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Calgary’s Storybook Theatre hit by temporary shut down, break-in

Calgary’s Storybook Theatre is struggling.

Still, they’re hoping the sun will come out tomorrow.

When COVID hit, they had to pivot their work very quickly, like other Calgary theatre groups.  They recently announced an upcoming season that’s completely online.

That means they bring together a cast and creative team to rehearse and put on a theatre production. They film it live to stream.

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Storybook Theatre is a mix of professional and community. They hire professional directors and team members, but the cast are volunteers.

Their first production was Spring Awakening. Now the company is working on the hit musical Annie.

The company was halfway through filming when they were put on hold.

Alberta Health Services is deciding if Storybook falls under the exemption of professional theatre company continuing to do their work as a film.

The group was dealt another blow when their theatre at the Beddington Arts Community Centre was broken into. It happened a week before they started filming Annie.

“We’re not really sure how they got in,” said JP Thibodeau, Artistic Director of Storybook Theatre.

“We know they got in and all our props and equipment that was backstage, including computers and iPads, were taken.”

It meant a whole lot of work for the prop designer to rebuild everything. Annie’s not a small show, either. But, the company was ready to bounce back.

“We’ll just figure it out and keep going. Because we’ve been pivoting and shifting to make everything work,” Thibodeau said.

Artistic director, JP Thibodeau. CONTRIBUTED

Constant shifting, adapting

The ongoing change is taking its toll on the small company. Storybook looks like a big operation on the outside, but it’s a staff of two: Thibodeau and another staff member who does office administration and accounting.

The rehearsals and safety measures that the company is taking on are immense to provide performance opportunities for youth.

Last year, Storybook Theatre’s Christmas production had 10,000 audience members. Their first live-streamed theatre production sold 200 tickets.

They’re trying to create value for viewers amid the pandemic, when they’ve become accustomed to providing that value in-person. It’s been a grind.

Like other Calgary theatre groups, they’re hanging on by a thread.

“I can’t honestly say that Storybook Theatre will survive if this pandemic last too much longer,” Thibodeau said.

Tickets for the production of Annie can be found on Storybook Theatre’s website.