As live theatre takes a bow for now due to these unprecedented times, B.C.’s renowned Caravan Farm Theatre has taken steps to ensure its future.
Staff, board members, and theatre alumni are busy working behind the scenes at the outdoor theatre, located on an 80-acre farm northeast of Armstrong, to make sure that the shows go on once it is deemed safe to do so, says Caravan artistic director Estelle Shook.
Caravan has postponed its 2020 summer production of Blackhorse as well as its winter sleigh-ride production, based on It’s a Wonderful Life, due to the B.C. government’s Phase 3 COVID-19 regulations that stipulate that no more than 50 people gather for theatre and other live performing arts events.
“We had a cast and crew of more than 50 people who were supposed to come from all over the country to start work on the show. It was a huge ship to sail and everything was in motion. However, when the COVID-19 safety regulations were put into place, we had to cancel all theatre activity here at Caravan,” said Shook. “We are paying a steep price for this. We have lost over $200,000 in revenues from our summer show.”
To make up for the loss, Caravan has started a fundraising campaign and is asking their regular theatre goers to donate to the farm in lieu of buying tickets to this year’s productions.
“If you love coming to the Caravan and are missing us, consider donating the money you might have spent on tickets. Any amount will help us support our artists, care for our venue, and maintain our momentum, so that we can be ready to go when we re-open.” Shook said.
Despite the fact that shows will not carry on in the usual manner, Caravan has several projects in the works: infrastructure, a rural broadband campaign, and a series of digital and small-scale events slated for late summer and fall.
“We’re still in full production, but it’s currently all under the surface,” Shook said.
Infrastructure projects include removal of derelict buildings and renovations to Caravan’s core facilities.
“We have struck a steering committee of 16 alumni to develop a strategic plan for the renewal of our cookshack, designery, and office space. We are planning for a major capital campaign for a new arts centre facility here at the farm,” Shook said.
Caravan is also spearheading a campaign to bring faster and more reliable broadband internet service to the North Spallumcheen region.
“We have conducted a survey and started a petition to send to our local government and Internet service providers. Better broadband will allow all North Spallumcheen residents to have essential connectivity as we navigate the new normal of COVID-19,” Shook said.
Better internet service will also help the farm with a number of upcoming projects.
One of those projects includes a mini Canadian film festival series that will be screened in the farm’s open-air timber barn and will adhere to social distancing and gathering regulations.
“We are also commissioning smaller works that will be available digitally. They are all in development and we should start seeing activity and events in the coming months,” Shook said.
Stay tuned also for a smaller winter sleigh-ride event to take place this winter.
For more information, news on upcoming events, or to donate to Caravan’s current campaign, visit www.caravanfarmtheatre.com.