By Elisha Chan, January 16 2021—
During a period where it feels like the curtains have closed on a chance to feel safe outside our homes, the StoryBook Theatre is attempting to open its curtains, in hopes to bring joy and inspiration for a better tomorrow.
The StoryBook Theatre was originally established in 1977 by Ellie Times, a Calgary school teacher. What started as a group of colleagues passionately writing plays around a dining table, flourished into an astounding non-profit organization that is Canada’s largest volunteer-driven theatre for young audiences. In addition to hosting productions, StoryBook Theatre provides accessible theatre programming for inspired youth and families to explore and learn from industry professionals.
Even though a pandemic is among us, this will not stop the spirited artists at StoryBook Theatre. They are eager to announce their online performance of Annie The Musical, which will be shown now until Jan. 30. The heart-warming story of Annie, an orphan abandoned on the steps of the New York City Orphanage, is a family-friendly production telling the tale of a tenacious young girl as she finds her way through NYC. Little did she know the adventures that awaited her would end with finding a new home amongst billionaire Oliver Warbucks and her trusty mutt Sandy.
After speaking with the Gauntlet, artistic director JP Thibodeau divulged that the choice for Annie to be the seasonal show was made pre-pandemic craze. Only with the onset of COVID-19 did StoryBook Theatre realize that the mantra of the show, “the sun will come out tomorrow,” reached beyond the surface level of just an ordinary theatre production. It became a reminder that things will get better.
Thibodeau described the focus of theatre to be “bringing the community together” and “to feel a part of something.” This is especially prevalent right now with increased COVID-19 restrictions. People are becoming isolated and feel trapped in their own home. The StoryBook Theatre wishes to engage their audience beyond the pandemic and the woes of everyday life, and instead, to live an afternoon or evening in blissful artistic creativity.
Thibodeau recognized that when people think of theatre, they think “live and together.” It can be hard to understand the value of online production compared to streaming services, such as Netflix. Therefore, to continue building and maintaining their community, Thibodeau ensures that the online production will be immersive and presented in a unique way that the audience might not expect.
As our current world faces unrest, in the forms of bullying, politics and economics. It seems harder to remember to give and be kind to those around us. Everyone is faced with a challenge in some way or another, and even though you may not know their story, we can all afford to be a little more understanding. StoryBook Theatre hopes to bring people together and remind us that the sun will come out tomorrow. If you are looking for a COVID-19 safe activity and to support a good cause, consider giving back to the arts community and catching Annie The Musical online until Jan. 17. Tickets can be found here.