The Illawarra Performing Arts Centre has been a ghost town the past few months, with only a single glimmer of light in its two main theatres. But that will change come mid-September.
Known as a "ghost light", the age-old tradition involves placing a light on the theatre stage when it's unoccupied - in this case, in the IMB and Bruce Gordon theatres.
The once vibrant cultural hub for Wollongong has been left empty, void of patrons and performers, since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
We don't believe in business in usual ... it's not the goal and likely to be impossible for some years in our industry.Simon Hinton
Merrigong Theatre Company director Simon Hinton told the Mercury their doors will reopen from September 11 and include improvised comedy, a world premiere for a circus work and the latest installment of a popular children's series.
Their venues (including The Music Lounge and Wollongong Town Hall) will only open for limited events, with limited capacity due to pandemic restrictions, but it will be "exciting and re-energising".
"We don't believe in business in usual ... it's not the goal and likely to be impossible for some years in our industry," Mr Hinton said.
He said the generosity of patrons donating more than $30,000 to the not-for-profit entity, and government incentives like JobKeeper, had given them confidence to raise the curtains again.
However, the way people engage with the theatre and what Merrigong can offer will look very different.
Expect a stronger digital presence, an increase in locally commissioned works, a diverse range of stories so to represent all facets of the community while access will be increased to bring the arts to everyone.
"It's a time around the world where this crisis has really highlighted some problems in society and in the arts sector as well," Mr Hinton said.
"Everything from diversity to systemic racism to equity of access and flexible working conditions."
Since pandemic restrictions forced their closure, hundreds of shows have had to be cancelled and the company is still looking at a downturn of more than $3 million in their annual turnover.
Among the handful of events confirmed at IPAC are improvised fun with the Comedy Olympicson September 11, Music in the Morning - String Along with Hollywood Classics on September 14, the world-premiere of Circa's new contemporary circus work, Sacre (Sacred) running October 15 to 17 and for the littlies,The 91-Storey Treehouse from November 18 to 19.
For more information visit: www.merrigong.com.au
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