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Grant will go long way toward South Simcoe Theatre's return

'The impact of this Ontario Trillium Foundation grant cannot be overstated,' theatre company president says of $45,000 grant from Resilient Communities Fund

South Simcoe Theatre (SST) in Cookstown was recently awarded a $44,900 Resilient Communities Fund grant through the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF).

On Thursday, SST president Nancy Chapple Smokler and board members welcomed Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin, OTF grant review team volunteer Gary Marshall, Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin, and Innisfil Coun. Rob Nicol to the theatre to hear how the grant is making a difference.

The Resilient Communities Fund is used to support the recovery efforts of organizations impacted by COVID-19 and help them respond with immediate, medium and longer-term recovery projects.

“As we all know, 2020 arrived with a bang," Chapple Smokler said. "Unfortunately, like most arts organizations, our much-loved community theatre group was hard hit by the pandemic and we were shut down for a full two years from March 2020 to March 2022 with no in-person productions.”

“The impact of this Ontario Trillium Foundation grant cannot be overstated,” said Chapple Smokler explaining that SST will use the money for projects that would not be possible without it, due to the theatre’s financial losses the past two years.

The funding will go toward a new online ticketing system, a variety of theatre education and mentorship opportunities such as lighting and sound design, costuming, and acting and directing for community theatre.

“This will allow SST to build capacity in our system and to introduce the wonders of live theatre to new members of our community,” said Chapple Smokler.

SST will also use the funds for a lighting and sound booth, a paid media co-ordinator, and a website with graphic design capabilities.

OTF volunteer Gary Marshall said the Resilient Communities Fund was created in 2020 when the potential impact the pandemic would have on the non-profit sector was realized. OTF is an agency of the Ontario government and is one of the leading granting foundations in Canada. Its mission is to build healthy and vibrant communities across Ontario. Marshall said it recognizes the arts give people of all ages a welcome break from their day-to-day lives and contribute to local economies.

“We are so pleased this grant is helping South Simcoe Theatre," Marshall said.

Khanjin said she's “thrilled” that SST is getting this particular grant.

“My favourite thing is the fact that the theatre brings generations of families together; not only to watch but to act, to be behind the scenes people, to participate in the costumes and design. And then then you have the people that come in and they bake the cookies and muffins for intermission,” Khanjin said.

“It’s such a community thrill here, and so I love that we can keep this gem going and give it a little spruce up with a little bit of technology, whatever it is you need. And I’m really excited for the lineup this year," Khanjin added.

Dollin also recognized the importance of the theatre to the community and “the great work members of South Simcoe Theatre do to bolster culture in our community”. She remarked on how she can walk to live theatre and how her son spent time as a volunteer there.

“South Simcoe Theatre is such a special gem in Innisfil," the mayor said. "We're so proud of the productions they do and so proud to have it in our community. I invite everybody to come and support this season.”

SST has produced shows since the 1966-67 season. The Old Town Hall, located in Cookstown at 1 Hamilton St., has been its home since 1983

This year’s lineup includes:

Nov. 3-20, 2022: Five Alarm by Kristen Da Silva

Dec. 8-18, 2022: Camelot-The Panto by Ben Crocker

March 2-19, 2023: I Hate Hamlet by Paul Rudnick

May 4-21, 2023: Side by Side by Sondheim by Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics)

June 1-4, 2023: Four Play: A showcase of play readings

For more information on the theatre, click here.