By Nancy Abra
Shock and sorrow of the fire that levelled the Thorndale Community Centre in the early morning hours of Monday, February 24th evolved to pride and laughter five days later. The 2020 Thorndale Dinner Theatre completed their run.
This year’s production was ‘Don’t get Your Vicars in a Twist’ written by Ann Gawthorpe and Lesley Brown, an English two-act comedy farce, set in a country vicarage in the early 90’s. The cast included 12 actors from age 15 to retired and seasoned actors. A couple of them were new to the stage and proud to be involved in this annual fundraiser for the Thorndale Agricultural Society.
As the ashes of the levelled Community Centre were smouldering, a decision had to be made whether to continue or cancel. Joe Facey, this year’s co-director said that the option of quitting seemed to be more difficult than to continue. Hearing that the community centre was gone, people were calling the Ace Hardware Store asking to purchase tickets.
Facey said on the morning of the fire, he received a couple of phone calls from the St. Marys Community Players offering their stage, props and costumes, saying ‘anything to help’. Offers for a venue for this production also came from Fanshawe Pioneer Village, Embro and from George Taylor at Purple Hill.
Facey commented that they were so grateful for these offers. “A couple of us went over to Taylor’s Purple Hill Country Hall to measure and pace out the stage. It is much smaller than the stage at the Community Centre. We decided that this would be possible besides, we wanted to stay in the Thorndale community.
On the Monday evening of that fire, a meeting of the cast and crew was called to see what the next step was. Facey said, “Instead of being a wake of sadness, the unanimous decision was “Let’s do it. The show must go on”.
Facey added that there was no secret of the loss of our Community Centre even halfway around the world. “I even heard from the playwright, and she sent her condolences.”
Facey remarked, “Now the push was on to source doors, hardware, lumber, props and costumes. By Tuesday afternoon, there was a crew of eager volunteers with hammers and saws ready to build. In less than two days, a new set was built. What seemed to take the most time was waiting for the paint to dry.” Facey added, “Even food started to arrive. People brought platters of sandwiches, cookies, breads, pickles, etc. to feed the volunteers. Just amazing.”
The play performance was one thing; the ‘dinner’ part was another hurdle. With the Purple Hill Country Hall having no kitchen, the dinners for Feb 28th & 29th performances had to be reconfigured. The Thorndale Fair Homecraft Division and the Thorndale United Church came up with the simplest and best solution for their part. There weren’t any complaints.
Thorndale Ag Society Co-President, Ian Ferguson, said “Thanks to all the help of volunteers who worked hard to make this a success. Thanks to the cast and crew who didn’t let a fire stop them from finishing what they started. This is a true testament to community spirit and resiliency. Thanks to everyone in the community of Thorndale for your support.”
Facey remarked, “Many think it was just a building, but it created memories. I remember ice skating there when I was a kid. There were fall fair events, weddings, dances, and of course, the last event – Thorndale Dinner Theatre. So, to our community, with the events of last week, on behalf of the cast and crew…thanks for this dance”
By Nancy Abra