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Safe, outdoor, ‘inspired’ shows were a sensation in Europe

TORONTO January 14, 2021 – Following sold-out shows and rave reviews in London and Paris, C-O-N-T-A-C-T – a revolutionary experience that marries mobile technology and drama into a COVID-safeguarded performance – is scheduled to make its North American debut in Toronto in March.

The Downtown Yonge BIA is partnering with the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre to bring the much-lauded production to Toronto. A ground-breaking Canadian innovation is that C-O-N-T-A-C-T will be available simultaneously in multiple languages, spotlighting Canada’s cultural mosaic.

“Live and in person – just the words bring a spark of joy at a time when we all need something to look forward to,” says Downtown Yonge Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director Mark Garner. “We are thrilled to present this show, which safely enables a return to in-person performances and provides a much-needed boost to our local economy.”

Described by The Guardian in the U.K. as “an inspired piece of theatre” and “an inventive solution to the continued closure of most [playhouses],” the Toronto C-O-N-T-A-C-T shows will feature the original London production with a Canadian cast.

Entirely outdoors, the audience follows the cast along downtown streets. The performers do not speak – audio is synced with the action and played through a mobile app, enabling the audience to feel like they are reading minds, hearing the actors’ inner thoughts as the story unfolds.

“Conceived during COVID-19, C-O-N-T-A-C-T both overcomes the physical restrictions of the pandemic and addresses its emotional themes, such as the challenges of isolation and the human need to connect,” says original U.K. producer Katy Lipson. “We are thrilled to be sharing this breathtaking experience across the pond with a North American run premiering in Toronto.”

Toronto performances are scheduled to start March 9, 2021 for a 6-week limited run, with six daily performances Thursday-Sunday, two on Mondays and Tuesdays, and four on Wednesdays.

Tickets are available at  Purchasers choose a specific time slot, and will receive their tickets and the link to download the app with instructions on where to go and what to do. (Tickets will be easy to exchange if necessary, recognizing the evolving situation around pandemic restrictions.)

To enhance the experience and support local businesses, take-out meals from participating restaurants may be added to the ticket purchase.

“Virtual performances have sustained theatre-lovers during the pandemic, and we are delighted to take the next step and present in-person shows again,” says Beth Hanna, CEO of Ontario Heritage Trust (Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre). “This is great news for people craving live entertainment, and also supports the performers, arts workers and others in the arts community hard hit by the lockdowns.”

Designed specifically to ensure safety and follow public health guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, precautions include a maximum of 20 people at each performance, guided by staff to keep socially-distanced space as they follow the performers along the street. Everyone – including the actors – wears masks.

Notably, not a single COVID-19 infection has been traced back to the hundreds of C-O-N-T-A-C-T performances in London, Paris and other European cities.

The story:  In a world where social distancing is the norm, Sarah is approached in the street by a stranger passing by, who turns out to be much more than he seems. Over 45 minutes, Sarah’s life will be forever changed by this extraordinary moment of C-O-N-T-A-C-T. A beautiful story of love, loss, catharsis, and redemption.

“We were driven by the need to reconnect with our profession and with the audience,” says C-O-N-T-A-C-T creator and director Samuel Sené. “We wanted to offer an artistic encounter even in the current health context, therefore we have imagined this tailored theatrical experience. To be able to share this feeling again, the one we only feel with live performance. To reunite with Theatre.”

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