the Tom, Dick & Harry production for three nights at the end of November, for example, which drew good crowds.
“We had a fairly successful fall with limited capacity and then at full capacity. The last two shows we were able to do in December, all seats were available,” Robinson-Dexter said. These shows included Lennie Gallant (December 8) and Matt Andersen & Friends (December 12).
“People loved being able to go out and see live music again. It’s a big disappointment that we’re back at this point, but we want everyone to be safe and healthy, so that’s what we have to do,” added Robinson-Dexter.
The number of people allowed for an audience was reduced to just 50 later in December, before live events were shut down completely. “Obviously at that number it’s not viable for either Astor or an artist who might be trying to put together a tour,” Robinson-Dexter said.
The Stadacona Band’s free holiday concert scheduled for December 16 was the start of the cancellations.
As of 2022, Reeny Smith was scheduled for January 29 and a comedy tour was due to stop in Liverpool on February 9.
Robinson-Dexter said the theater will be closed until at least the end of this month.
“We were really looking forward to hearing from Reeny Smith, who just blew the roof off the Astor when she played with Matt Andersen,” she lamented, while adding, “Comics planned for the February 9 have decided to cancel their tour. But hopefully we’ll get them rescheduled.
Art exhibitions have also been suspended. The Danna Winters exhibition ended on January 14.
With limited capacity to host many events, the facility’s revenue has been affected.
Robinson-Dexter is grateful that the regular grants have at least remained in place, while the addition of emergency funding and wage subsidies have “helped keep the doors open when we were able to be open.” Currently, the office is not open on a regular schedule.
The Astor Theater Society conducted its annual fundraising campaign during the month of December. Although final figures were not available, Robinson-Dexter was confident the campaign was a success. “We have wonderful donors and wonderful volunteers,” she said.
Looking ahead, Robinson-Dexter and his team have plans they hope to implement next year, pandemic permitting.
“I think later this year you can expect a youth theater production that we were hoping to do this spring, but at this point it won’t be doable until later,” she said. “We hope the music festival will be back in full force and we are also considering programming specifically for seniors.”
The general manager of the Astor is considering a return to summer camps, and all is well the theater will welcome theater troupes from around the world to the Liverpool International Theater Festival scheduled for May 12-15. The event went virtual in 2020-21 with great success and it will continue online every two years from 2021.
More information about the festival is coming soon.