The curtain goes back up

The revitalized Grand Theatre is planning to launch its comeback this October with a 16-day art festival

THE SHOW — ALBEIT with an 18-month unplanned intermission and significant renovations — must go on at the Grand Theatre, which announced on Thursday the green light for its 2021-2022 season, which they say will be a “joyous celebration of new spaces and new voices.”

The grand reopening of the popular downtown theatre is slated for this October, starting with the aptly named Grand Re:Opening Festival, which features four local artists’ creations over 16 days, promising “multi-layered events that will take many forms, from concerts to art installations, from readings to new plays and more,” the theatre announced.

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“Throughout the last 16 months, we’ve said that we will be back, that the theatre will return, and when we do, we will be even better than before,” says Deb Harvey, executive director, in a release. “We can hardly wait to welcome Londoners into the gorgeous space we have created, both inside and out.”

But it won’t exactly be the same Grand Theatre you might remember, following a $9-million renovation project was launched last summer that will see the stage replaced, as well as renovations to the entrance, box office and bars.

Photos: A $9-million renovation includes work on the stage, box office, entrance and bars

“We have these beautiful, newly renovated spaces — clean and open canvasses — and so we’ve invited these four local artists to come and play in our sandbox,” says festival director, Megan Watson. “Come and make art. Come celebrate with us. We’re delighted to be working with them and seeing how they’ll fill the grand with their brilliance.”

On top of the reopening festival, the Grand is planning for a significant slate of productions through 2021 and 2022. Among them, the stage production of Room, based on the novel by Emma Donoghue (which had its opening night snatched away by the pandemic last March, ad which ran for only three previews), will run next January, while the holiday production of Annie has been pushed to December 2022. This year’s holiday season will feature a new show called Home for the Holidays, created by the Grand’s artistic director, Dennis Garnhum. Other popular features, like the Jeans ’n Classics series or the High School Project (a program for high school students interested in theatre) will return in abridged or modified formats over the next couple years.

For now, some of the exact details — tickets, capacity, mask rules and so on — still need to be hammered out and will depend on public health guidelines and local health restrictions.

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“We are learning from our colleagues across North America in terms of best practices for reopening,” says Harvey. “The health and safety of our staff, artists, volunteers and patrons have always been our top priority, and we are committing to clear communication for Londoners on what to expect once we are given the go-ahead to invite folks into our spaces.

“For the past several months, the construction hoarding outside of the Grand has read, ‘The Arts Will Lift Us Up,’” Harvey says. “As a staff team, we have been lifted time and time again by the generosity of our extended Grand family of staff, artists, volunteers, patrons donors, sponsors and community partners.”

“Now, it’s our turn to lift London up as we get ready to open the doors to this incredible new space full of rich and diverse programming,” adds Garnhum. “We have missed seeing you, working with you, creating with you and celebrating with you.” The curtain goes back up Grand Theatre Arts & Entertainment Kieran Delamont

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