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Arts and Entertainment in the Face of COVID-19

Newmarket and Aurora are home to a wide variety of talented musicians, artists, and entertainers. Anyone who has ever attended the Newmarket Jazz festival, ventured into one of the many pubs on historic Main Street to listen to local bands, or has ever attended a theatrical performance at one of the many theatre venues in our community knows this to be an undeniable fact.

Indeed, the Newmarket-Aurora arts community is unique, diverse, and most importantly resilient. This resilience has been on full display in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, artists and our local entertainment industry have undoubtedly been substantially impacted by this global health crisis.

Enrollment rates are down, performances have been cancelled, and in-person meetings have been suspended or limited. Luckily for our community, the resilience of local artists and businesses has allowed for adaptation, enabling them to continue to bring our community outstanding arts programming. After all, “the show must go on.”

Local musicians took to social media to live stream to viewers remotely, virtual art galleries were organized by community leaders, and local theatrical companies implemented strict social distancing policies to continue to offer safe programming to young aspiring actors.

In this first blog installment, we had the privilege of sitting down with Marquee Theatrical Productions Executive Director, Sheryl Thomas. Marquee has been in operation since 2003, providing the Newmarket-Aurora area with captivating performances, as well as comprehensive theatrical programming for children, teens, and adults. Sheryl was kind enough to virtually meet with us to discuss the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the community theatre group. 

When asked about how COVID-19 has affected Marquee’s business, Thomas explained….

About the many changes and ways the business has had to adapt during the pandemic. All adult and kindergarten shows have been cancelled, while the youth shows that are still taking place are running at 35% capacity.  Safety measures including drive-through COVID-19 safety checks, taking temperatures, and social distancing, are all steps taken to ensure staff and students are safe. The outdoors are utilized immensely for rehearsals, including a large outdoor 20×40 foot tent used as an outdoor singing space. When the cold weather hits and more rehearsals are inside, classes that had around 30-35 people, now have 18. Plus, social distancing, markings on the floor, cleaning the bathroom after every use, scrub downs of studios, and sanitizer are all a part of the “indoor process” as well.

When being in person isn’t possible, online classes take place. Not to worry, as these classes are definitely different than just sitting in front of a screen. Students are up and moving; singing and dancing, and interacting while still doing so virtually. Unfortunately, one hiccup with technology being a large aspect of life now more than ever is when students have poor wifi. This might mean computer freezes while in class, or a slow uploading video speed for recorded rehearsals. It can also be difficult for younger children to work with technology in general.

A question many may be asking is, “How are performances being held?” Although theatres are closed and shows cannot be performed live, Marquee has come up with the solution of bringing their performance to life through film. With a bit of green screen and editing magic, students are able to lip-sync to the song, act, and dance in front of a green screen, to then have their separate recordings of them singing, edited into the video. When everything is put together, a full performance is created.

Some new faces have also become a part of Marquee during the pandemic, alongside many “regulars.” This could likely be due to the fact that kids want to find something to do, especially due to how the pandemic has affected normal life, as well as word of mouth from others. On the flip side, it is understandable that some people may not feel safe or comfortable during the pandemic to let their kids participate in outside of school activities.

At the end of the day, Marquee is taking all of the safety measures to make sure everyone is not only safe, but having fun as well. Remember that many activities and businesses are still open and available in the community even if it is a bit different nowadays. Get the word out to family and friends, and check some of them out for yourself!

Thank you for reading our first blog installment! We look forward to discussing Newmarket-Aurora arts and culture in subsequent posts. We encourage our community members to support local businesses, musicians, and artists while we continue to fight the virus. Below, we have chosen to highlight some incredibly talented local musicians. Give them a listen!

Local Artist Spotlight

Floral Park – From Newmarket

Yellow Magnolia – From Aurora

Lebella – From Newmarket

The Beresfords – From Aurora

BOY PAPE – Grew up in Aurora

Cigar Club – From Aurora and Newmarket

Blanks – From Toronto

Tony Van Bynen

Member of Parliament for

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