Bernadette Hardaker named Theatre Orangeville GM

February 11, 2016   ·   0 Comments

TOnewGM copyA well-known personality in this community, Bernadette Hardaker has become the new general manager of Theatre Orange-ville. Over the next six weeks of transitioning, she will replace Marilyn Logan, who has resigned after 10 years on the job.

Seated around the table in the board room of the Information Centre, where the theatre has its office, were Ms. Hardaker, publicist Vicki Langille, David Nairn, Theatre Orange-ville’s Artistic Director and myself. It was an opportunity to talk to them all about the job, something of the theatre’s future and the part that Ms. Hardaker is to play in it.

Mr. Nairn explained that plans of succession for the executive of the theatre have been instituted.

“It has been in the works for the last 18 months. The Board of Directors insisted on the process. It’s our responsibility to have a succession plan,” he said.

Not so much with a mind to unexpected or otherwise resignation/retirement but, further, in the event of the executive being suddenly removed by accident or illness, a plan is place for the sake of continuity in the running of the theatre.

“The theatre that I came to [as a patron] in 2006 – this is so much more a mature organization,” said Ms. Hardaker. “Marilyn handed me a strategic plan and goals.”

“It’s time for us to do it again,” Mr. Nairn announced. “It needs to be a living document – we keep it on our desks and we’ll be spending real time to look over our goals. With the Board, it has been a five-year plan but it needs to be a three-year plan.”

He told Ms. Hardaker, “You’re coming on board at a great time.”

Pleased that we were having this conversation, she commented, “It’s good for people to know that this is not a fly-by-night place – it’s a real organization, something inherently stable.”

“Yet, it’s [what we produce] ephemeral – we sell dreams and hope and injury – the human condition – we have to ask the right questions without giving the answers. This is about what are those questions,” Mr. Nairn philosophized.

He added, “In rehearsals, I have only the why question – why?” Reflecting further, “Then there’s also the question: why not?”

Speaking of which, we went on to ask Ms. Hardaker why she was interested in this job.

“I thought there was this creative opportunity in my own back yard,” she replied, “I’d be crazy not to apply. I had no idea what they wanted but if I didn’t try for it…”

For some years now, Ms. Hardaker has been writing the biographies of local people at their commission under the name of her company, LifeStories. She told us that every story takes a long time and many interviews.

“You see a lot of a person doing those interviews and become friends, really,” she related. Right now, she has “been scrambling” to finish two books that she has been working on before her start day with the Theatre next Tuesday, February 16.

Asked if she will continue with that, she replied, “Yes, but to a minimal extent, something like one a year. We have arranged that I have time for my writing.”

“It’s essential that we have that time too,” Mr. Nairn confirmed. “Just as Vicki might take a week and do a course, you need that time.”

Speaking about the attraction of working for and with the Theatre Orangeville team, Ms. Hardaker said, “One of the most exciting things for me – I love the idea of being part of a team. I’ve been working on my own for the last several years and I’m really looking forward to the collegiality. This is one of the things I miss about the CBC.”

Ms. Hardaker worked for nearly 20 years with CBC Radio as a broadcaster, morning show host, associate producer and native affairs writer/broadcaster.

The theatre is, above all, a collaborative art form, as Mr. Nairn pointed out. “Otherwise, it can’t work.”

Although exciting and a chance to be very involved with one of the premier creative forces in the region, the job is a demanding one. It entails participation in several committees, overseeing most of the theatre’s business, especially the contracts with the actors and employees, the financial aspects, engaging with the board of directors, administrative and daily operations of the theatre.

“I have to read the CTA [Canadian Theatre Agreement],” Ms. Hardaker mentioned.

This document, familiarity with which is essential, is the foundation for negotiations between the theatre as a member of the Professional Association of [English speaking] Canadian Theatres (PACT) and Equity, the actors’ union to which everyone involved in professional theatre must belong. The CTA outlines responsibilities of all parties, as well as the conditions under which actors, including child actors, may be engaged. The labour laws are taken into account by the text of the CTA. 

“She has to be conversant with it,” commented Mr Nairn.

“It’s a large learning curve,” she admitted. “I’m thrilled that I have six weeks with Marilyn,” who is staying on for that time to teach Ms. Hardaker the job. “But I don’t find it daunting because this is a very supportive team.”

Mr. Nairn was likewise encouraged about the future of working with Ms. Hardaker: “We have a lot to do – a lot of work with the young people in this community, some of whom are disadvantaged for one reason or another.”

The announcement of Mrs. Logan’s resignation went out as a press release and was followed by an advertisement for the job of General Manager in the local papers.

“We had excellent applicants but our first application came from West Bengal, India,” Mr. Nairn said. “I’ve been here 17 years and I’ve had to go through this only twice. All of the candidates were from this community.”

In her days of political campaigning one way or another, Ms. Hardaker said, “I’ve knocked on a minimum of 20% of the doors in Orangeville. I’ve been all over Dufferin and Caledon. I ran municipally in 2010. I loved it because I love meeting people – it’s given me an understanding of this community.”

Married for 28 years and a mother of three daughters, the eldest of whom is in university, Ms. Hardaker says she’s ready to help bring more people into the theatre: “I think people need to know what they have here.”

By Constance Scrafield

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