So who are we? Who is the Segal Centre? We are the largest not-for-profit English theatre in Montreal, with an operating budget of $6 million and 35 full-time staff. We have a very large endowment, which we're so proud to have built up, of $28 million and counting.
Prior to the pandemic, we were a wonderful developer of new musicals: Belles-sœurs: The Musical, which was headed to Broadway; Mythic, which was headed into the Mirvish season; and Piaf Dietreich (The Angel and the Sparrow), in Montreal, was a best-selling production for Mirvish and was headed to England. We were just on the rise.
Of course, then COVID happened. We laid off a ton of people.
Oh, and we also just won the prix du jury from the Conseil des arts de Montréal for our indigenous musical Children of God with Urban Ink.
Things were looking great. Fast-forward, and of course we had to cancel everything. We did a lot online. We shifted. We're just in the middle of rehearsing for Underneath the Lintel, a co-production with Théâtre du Nouveau Monde and the National Arts Centre that was scheduled to be live, in person, beginning next week. We're moving that onto livestream now.
What is the good? The good in all this is that culture is needed more than ever. We know this. Artists are resilient. We're continuing our mission of bringing people together.
As far as our institution goes, it's interesting what UDA was saying, but we're okay. Thank goodness we have the tremendous support of our public funding bodies. We have the support. We have these top-ups. We have these incentives. We have the wage subsidy. Thank goodness for all of this to help our employees.
Okay, but why are we here? What can I tell you? The industry is obviously crumbling, as are people's entire careers. They're leaving the business. Different provinces have different trajectories and visibilities. In Quebec in particular, we've been yo-yoed around. Even though we recognize that everybody is doing the best they can, we're still at the mercy of public health.
In the interest of time, I'll give you the top five things, and one for good luck, of how you can help.
Number one is insurance. Theatre is a front-loaded investment. People look at us as the show, but before the show, there is concept, creation, development, production and then presentation. It's interesting; Telefilm and Heritage have come up with a wonderful plan to insure film sets. Theatres need something similar. To continuously hire people with the hope that they're going to perform, only to shut them down on opening night—it just can't continue to happen. On top of that, it means forcing us to do modest productions, one-person shows, because if someone gets a sniffle, we have to cancel the whole thing. We just can't take on the risk. So that's insurance.
Two is recognizing the length of time, the timelines. Even though we're getting this great support now, our concern is really in the recovery period. What happens when all of this support goes away and we will be in a state of recovery probably two or three years out?
Three, we need you to stand up for us. There is a distortion that theatre is like a rock concert. But with reduced seating, with the safety measures we have put in, theatre—trust me, I was in a Winners lineup yesterday—is a very safe place to be, especially with the tremendous effort we've put into all of the safety protocols. When we hear messages from the government that theatres can't open but bars and restaurants can, it gives the false perception that our workspaces aren't safe and that we can't go on and conduct business.
Four, remember that live doesn't mean digital. It's a tool for access. We have all pivoted to online, but it is not a replacement for live theatre.
Five, keep these subsidies going as long as possible, but we also need programs to offer incentives for the production chain, as I was mentioning before, for the development, and not a focus on just the show. In these times, it's too hard to say we can have a show; we need the investment so that we can give the money to the artists, the expectations are managed, and we can plan for the recovery.
Those are my top five. My one for good luck is along the same lines as that of our colleague here at Orford. It is our infrastructure and our need for renovations. The Segal Centre embarked on a renovations project in 2015. We were granted funding for phase one in 2017 because our roof was falling down. In 2018, we got our accord de principe from the ministre de la Culture et des Communications, which led us to apply to Heritage. We were able to hire a project manager and get going on the completion of our renovations.
The elapsed time forced us to re-budget and re-analyze. We are now in a holding pattern with crumbling windows, crumbling stonework and 30-year-old seats. Wouldn't it be wonderful for us to be able to renovate during the shutdown? That is the greatest gift we could have—having been planning these renovations since 2015 and waiting for the funding to come through—so that we can come back with a strong organization and give people a reason to come back, with our infrastructure.
Thank you very much for having me. I hope that was clear.