Since its opening in October 6, 1962, the Guild Theatre has been a core feature in East London’s cultural sphere.
However, like most other local institutions, the theatre has been hit hard by Covid-19 as the ongoing national lockdown puts serious strain on finances.
“We’re a Section 21 non-profit with a board of directors. We get an annual subsidy from the department of sport, recreation, arts and culture (Dsrac) [but] it barely covers our electricity bill,” said theatre manager Zane Flanagan.
“We rely on individuals booking the space, paying the theatre rental and commission on tickets in order to survive.”
Since lockdown restrictions forbid live audiences, this denied the theatre a much-needed source of revenue.
This doesn’t mean the Guild has been shut for the last few months, though.
Despite lockdown, they have continued to host performances, although they have had to make a big switch to online.
The most notable example of this was probably the Buffalo City Lockdown Series.
As reported by the Daily Dispatch, the 10-episode series saw artists from the Buffalo City Performing Arts Council (BCPAC) recording shows at the Guild which were then aired every week starting June 18.
While the Guild has been allowed to allow audiences back in but is limited to 50% capacity, or 249 people, under Level 1 restrictions, Flanagan believes that theatres must still make an effort to incorporate online streaming into future performances.
“I think the opportunity has now arisen with Covid-19 [to move online]. That’s definitely the way to go,” he said.
As an example, he pointed to their recent Restoration of Jazz fundraising concert last Saturday, which featured a live audience while also being streamed on the theatre’s Facebook page.
At the same time, Flanagan believes there will always be a demand for viewing shows in person.
“It’s been difficult, but we’ll survive,” he said.