Young People's Theatre forced to cancel shows amid rotating teachers' strikes

Young People's Theatre says it's been forced to cancel seven upcoming performances of Jungle Book and place 22 others on hold due to the ongoing dispute between teachers and the provincial government in Ontario.

More than one million students across the province will face a day off school this week because of rotating teachers' strikes.

The theatre company, based in Toronto, says the impact of the labour dispute is so dramatic, it's been forced to review the contracts of approximately 100 artists, staff, crew and artist educators.

Since late fall, teachers haven't felt confident in booking field trips for their students, the company's executive director Nancy Webster says.

"We started to feel the effect in early December when school sales for The Adventures of Pinocchio came to an abrupt stop," Webster said.

"With the majority of school groups now unable to book and attend performances, we've assessed the potential revenue loss for YPT at a minimum of $250,000."

Webster says 70 per cent of the company's audience is made up of students aged five to 18. 

YPT missing 'huge proportion' of its business

"For us, this is a huge proportion of our business," she said. 

Young People's Theatre "has a long history of programming to support the Ontario school curriculum," Webster said, adding the uncertainty in the education system could potentially affect an estimated 20,000 student attendees.

While the company has weathered education strikes and job action before, Webster says they haven't had as much impact as the current labour dispute.

"Certainly in the last 20 years we've experienced this a couple of times. It's certainly affected us, but nothing to this extent. It's a big loss," she said. 

"With all of the different unions being in coordination this time, it makes for a bigger loss for us."

Young People's Theatre works closely with teachers and also receives support from the provincial government through the Ontario Arts Council.

"So we are directly in the middle of this situation and the repercussions are difficult for us," Webster said.

"It's the loss of a season."