BLYTH, ONT. -- Gil Garratt gazes fondly out on the converted soccer field that will be where the Blyth Festival stages its plays this summer.

“We are building an incredible outdoor stage. This will not just be a way for us to survive the current pandemic, but also a way for us to build into the future,” says the Blyth Festival’s artistic director.

Work began on the outdoor stage, located in the Blyth campgrounds, last week. It’s expected to be completed by the end of July, with performances to begin as early as Aug. 9-10.

At least that’s the hope.

“There’s still a lot of question marks. We don’t know yet what size of audience we can welcome. We don’t know yet the timelines on when those kinds of decisions will be made. So, there’s a lot of guessing going on at this point. But, I feel like a lot of it is more educated guessing than we were doing a year ago,” says Garratt.

That indecision is apparent in Stratford, as well. Like the Blyth Festival, the Stratford Festival is planning for outdoor performances, to try to make up for losing the entirety of the 2020 campaign.

“We’re concerned we may be looking at a way smaller season in terms of allowable capacity. Anywhere from 25 to 100 per show, and that’s a far cry from the 7,000 seats would usually be able to sell on a regular day on a regular season,” says Antoni Cimolino, the Stratford Festival’s artistic director.

One thing both Garratt and Cimolino agree on, is that the 2021 season must go forward, because patrons are telling them they are craving the “feel” and “intimacy” of live theatre.

“You just can’t get that feeling from your streaming service or TV at home. It just doesn’t cut it. Folks are so hungry for it. So, I think this will be a chance for us to revitalize,” Garratt says.

Garratt expects Blyth’s outdoor season to last from early Auguest to early October.

The outdoor stage will be permanent. Garratt envisions staging both indoor and outdoor plays in Blyth in the coming years.

In Stratford, with fewer patrons in attendance than usual this summer, the Stratford Festival will be filming their 2021 plays for people to watch from home.