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COVID puts tourism, theater season in Niagara-on-the-Lake on hold

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It's spring in Ontario's Niagara-on-the-Lake, usually a time when the flow of tourist buses increases, hotel reservations flow and the performers of the Shaw Festival move quickly between rehearsals and the first preview performances of the 2020 season. Except, they aren't, with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The new startup date for the Shaw is now June 30. The original plan was that Momma Rose of "Gypsy" and the tangled farce of "Charley's Aunt" would be on stage right now.
 
Artistic Director Tim Carroll knows that well, since he is the director of "Charley's Aunt." Instead, he's working on future seasons, reading scripts and seeing company members around town. He is also rehearsing his "Flush" on Zoom. 

"It's a funny time. This is my fourth season we were about to start," Carroll said. "We were looking to make a really big leap forward."

Carroll said it has been eerie walking around town and seeing the normally-bustling town's shops, hotels and restaurants empty. He said performers, technical experts and musicians are ready since he sees them every day, also waiting for the lifting of the quarantine and the return to the stage and the festival season.

"It's certainly very hard to watch all the shops with nobody going into them and see the impact on the town. We've always known that the Shaw Festival was a big part of the local economy and it really does make us feel like as soon as people have the confidence to come out and gather again, we want to be here ready for them."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.