Sarnia’s Imperial Theatre is taking careful steps to welcome audiences back to the downtown live entertainment venue.
Tickets went on sale Friday for two shows next April by singer-songwriter Donovan Woods while the Sarnia-Lambton Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Business Achievement Awards will hold a hybrid event in the theatre Oct. 22, combining a live audience with a livestream of the awards presentation.
The 600-seat theatre, which is owned and run by Theatre Sarnia, closed to audiences when pandemic restrictions began more than a year ago, but the recent easing of restrictions is allowing it to make plans to reopen with smaller, socially distanced, audiences.
“We’re all buzzing,” said theatre executive director Brian Austin Jr. “It’s exciting to have a show on sale” and “to put a poster up in the window for the first time in 18 months.”
Woods, who grew up in Sarnia, will perform an acoustic set April 20 and with his full band April 21. Tickets are available online at www.imperialtheatre.net.
Woods sold out the theatre when he last appeared there in March 2019.
“He always does so well when he comes back home that we thought it would be neat to do two shows, just to show his range and show how good he is alone on the stage, and just how much energy he can bring with the band,” said Austin Jr.
The Imperial is preparing for a return to live entertainment in the late fall and into the new year, said Austin Jr.
“We’ll see how things go, but we’re preparing like we’re going to reopen and hopefully capacity limits will increase and we will be back to the races,” said Austin Jr.
With current social distancing, the theatre’s capacity is 246 seats. That allows it to sell pairs of seats, with nearby seats left vacant.
The theatre also has air purifiers and hand-sanitizing stations. Masks and proof of vaccination will be required.
“We are so excited to welcome people back to the building,” said Austin Jr.
The theatre has been using the time while shows have been halted to complete renovations, which include new washrooms, a new roof and an updated sound system, as well as new seats and other updates in the auditorium.
“We’re just putting the finishing touches on the bathrooms, which are stunning,” said Austin Jr. “It will be a rush to the finish line, but we wouldn’t want life to get boring.”
A successful monthly online 50-50 lottery has been helping with the cost of the renovations.
There are plans for a gala, just before the chamber awards, as the first reopening event if all of the renovations can be completed in time, said Austin Jr.
Theatre Sarnia is planning offer a partial season of community theatre, beginning early in 2022.
“We’ll be announcing that, probably, next week,” said Austin Jr. “We don’t really want to go full-throttle until we know we’re back because it’s just so much work to shut a show down.
“Once we get the train rolling, we don’t want to have to stop it.”