Dekker Centre for the Performing Arts General Manager Kali Weber appeared at North Battleford city council Monday night (conducted on ZOOM) where she outlined the re-opening operational plan for the facility.
The facility shut down back in March and scheduled performances and events were postponed or cancelled. After the province gave the green light in June for theatres to re-open to a maximum of 150 people, the Dekker Centre started planning to resume operations.
Weber told council that on Aug. 20 she and the board of directors gave the OK to transition to re-open the Dekker Centre. Their technical director was re-hired and along with Weber they developed the plan presented to council Monday. The plan is described by Weber as a “working document” based on “six months of learning and researching everything we can” about how to safely re-open.
Among the highlights of Weber’s presentation are the following:
Permanent glass has been installed on the box office window to provide a barrier to the public, and reusable masks are being provided to all staff and volunteers.
There will be vinyl markers and tape on the floor that will need to be purchased.
For cleaning, all touch surfaces will be sanitized every two hours; cleaning and sanitizing will also take place between every customer interaction at the box office.
Seat and upholstery cleaning will happen before and after each show and or event, with fogging to be used for the cleaning of seats and upholstery.
The box office will be open Tuesdays through Thursdays over the phone from noon to 4 p.m. On Wednesdays, it will also be open in person during that same time. Weber says box office hours will be adjusted as needed.
The Dekker Centre will have two full-time staff this fall — the general manager and technical director — while the administrative assistant will be there part-time for five hours a week. For shows, part-time casual and contracted staff will be brought in. There will be two technicians per show.
A mask policy will be in place, and all staff and volunteers will have to wear a mask on site. Patrons will also need to wear a mask, except when seated and physically distanced in the theatre and when consuming a beverage at the bar.
The reason for the mask requirement, said Weber, is because they cannot guarantee physical distancing of two metres at all. Masks for sale will include regular masks and also Dekker Centre-branded masks.
Theatre entry will consist of contactless entry with ticket scanners; ushers will guide patrons when to enter and exit to ensure physical distancing.
The theatre will operate at reduced capacity of 111 patrons. The plan is to currently present only Saskatchewan artists, with plans to present three shows in the fall of 2020.
Weber indicated that going into 2021 they will continue to budget for one show per month. There are confirmed shows currently for October, November and December.
Regarding those shows, the Dekker Centre is cutting down the amount of time patrons can be in the building. The building will open 45 minutes prior to show with patrons entering and exiting through designated doors with hand sanitizers set up.
Additional hand sanitizer stations are to be set up at each entry point including at the main entrance, Lawrence Hall, and the theatre itself.
There will also be contact-less entry, with new ticket scanners or additional devices used for scanning tickets.
Going in, patrons will need to fill out a COVID-19 screening form, provide contact information for contact tracing and purchase a mask if they did not wear one going in.
Bar service is to be in Lawrence Hall with a maximum capacity of 28 patrons, with tables to be physically distanced throughout the space.
After the show patrons will be encouraged to exit the atrium and not congregate, and new ushers will be needed for that. There will be no merchandise sales and no artist meet-and-greets for the foreseeable future.
In response to Weber’s presentation Mayor Ryan Bater emphasized that the situation is “quite fluid.”
“We work under the public health orders that are provided under the Public Health Authority and the Ministry of Health,” said Bater. He called it “encouraging to see that the Dekker Centre is planning live performances again.”
Weber was asked about profit and loss for the three shows coming up. She said there is a cap on artist guarantees and costs have been cut down for marketing and for artist hospitality including food and accommodations. It was noted the show margins were small — Weber said show expenses are estimated around $5,500 each with potential revenue of $5,800- $5,900.
For cash flow, Weber said the Dekker Centre was in a good position — in March they “cut down every expense we could.”
Results of the online survey conducted this summer on readiness to return to the theatre were also revealed. Weber said there were 292 respondents, and over 150 indicated they were comfortable attending a show between September and December.
“We do feel confident moving forward with our choice of programming, and with our health and safety plan, our re-open plan, that people will feel safe and comfortable and that we have done everything we can to budget appropriately,” said Weber.
Weber also said the Dekker Centre board is also looking at ways to cover an estimated $7000 in COVID-19 related expenses by the end of June.
As for details on those shows in the fall season, Weber said the fall series lineup will be announced next Monday.