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‘Frog and Toad’ canceled, but future shows still on

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry The performances of A Year with Frog and Toad scheduled for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Struthers Library Theatre were canceled, but new COVID-19 distancing restrictions are not shutting down any future performances.

COVID struck this week, taking down some non-humans: Frog and Toad.

Four performances of “A Year with Frog and Toad” by Warren Players were scheduled this weekend at Struthers Library Theatre. Those have been canceled.

The recently announced restrictions will not hold back future shows.

When Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced new restrictions on indoor gatherings in response to a state-wide upturn in COVID-19 cases, the organizers of the event decided to cancel. They made that call at about 4 p.m. Wednesday. The show was to open on Thursday.

Canceling was not an easy decision. The performers had worked for months to be ready.

Photo courtesy of Struthers Library Theatre Warren Players performs a free showing Thursday evening of A Year with Frog and Toad at Struthers Library Theatre.

“It has been a long journey for this show as it was supposed to debut in mid May,” according to a Thursday post by Warren Players. “With the postponing we have had people drop out, due to prior commitments, because of the dates getting changed.”

Players and theater officials worked together to consider options — including moving the show outdoors. The new rules set restrictions on indoor gatherings at 25 people. Outdoor gatherings could go up to 250.

There were complications for suddenly moving from the theater to an outdoor venue.

There was another option. The rules didn’t take effect until Thursday.

There were still a few hours under the old rules.

Photo courtesy of Struthers Library Theatre Warren Players performs a free showing Thursday evening of A Year with Frog and Toad at Struthers Library Theatre.

Those involved reached out and invited people to enjoy the show, free of charge, at the theater.

The catch was, there wasn’t much time.

After deciding at 4:30 p.m. to cancel the shows for the next four days, “94 people were here by 7 p.m. watching the play,” Theatre Executive Director Wendy McCain said.

“The actors were extremely grateful,” McCain said.

“The Struthers Library Theatre was gracious enough to let Warren Players put on a free show last night as we knew this would be the only performance,” according to the Players post. “Everyone involved put on an amazing show. Thank you to the people that jumped in at the last minute and helped put on the finishing touches. The pieces fell together and tonight’s show was amazing. But kudos to Caitie Webster for directing a great show.”

The bar — Sally’s Encore — opened at 6 p.m.

“We made money in the bar, concessions were open,” McCain said. “We accepted donations.”

So, even though the theater didn’t charge for tickets — and offered refunds on those sold in advance — the show did generate some income.

“It was a great show of support from the community,” she said. Through the process, the theater even picked up some new members.

Since Wednesday, McCain has been making calls, trying to gain additional clarification on the new rules.

“I called the governor’s office,” she said.

It turns out, the new rules were specific to bars, restaurants, and clubs.

She was told that entertainment venues — casinos, theaters, and shopping malls — may be open at 50 percent capacity with social distancing. That’s a lot more than 25 people in Struthers Library Theatre.

“We’re not canceling other shows,” McCain said.

The community support has led McCain to think differently about the theater.

“I used to think we were a luxury item,” she said. “There’s been recognizable art for over 30,000 years. Now more than ever, this is what people need.”

“This is a barrier breaker,” she said. “No matter what people’s differences are, they come to the theater to do something positive. That’s why we’re important.”

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