By Dan Rankin
The St. Marys Community Players took some time last Friday before the opening night performance of their latest production, “Steel Magnolias,” to hold a commemorative ribbon cutting ceremony, acknowledging the completion of major renovations to the historic Town Hall Theatre and thanking the organizations who contributed to make the improvements possible.
Gary Austin, who was on SMCP’s renovation committee, provided some background on the two-and-a-half year process that led to Friday’s ribbon cutting. Three objectives the group hoped to achieve with the renovations were safety, enhancing creativity, and patron comfort, he said. Next, they developed a “shopping list” to address those aims that added up to $90,000. The Players board came up with $32,000, while the Town chipped in $20,000 and the Ontario Trillium Foundation supplied a grant for $38,300.
Those funds have gone towards putting in new LED lights, all new curtains, including a ‘cyclorama’ curtain at the back of the stage onto which a huge variety of lights and projections can be shone, new fall arrest harnesses for crew safety, and new seats for the balcony which were due to be installed within a week or two.
Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece and Rena Spevack-Orr, chair of Ontario Trillium Foundation grant review team, were on hand to congratulate the group on the work they’d done with the grant funds from the province.
“Congratulations to the St. Marys Community Players on their newly updated and renovated theatre,” said Pettapiece. “I am very pleased that the Ontario Trillium Foundation has recognized the value of community theatre. Thanks to OTF, the St. Marys Community Players will continue to delight audiences in a space to be proud of.”
St. Marys Mayor Al Strathdee said he was excited about the completion of such a great project. “I don’t really recognize the Community Players tonight because they’re not wearing their hardhats and steel boots,” he joked. “These are the types of initiatives that are going to make our town better.”
Also speaking at the ceremony was Charlene Van Veen, Secretary with SMCP, who was part of the committee in charge of replacing the theatre’s nearly 40-year auditorium chairs. She thanked the Stratford Perth Community Foundation (SPCF), a fund from which provided $2,325 towards the purchase of 140 new, padded seats. “We are excited to provide our guests with comfortable seating and an enhanced theatrical experience,” she said.
“On behalf of all the bums of St. Marys, we want to say we thought that was a really good investment,” joked John Wilkinson, chair of the SPCF.
“We encourage the community to experience the renovations for yourself by attending an upcoming performance of Steel Magnolias,” said SMCP President Fern Pridham.