The iconic Lyric Theatre in Swift Current has started a fundraising initiative to keep going through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kiwanis Club of Swift Current helped the Lyric Theatre to kickstart this fundraising drive with a donation of $2,000.
Stew Tasche and Darcy Schott, the co-chairs of the club’s community services committee, presented the cheque to Lyric Theatre Artistic and Executive Director Gordon McCall, June 9.
“We have a youth services committee that deals with funding youth projects in the city, and a lot of those funding projects have been cancelled because of COVID,” Tasche said. “There was some extra money and we were looking for organizations in the city that might be having financial difficulty, and the Lyric was one of those that we identified.”
The Lyric Theatre is an important venue in the community for programs aimed at youth, and the Kiwanis Club therefore wanted to support the organization.
“This place offers so much for kids,” he said. “The Merry Munsch program at Christmas time, they have youth talent stage, they've got so many things they offer for kids and so if the theatre isn't here, that comes right out of things that can be dedicated to kids afterwards from the Lyric Theatre. This hopefully will give everybody a chance to get this place back open when the regulations actually allow it to be open.”
McCall felt the donation from the Kiwanis Club was a wonderful start to this fundraising imitative by the Lyric Theatre.
“We want to use this as kind of a foundation donation to start a larger fundraising campaign for the theatre, particularly because none of us know in the performing arts when we can open again,” he said.
The public health restrictions during the pandemic have a dramatic impact on venues that bring people together to celebrate the arts. The Lyric Theatre has been closed since March 14, and McCall said it will require careful planning to reopen the theatre.
There will be many factors that the organization will have to consider beyond the guidelines provided by the provincial government for businesses to resume activities during the different phases of the reopening of the Saskatchewan economy.
“Regardless of what the government says when we can do something, there's audience expectation of am I secure to go into that facility,” he mentioned. “Then there's social distancing guidelines that we have to adhere to, which are new. The other thing is, unless we can get a critical mass of people into the theatre, we can't possibly break even.”
He noted the size of indoor gatherings to be allowed under phase four of the provincial reopening plan will present a challenge to the Lyric Theatre.
“Stage four allows 30 people in a space, and for most of our events, I'm going to say for 80 per cent of them at least, maybe 90 per cent, we couldn't possibly break even,” he said. “So until we get to be able to open up fully, we'll be in need of funds simply to sustain ourselves.”
The Lyric Theatre has already taken various steps to drastically reduce expenses. The furnaces are shut down and staff members have been laid off. McCall is currently the theatre’s only employee, and 75 per cent of his salary is subsidized through the federal government’s emergency wage subsidy. However, there are still expenses that cannot be avoided.
“We have mortgage payments, we have taxes, we have everything that you need to just maintain the building,” he said. “Then there's cost in terms of telephone. We're obviously using the telephone extensively, and our wifi and things. So when you add it up, it still becomes quite a bit of money per month.”
There will also be start-up expenses that the organization will have to incur when the theatre is able to reopen again. These will vary from marketing expenses to re-hiring staff.
“So we're hoping that this will allow us to generate some funds over the next few months that can keep us open,” he said about the new fundraising initiative.
The community has already showed support for the Lyric Theater with over $2,000 in donations in response to appeals made during the online Lyric Digital Stage programs.
“That's part of this fundraising campaign, and we really thank the community, because they've stepped up and we all love this theatre,” he said. “I want the community to know, if they don't know already, that we're doing everything we can think of to try to sustain operations here.”
For the moment there is not a specific fundraising goal, because it will depend on when the theatre will likely be able to reopen.
“We're trying to determine possible start dates,” he said. “So the fundraising wouldn't just go to the start date. It would have to go somewhat beyond it, because we don't have any revenue. We have to generate the revenue. … I think we will announce a target at some point here relatively soon, so we all got something to shoot for.”
McCall believes the Lyric Theatre can play an important role to raise the spirits of the community in the post-pandemic era.
“I think it's actually a very wonderful, noble undertaking to be a part of, to say that actually performing arts organizations like ours can reflect the spirit of a community and inspire the spirit of a community,” he noted. “One thing we all love about the Lyric is this is a gathering place for the community, and we're very proud of that.”
He wants to call the Lyric Theatre’s first season after the pandemic the sunshine season to symbolically reflect the shining of the sun after the dark storm clouds have disappeared.
“That's how we're envisioning being a part of reviving the spirit of the community and I imagine there will be quite a hunger, a pent-up want to be back to the Lyric and we're really excited about that,” he said. “So we want to be so prepared that nobody has to give a second thought, just come in and celebrate. That's what we're thinking.”
In the meantime, the Lyric Theatre has launched an online Digital Stage to present some of the theatre’s core programming in a digital format on YouTube to viewers. There has been a positive response to this initiative.
“A lot of people have contacted us and said that it is contributing to them feeling better in the community, because this is such a community connection,” he said. “The performers are all members of our community pretty much, or they're from Saskatchewan. So it's a wonderful way to see other people at home, social distancing, recording themselves, sending it in, and then we share several of these videos. There's kind of a common bond there that people are feeling very good about.”
Financial donations in support of the Lyric Theatre can be made by sending a cheque or money order to The Lyric Theatre, P.O. Box 1143, Swift Current, S9H 3X3, or by sending an e-transfers to: email@example.com