Operators of Surrey’s Bell Performing Arts Centre will grant free rental of the theatre to three local organizations hit hard by the pandemic.
The new Bell Performing Arts Centre Community Program arrives at a time when some theatre rentals are postponed or cancelled due to B.C.’s current gathering restrictions, which limit capacity to 50 per cent.
Launched Monday (Jan. 10), the community program involves a day of free rental of the Sullivan-area theatre, for a play, concert, speaking event, fundraising gala or other events.
Eligible organizations can apply for one of three awards for up to eight hours of theatre rental, including box office services and up to four technicians to work the event. Each award is valued at close to $6,500.
The initiative is a partnership of Bell Canada and Surrey Schools, which operates the theatre.
“It’s a way of us supporting community organizations in Surrey as well as the Lower Mainland,” said Andrew Elliot, associate theatre manager.
“As we know, the pandemic has been an incredibly challenging time for performing arts organizations as well as live events in general, so this is a way to help a few of those organizations put on their events without the risk of financial burden they’d normally have.”
Posted to the website surreyschools.ca, applications will be accepted until March 31, and organizations selected by a committee will be announced in April. Granted events can be booked at the Bell from July to December 2022.
The 1,052-seat Bell Performing Arts Centre reopened for business in September, after 18 months of pandemic-triggered darkness.
On Dec. 21, the B.C. government announced new COVID-19 restrictions ahead of the holidays as Omicron cases began to surge. The new rules, which run until at least Jan. 18, closed bars, nightclubs, gyms, fitness centres and dance studios, and capped event capacity at 50 per cent of normal.
“We’re seeing some show postponements now, with the changing PHO health orders,” Elliot noted. “A lot of organizations, they want to wait until the next announcement before they make a decision to reschedule or, in the worst-case scenario, cancel their event. I think those decisions will be made after Jan. 18. We are seeing some events postpone in the window before that date.”
Rescheduled at the Bell is a Just For Laughs-produced show featuring American comedian Maz Jobrani, from Jan. 15 to March 24. Also, Elliot said a Village Church Women’s Conference, set for Jan. 21-22, has been cancelled, as has The Children Heart of the Matter Conference (Feb. 4-5).
“We have a couple of events in February waiting to see if the capacity restrictions get lifted before they decide to postpone,” Elliot added. “Other events such as the TEDx conference on Feb. 19th are planning to proceed as scheduled under the current health order.”
Elliot said he hopes things “move in a more positive direction” soon.
“We were closed for a long time, as you know, and we now have a very busy spring planned,” he said. “We’re pretty much booked up from March until the end of June. We’re looking at in excess of 90 events during that timeframe, which is our busiest time of year. Pre-COVID we were doing, on average, close to 220, 250 events a year, and the majority of those happen in the spring.”
February events on the Bell theatre calendar include “Friends! The Musical Parody” (Feb. 1), the Ukrainian dance show “Mriya: Life In Rhythm” (Feb. 11) and a concert featuring Chicago-based band The Lovettes, in a celebration of “the great girl groups from the golden era of pop (Feb. 27).
Elsewhere in the city, Surrey Civic Theatres has planned a number of in-person shows this winter/spring, in a series starting Feb. 3 with a morning Coffee Concert called “Oboe d’amour” at Surrey Arts Centre’s Studio Theatre (featuring Bergmann Piano Duo with oboist Emma Ringrose).
On Jan. 27, the arts centre’s Main Stage is booked for a Snowed In Comedy Tour show featuring Debra DiGiovanni, Pete Zedlacher, Dan Quinn and Paul Myrehaug.