By Mike Baker
After being forced to cancel its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers of the Highlands Summer Festival [HSF] have made the “difficult decision” to shutter the 2021 summer theatre season.
In a release to media over the weekend, HSF president Brian Kipping said the cancellation comes amid growing uncertainty about the COVID-19 restrictions that could still be in place by the time July and August roll around.
“It is with reluctance that we make this announcement,” Kipping said. “It is not where we wanted to be following last season’s cancellation. Our first concern, however, is for the safety of our patrons and staff.”
Patrons who purchased season tickets ahead of the 2020 season and didn’t request a refund will have their tickets honoured for the 2022 season, Kipping confirmed.
“We will respect that commitment when we are finally allowed to step back into the theatre and onto the stage,” he said.
While the traditional theatre season will not go ahead, that does not mean HSF will be inactive over the coming months. Artistic director Scot Denton said the group was “exploring the possibility” of hosting its early stages program. Early stages is a four-week intensive theatre education initiative designed for young people aged 10 to 14.
“The participants learn about all the facets involved in a theatrical production,” Denton said.
There are also tentative plans to follow in the footsteps of other Ontario-based theatre groups and take their shows online.
“Following on the heels of our very popular ‘Memories’ video, we have a number of others in the works,” Denton noted. “I can’t show my hand just yet, but keep an eye on our website for new presentations.”
Kipping meanwhile wanted to take a moment to thank those who continued to support HSF in 2020. While he didn’t disclose a dollar amount, the HSF president said a number of donations received by members of the community helped to keep the theatre group afloat through what was a difficult year.
“Even though there have been no performances, we have ongoing expenses and these donations help to keep the Highlands Summer Festival alive and ready to go when conditions allow,” Kipping said. “Thank you for your support.”
For more information, visit www.highlandssummerfestival.on.ca.