Theatre Orangeville celebrates 30th anniversary with free shows for local students

October 19, 2023   ·   0 Comments


Theatre Orangeville will open the doors and close the box office to the local schools that take in shows each season.

David Nairn, the non-profit professional theatre company’s artistic director, told town council Oct. 16 that as many as 5,000 local elementary school students visit the Opera House each year to take in a show.

And, to mark the company’s 30 years, those shows will be free to students. In addition to covering the ticket costs, each school will be provided a bursary for bussing costs.

As many as 275 students from Grades 3, 4, 5, and 6 take in Theatre Orangeville shows. In a straw poll, it isn’t unusual that about 250 students will put their hands up when asked who has been to the theatre before.

Nairn said last year, only about 25 of the students indicated they’d been to the theatre before.

“And we realized that between the work stoppage in 2019 in the educational system and three and half years of COVID, these are COVID kids and they had never been in a theatre before in their lives,” Nairn said. “And some of them were up to 10 years of age.”

He offered a tongue-in-cheek apology to municipal staff for the “kid vibe” that will fill the Town Hall Opera House during weekday matinees at about 10 a.m.

“Again this year, we have a great play bill of exceptional Canadian stories that is always reflecting the ever-changing, dynamic cultural mosaic that is our community,” he said.

In addition to the on-stage productions, the company has programming such as Theatre Orangeville Youth Singers (TOYS) that draws local youth to tread the boards.

“These programs support all abilities,” he said.

Nairn said the theatre company recently got an Ontario Trillium capital grant on behalf of the town to upgrade accessibility and health and safety infrastructure.

The latest grant brought the total amount of money provided over the last 10 years to more than $750,000.

Theatre Orangeville also provides as much as $70,000 to cover various services at the Opera House.

In 2019, as many as 64 user groups and Theatre Orangeville used the Opera House space 234 times for a total of 298 events.

“Or, as I like to remind the (Downtown Orangeville BIA), 298 experiential opportunities to discover all there is to discover and love about downtown Orangeville,” Nairn said.

That dropped to 16 user groups in the facility 169 times for 185 uses in 2022. In the first six months of this year, 148 events have been held at the theatre.

“The last three and a half years have been extremely difficult for the arts community, both in this community and across the country,” he said.

Despite those difficulties, Nairn thanked town council for the leadership and support of local theatre over the last 30 years.

“Young people are able to discover not only who they are, but can find the courage to stand in the spotlight downstage centre on the stage of life and speak honestly and openly from their hearts without fear, ridicule, or judgement about things that matter the most to them,” he said.

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