“I miss going to work and seeing three-dimensional people”

Two weeks into her new job as theatre manager, the curtain dropped and the house went dark.

June 25, 2020 | | Pandemic Journals

Sharyn Ayliffe spent one day in her new job as general manager of Theatre Orangeville before closing its doors.

Sharyn Ayliffe spent one day in her new job as general manager of Theatre Orangeville before closing its doors.

I’ve been with Theatre Orangeville for nearly a decade. During that time I’ve discovered an endless passion for the transformative experience of theatre, a place to call home in our thriving arts community, and professional ambitions that outshine any I’ve ever known.

When I recently competed successfully to become general manager of my hometown theatre, I was ecstatic and brimming with ideas. I felt on top of the world.

I officially started on March 2. Eleven days later we opened the world premiere of Too Close to Home, even as Premier Ford was announcing the restriction of public gatherings over 250 people. The next day, with the guidance of public health and the Town of Orangeville, we closed the theatre indefinitely. We were among the first businesses to close our doors and, along with countless other live performance venues, will be among the last to return to “business as usual.”

Very quickly my life became all about Zoom meetings, contingency plans, what ifs and what thens. I’ve been learning to balance working from home alongside my wife (who is in the same boat), while we simultaneously attempt to acquire a Grade 4 education (we thought we already had that!) so we could assist our son through online learning. We’ve expanded the garden, painted the doors, made bread and cinnamon buns, even tried our hand at doughnuts. We’re doing our best to reassure our kiddo (and ourselves) that everything is going to be okay.

I miss time spent with family and friends. I miss going to work and seeing three-dimensional people (although I’m incredibly proud of the two-dimensional versions I see on my screen every day, who are working diligently to continue to spread joy through our community). I miss producing theatre and welcoming audiences into the Opera House. Not knowing when we will next be able to gather our patrons, staff, artists and volunteers again to share in the familiar art of storytelling is still unfathomable to me.

All that to say I feel incredibly fortunate, when so many others are struggling. My family is healthy and I’ve witnessed such kindness and generosity in our community, especially from our patrons who have shown the theatre such support during these unprecedented times. Despite all the unrest in the world, there are so many people and businesses going out of their way to help others and do good. It’s these stories I hope we can continue to share until we can return to life as we once knew it. There’s a long road ahead, but the show will go on… eventually.

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