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Expect the Extraordinary fundraising gala will remain virtual in 2021

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An upcoming fundraiser for Performing Arts Lodge (PAL) Stratford will be pre-recorded again this year, organizers have announced, but this time, supporters will have more than one opportunity to catch the popular cabaret-style concert online.

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The local charity’s annual Expect the Extraordinary fundraiser will be available virtually over four days beginning Sept. 20. Arlene Jillard, the event’s chairperson and a member of PAL Stratford’s board of directors, said this year’s show, titled Stronger Together, will celebrate the resilience of the arts community and, as usual, feature a variety of Canadian artists including many current and past members of the Stratford Festival.

“While we prefer our much-loved annual live performance and look forward to a return to the theatres next year, we view this as a celebration of gratitude for community and the arts in spite of a global pandemic,” she said. “We are grateful for the depth of our local arts community, we are grateful for our artists, we are grateful for the donors and volunteers who keep us going, and we are grateful for art.”

Although live entertainment is beginning to make a return under the province’s current public health guidelines, Jillard said moving the show back indoors this year wasn’t possible. 

“The cleaning and sanitation that would be involved is really enormous, and the costs would be prohibitive,” she said. “There isn’t an outdoor venue that would allow us the ticket revenue that we hope to gain, the ticket revenue that we really need to support our work. It just seemed that this year we needed to … go with the best option available to us.”

The annual event is critical for PAL Stratford, Jillard added. The organization provides affordable housing and support services to members of Canada’s professional arts community who are 55 years and older and need assistance due to their age, income or disability.

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Over the past seven years or so, the charity has been able to raise enough money to pay off the mortgage at their affordable housing building on Brunswick Street. But demand is still high, Jillard said, and the charity’s board is discussing how to best address a growing waiting list for their services.

“Volunteers do things like grocery shopping, light housekeeping, anything that will help an artist live independently on their own home for a longer period of time,” she said. “It’s been difficult during (the pandemic) to offer some of these services but we have still managed and our work has carried on. We know that there’s a need for this affordable housing and for it to be accessible and we are looking at our options in the future to come up with some sort of solution.”

Last year’s fundraiser included 27 actors, artists, dancers, musicians and more. 

Jillard confirmed Thursday that dancer Colton Curtis and his partner, singer Aaron Hastelow, will be part of this year’s program.

More lineup announcements are expected over the coming  weeks. 

cmontanini@postmedia.com

IF YOU GO

What: Stronger Together, a virtual fundraising concert supporting Performing Arts Lodge Stratford
When: Opening night is Monday Sept. 20th at 8 p.m; the show will be available online until Thursday Sept. 23 at midnight.
Where: Online
Tickets: $60 per household; $30 for arts workers.
More info:palstratford.org/ete

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