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After 18 long months, touring bands, stand-up comedians and theatre productions can once again take centre stage at the Bell Performing Arts Centre at Sullivan Heights Secondary as provincial restrictions ease on live entertainment.
With Phase 3 of B.C.'s Restart Plan in full swing, the Bell Centre brought back its staff in September and started getting ready for shows in the fall with a view toward the new year.
"It was an interesting time for everybody because we all ended up doing things that we weren't originally hired for," said Steve Goodman, manager of the Bell Centre, who worked in another district department when the theatre was closed. "It was a good experience to learn more about the district and work in other areas, but we were definitely happy to be able to return."
For the Bell Centre, Goodman said the most significant change to the Provincial COVID-19 Communicable Disease Guidelines for K-12 Settings was allowing visitors to schools, permitting ticketed events within the limits of 50% capacity, masking, admission with the BC Vaccine Card and restrictions on congregating in lobbies and hallways.
"That's what triggered our ability to open again," he said. "As soon as we had that green light, we started calling everybody back."
It didn't take long before the theatre had it's first rental, with Village Church returning on Sept. 26. Goodman noted worship services don't fall under the same provincial restrictions for capacity, mask usage or proof of vaccination, but said the church has been more than willing to accommodate measures to increase the comfort levels of theatre staff.
"We worked with our staff to figure out what we could do to make them feel safe," he said, "and luckily, Village Church was really happy to meet us halfway, so we do have masking in certain areas to make everybody feel comfortable."
Additionally, the theatre has hand sanitizer stations and well-stocked washrooms throughout the building, with thorough cleaning after every event. Goodman said all high-touch surfaces are sanitized, and there are specific disinfecting protocols for equipment such as microphones.
The theatre is back to booking shows, with several already scheduled in the coming months, including esteemed Canadian pianist Robert Silverman performing the works of Bach, the critically acclaimed British holiday comedy O Christmas Tea, Iranian-American comedian and actor Maz Jobrani, and country a cappella quintet Home Free on their world tour.
Goodman said he's excited for the return to live entertainment, adding that even more opportunities for shows could be on the horizon when 100% capacity is eventually allowed.
"The artistic touring community has been out of work for a long time, so I think when things do open up, we're going to have some of the most interesting and busiest time of activity," he said. "I think we'll get lots of touring shows that we wouldn't normally get because everybody will want to tour at the same time."
To stay up to date on shows coming to the theatre, visit bellperformingartscentre.com