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Closures, cancellations and delays as arts organizations take it on the chin
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Closures, cancellations and delays as arts organizations take it on the chin

This newsletter was launched in November amid a rush of optimism. Live performances were back! Concert halls were filled! Galleries buzzed with conversation!

What a difference a month makes. As the Omicron variant sweeps through the province, arts organizations are taking it on the chin once again.

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra announced this week that its Jan. 15 Haydn, Mozart & Copland concert and its Jan. 16 kids concert, Jack and the Beanstalk, would both be cancelled, owing to the rapid spread of COVID-19.

Winnipeg Jewish Theatre has bumped its upcoming production of Queens Girl in the World, by Caleen Sinnette Jennings, set for the Berney Theatre Feb. 5-13. The show will now be performed as part of an outdoor summer season with The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk.

Other organizations took public health into account and made the proactive decision to shut down last month. The Manitoba Museum announced Dec. 27 that it would be closed until further notice, offering a selection of virtual events via its Pyjama Days @ Home programming, which runs to Jan. 9. 

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. (John Woods / The Canadian Press files)

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights closed on Christmas Eve, with plans to reopen on Jan. 11 contingent upon public health updates.

Even during the initial thrill of reopening, arts organizations acted with an abundance of caution to keep patrons and staff safe. Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre kept its run of Orlando at 50 per cent capacity, as did Prairie Theatre Exchange for The War Being Waged, despite public health orders that would have allowed them to operate with a full (vaccinated, masked) house. Theatre Projects went one better, offering In Time, an innovative work that allowed for one-on-one performances via staggered viewings.

This unwillingness to be the canary in the coalmine when it came to the spread of infection is to be lauded. As we’ve noted repeatedly, “First to close, last to reopen” has been the arts world’s unfortunate mantra — seasons can’t be easily shifted or rescheduled, touring acts are at the mercy of travel restrictions, entire shows can be scuttled with one positive case — and yet venues have consistently put their audiences ahead of their bottom line.

We can and should applaud their efforts, but applause doesn’t pay the bills. If you’re the kind of person who’s been tipping restaurant servers extravagantly during this perilous time, consider making a donation to your favourite arts group.

When shows are cancelled, if you have the means, consider donating the cost of your ticket back to the organization for a tax receipt. Buy an album or donate to a band’s Bandcamp. Buy a book. If you feel safe to do so, visit a gallery (there’s a pretty cool Buffy Sainte-Marie exhibition on now at Urban Shaman; Pathfinder features the Oscar-winning songwriter’s “digital tapestries” — contact info@urbanshaman.org or call 204-942-2674 to set up a time to visit).

The pandemic has reminded us all how ephemeral many of our pleasures are, but there are tangible ways to show our appreciation to those who provide them.

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

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The two seasons of the 2017-18 show, in which the real-life buddies play partners in a once-Mad Men-esque ad agency that now makes low-budget spots for the Hot Tub King of Detroit and the like, is streaming on Crave and I’m rationing the last few.

Produced by Lorne Williams and Jason Sudeikis, it has some of the latter’s Ted Lasso-ish sensibility in its approach to male friendship, but with way more weirdness, shenanigans, misplaced aggression, beer in boots and Motor City shout-outs.

Bonus for Winnipeggers of a certain age: Mort Crim, the longtime WDIV news anchor who was beamed into our homes via Detroit’s NBC newsfeed in the ‘90s, plays himself.

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Movies: I love movies, and I love movie reviews almost as much. As the number of outlets attempting serious film criticism dwindles daily, I’ve been greatly enjoying The Reveal, a new project from Scott Tobias and Keith Philpps, previously of the AV Club.

The newsletter includes feature and capsule reviews, as well as in-depth conversations between the two (a recent three-parter saw them discussing different Macbeth adaptations leading up to the release of Joel Coen’s take on the Scottish Play, starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand.)

Love it or hate it (I’m in the middle somewhere), director Adam McKay’s Netflix satire Don’t Look Up is a talker. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence play scientists trying to convince a cynical president (Meryl Streep) that a deadly comet (a clear metaphor for climate change) is on a collision course with Earth.

Come for the all-too-familiar sense of impending doom and widespread idiocy, stay for Mark Rylance’s astonishing dentures. Or don’t.

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