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By Constance Scrafield
Sharyn Ayliffe, Theatre Orangeville's general manager, is clear about the value of the arts.
"We need the arts, the storytelling," she said. "The focus is when things get tough, people turn to the theatre; art is where you go. Over the pandemic, we at Theatre Orangeville continued to support and entertain the community."
Since March 2020, 17,505 people have watched the cabarets, shows and plays Theatre Orangeville produced on patrons' screens at home while they were stuck inside due to COVID-19, and on stage, once people were able to sit in the actual seats of the theatre itself.
Over that time, Theatre Orangeville employed 150 artists and full or part-time staff; supported 319 community youth in its programs and 29 not-for-profit organizations and fundraisers; produced 31 plays, of which 14 were World Premieres and workshopped seven new plays, all by Canadian playwrights! This is an awe-inspiring statement of the determination of Theatre Orangeville to go the distance for its patrons and provide the stories and the songs they loved to see and hear.
Understanding the absolute importance of the arts as essential to individuals' mental health and the financial health of a small community, Canada's federal and provincial governments made funds available to keep the arts alive throughout the pandemic.
Now, those funds have to end, and in the meantime, between that support and a resurgence of ticket sales and sponsorships, the local theatre has launched the "I Love My Theatre Orangeville" donation drive to help support its operations.
The target number for the donation drive, launched earlier this week, is $250,000
"This is not a situation unique to Theatre Orangeville," said David Narin, now in his 23rd year as Artistic Director. "Every theatre is in this position. There was tremendous support for all the arts organizations, but audiences have not returned in numbers and sponsor donations have slowed."
The price of materials has increased, and hiring people is more expensive, to name two of the many cost increases.
"We're being transparent – we need to offset the short-term difficulties," said Narin, giving a nod to the numbers above.
Theatre Orangeville is a vital not-for-profit organization, providing heart and soul to the community and boosting people's spirits.
"We bring the essence of humanity to our community," said Mr. Nairn, who told the Citizen he is confident that people will return to the theatre.
To help that along, after a survey was sent out to all Theatre Orangeville patrons, the organization's mask mandate was lifted. In his heart, Mr. Nairn said he hopes that people will wear their masks anyway, realizing that "we need to look after one another," as he put it, adding that patrons were pleased to have their opinions on the subject matter.
Programming for the coming spring and summer will see Theatre Orangeville busy as usual. Here, one notes how the design of those programs fulfills, in the most meaningful way, how Theatre Orangeville supports and loves the diverse communities within the community of this fair town.
Young Company, which has been part of the family as long as Mr. Nairn has been involved, offers month-long camps, which produce a fully staged musical in July and a professional dramatic production. This latter has some years, including tragic and comedic Shakespearian plays, like the one-off production of Mid Summer's Night Dream, performed at the floating stage at the Island Lake Conservation Area.
Some years ago, at a reception for a Young Company performance, a gentleman whose son was disabled asked Mr. Nairn, "What are you doing for disabled kids like my boy?"
Nothing was the answer, but not for long. In a very short time, in 2006, a partnership between Theatre Orangeville and Community Living Dufferin (CLD) was formed, unique in Canada between a professional theatre and such a social service. This partnership resulted in the construction of the fine CLD building on County Road 3, immediately west of Orangeville, technically in East Garafaxa, in 2010, after a two-year fundraising drive. The building also houses a rehearsal hall, workshop, office and storage space for Theatre Orangeville.
It led to the formation of Creative Partners on Stage the following year, a theatre company for the member clients of CLD, producing their own style of theatre, both musical and drama.
Mr. Nairn said when people come to see those shows, they leave with a broader definition of what the theatre can be. This is just one of the many programs Theatre Orangeville supports within its schedule of events, either inside or outside the Opera House, that speak to inclusiveness and celebrating diversity within the community.
Other not-for-profit organizations Theatre Orangeville supports are Family Transition Place (FTP), Celebrate Your Awesome, Orangeville Food Bank and the Dufferin County Canadian Black Association (DCCBA), to name a few. At their request, Theatre Orangeville tries to help as many others events and charities in the community in the several ways a theatre company can.
Speaking of attending the theatre, Mr. Nairn related, "We had an experience with a school production of [The Last] Christmas Turkey. We asked who were at the theatre for the first time, and there were 22 children who had never been to the theatre at age nine. Hopefully, they had found that joy somewhere else for the moment.
"We are doing all that we can to bring people back," Mr. Nairn was cheerful to report.
In April, he will stand on a chair at the opening night of The New Canadian Curling Club and announce next year's season.
"They are wonderful shows," he assured us.
"People love the theatre," Ms. Ayliffe said. "And now we're asking them to donate so that Theatre Orangeville can continue its important work within the community; we want to inspire people to put their money where their appreciation is."
The issue is investing in Theatre Orangeville, as it is a large part of the community. During the dismal times of the pandemic, people have "unlearned coming to the theatre, lost the momentum of attending the shows and yet, they miss it because they need the stories and they love the music," said the Artistic Director. "We need to remind people that dreams do come true – trust us to mend those broken hearts that nearly three years of isolation have wrought."
The "I love My Theatre Orangeville" campaign shares information and details on social media and by email.
In it comes with the assurance: "Know that no matter what, Theatre Orangeville will always be there to play a significant role in ensuring the well-being of our community by nurturing, enriching and supporting others.
"But now we need your help…."
Post date: 2023-03-16 13:36:27
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Post modified date: 2023-03-23 16:53:15
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