Beloved Bay Area Children's Theatre forced to close in aftermath of pandemic

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Friday, May 19, 2023
Final curtain call for beloved Bay Area Children's Theatre
The Bay Area Children's Theatre in Oakland made the decision to close their doors and cancel fully booked summer camps after running out of funding.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The Bay Area Children's Theatre made the abrupt decision to close their doors and cancel fully booked summer camps after running out of funding.

The board president of the beloved theater program for kids in Oakland says despite some federal help, this is an effect of the pandemic.

The nonprofit's notice of closure on Thursday came on the same day as opening night of Aladdin.

"I was shocked yeah, all of the families that were involved here were shocked," Tom Frank, a parent said.

Families like Frank say it feels like the rug or in Thursday night's case, the magic carpet, is being pulled out from underneath these kids without notice.

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"It's so sad because what are they going to do?" Gina Keltz, a parent said. "And who's going to step up for that?"

Keltz says this is the first production her 11-year-old daughter has been a part of and for her, it's been a game changer.

"It's like all she looks forward to," she said. "School has been tough for her, so to have a friends circle outside of school has been so important and has been really perfect for her mental health because she has something to look forward to, something to focus on, she's excited about singing the songs and learning her lines."

But despite selling out shows and summer camps already fully booked with a couple hundred kids, board president Christina Clark Bloodgood says their closure is an effect from the pandemic.

"And we are so sorry to those parents and not only to disappoint your children, but you also anticipated that your child had summer camp to go to and in this moment, we are not able to provide that because we do not know if we can provide it through the whole summer," Clark Bloodgood said.

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Earlier this month, they held an emergency "Save Our Stage" fundraiser with a goal of $750,000 and within a week, they were able to raise 15% of that. But at the end of the day, pending any immediate Hail Marys, she says, it still wasn't enough to keep their doors open and staff paid.

"It's just a business reality that we faced after days of debate," she said. "It's just gut-wrenching. It's absolutely, lots of tears today and over the days, children disappointed."

Meanwhile, parents like Frank are scrambling to find other outlets for his daughter in Oakland, who's since fallen in love with the art of acting.

"We love the arts and would love to see more opportunities for kids," he said.

The theater's final show runs on Friday night.

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