The comedy ‘Sugar Road,’ which intertwines love stories across three generations, opens the latest Cow Patti Theatre season in Lacombe this week. (Actors’ masks come off for performances.) (Contributed photo)

The comedy ‘Sugar Road,’ which intertwines love stories across three generations, opens the latest Cow Patti Theatre season in Lacombe this week. (Actors’ masks come off for performances.) (Contributed photo)

Pandemic can’t keep Lacombe’s hard-hit Cow Patti theatre down

A new season launches this week with ‘Sugar Road’

Lacombe’s Cow Patti Theatre is raring to embark on a new extended season after overcoming repeat body blows from COVID-19 restrictions.

The theatre’s new 2021-22 season starts Thursday with the bittersweet comedy Sugar Road, by Kristen Da Silva. Three more shows are expected in the new year: Norm Foster’s On a First Name Basis, and Jonas & Barry in the Home, and the Patsy Cline revue, Sweet Dreams.

With Sugar Road, Cow Patti’s artistic director AnnaMarie Lea is promising audiences “an amazing piece of comedy theatre” as her cast is eager to get back in front of the spotlight after a mostly dark 2020.

“We are all so happy and grateful to be working on our craft again. It truly has been a joyous rehearsal hall,” said Lea.

Three Cow Patti productions had been derailed by pandemic restrictions in the past year and Lea admitted that “pure stubbornness” has become her driving force.

Norm Foster’s Lunenburg was launched twice by Cow Patti, but had to be stopped after six, and then 13 shows when government restrictions brought the lights down on live performances.

Cow Patti also tried to partner with the Lacombe Performing Arts Centre to put on Camilla the Triple Threat Cow last fall with a case of 25 young artists — but the entire show “never never saw the light” when COVID-19 cases flared up and theatres were shut down.

“Never in my 30 plus years of producing theatre have we ever run across anything like this, but who has?” said Lea.

While Cow Patti, like virtually all theatre troupes, took a huge financial hit as a result of the pandemic, she added, “I am stubbornly determined to keep moving forward.”

While certain elements remain out of everyone’s control, Cow Patti is doing whatever it can to “continue to survive.” This has meant adopting the provincial government’s Restrictions Exemption Program, which requires all patrons to show proof of vaccinations upon entry, or a recent negative COVID test result.

“Cow Patti is taking every precaution to keep everyone safe under the REP program — all patrons, cast and crew and caterers are double vaccinated or have proof of a negative PCR test,” said Lea.

Everyone is requested to keep their masks on while moving about the theatre, she added. Since Cow Patti performances come with various dinner/brunch theatre options, she noted caterers will be dishing up all food, condiments will be in individual packets, and beverages will be brought to the tables.

“We have also reduced the capacity of occupancy in the theatre, so there’s a bit more elbow room between tables.”

Lea is counting on Sugar Road to finish its run, as expected, on Dec. 12 at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club. The Canadian play spans three generations and intertwines three love stories. The characters are “charming heartwarming and very funny,” said Lea, who describes it as “a country comedy…with some toe tapping tunes and music that will ignite memories for young and old.”

The cast includes two central Albertans — Valerie Barrett of Ponoka and Richard Beaune of Red Deer, as well as Toronto’s Jon Alex and Vancouver’s Elizabeth Kalles.

As usual, Cow Patti will be raising money for local charities at various benefit performances. Lea believes it’s especially important at this time to support groups “whose sole purpose is to help others.” Over the last 25 years, Cow Patti has raised more than $600,000 for various charities.

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