‘Storytelling is medicine’: For Canada’s performing arts organizations, shows are an essential service

Non-profit arts leaders say the sense of community fostered by performances are crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why It Matters

Non-profit arts organizations are in an especially precarious financial position right now. During a global pandemic and high-profile acts of systemic racism, the sense of community, solidarity, and expression fostered by the arts are more important than ever.

Just days after Factory Theatre’s production of “Lady Sunrise” came to a victorious end last year, artistic director Nina Lee Aquino and the rest of her crew, ensemble, and staff watched as Canada’s entire performing arts sector came to a shuddering halt. 

The COVID-19 pandemic had been spreading through Asia and Europe since December 2019, but it was only a day after the World Health Organization declared it a global pandemic on March 11 that Canadian officials began to take drastic action. For Canadian theatres, music venues, and art centres, the public health restrictions that followed closed the curtains on live performances indefinitely. 

Aquino had to call her crew and cast with the horrible news — the rest of their season had to be cancelled immediately. Indoor theatres are dangerous spaces for disease transmission: tightly packed, enclosed, facing a

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