Theatre Orangeville’s Victorian Christmas marks 20 years

November 3, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Save the date, November 18, and buy your tickets for the 20th Anniversary Victorian Christmas Gala, the largest fundraiser of the year for Theatre Orangeville, at the Best Western Inn and Suites.

Says Marilyn Logan, long-time volunteer in the arts community and former general manager of Theatre Orangeville, “It’s the best party to start the  Christmas season – we always have a wonderful time.”

So, for anyone who is not aware of all that Theatre Orangeville is, here is the profile of this wonderful theatre, known across Canada for the unique partnerships it has with other institutions and groups in the Dufferin/Headwaters community. 

And just before that, we encourage you to rush to the Box Office at 87 Broadway, the Town Hall, or the Information Centre at Buena Vista and Highway 10 to buy tickets for the hilarious Sugar Road, the current play running at Theatre Orangeville until November 5. When you come away from having such a good time at this show, you will know one reason why Theatre Orangeville enjoys such a good reputation: first-class plays and musicals are produced here – five profession productions in a season on stage that run from October to May.

That is only the beginning, for Theatre Orangeville’s involvement with the wider community is what has made it famous country-wide, as an extraordinary part of the community.

Under the guidance of David Nairn, now in his 19th year with the theatre as artistic director,  partnerships and programs have sprung up and become the wellspring of well-being for so many through the theatre arts.

A building was needed for offices and workspace for Community Living Dufferin (CLD); Theatre Orangeville needed a rehearsal hall, workshop and storage. As a consequence, a remarkable and unique partnership was formed between Theatre Orangeville and CLD. With the essential assistance from the theatre, and input from the Federal Government for which MP David Tilson campaigned, the generous contribution by Doc and Nancy Gillies, who funded the rehearsal hall, and many others, the “Dream Factory,” as Mr. Nairn calls it, was built ahead of schedule and on budget.

While at a reception promoting the Youth Programs the theatre has been running since its inception in 1995, a parent of two autistic teens asked Mr. Nairn what the theatre was doing for children like his. Mr. Nairn was obliged to say, “Nothing..”

However, that was very soon remedied with a new program, specifically for teens with special needs to participate in learning about theatre arts, with a production at the end for the entertainment of their parents.

The policy of programming the season at Theatre Orangeville is to focus on Canadian works by established playwrights, to run a specifically funded New Play Development program and to stage World Premieres of excellent quality, which the actors and Mr. Nairn consider to be an honour and a privilege.

For so many organizations around the world, depending on volunteers is a necessity. In committees and as individuals people offer freely their time, talents and effort. Inevitably, this must have personal meaning for almost everyone.

With the 20th anniversary of the Victorian Christmas approaching, we asked some of the volunteers on the  committee what are their personal reasons.

“I was in education,” Karen Jackson, the silent auction coordinator, began, “I valued the theatre very much. When I was Principal at a school, Duffle Bag Theatre brought shows in to the schools. One year, they did a play about a prince. They asked for a few students to participate. One of these was a special education student and they made him the prince. …  He had been teased at school but he did a fabulous job of being the prince. After that, it just changed the whole perception of all the students toward him.

“The Victorian Christmas Gala raises funds for the programs that Theatre Orangeville sponsors for special needs kids and other programs. I think that’s really worth supporting.”

Other volunteers have echoed their enthusiasm for the joys of the Gala and, even more, their appreciation and respect for all the Theatre Orangeville programs.

The Victorian Christmas Gala begins with the champagne and oyster bar and trays of hors d’oeuvres that are brought around. This is a time of shopping at the Silent Auction,  for the fine and unusual bargains, chatting and listening to the first entertainment: the TOYS choir singing Christmas songs.

When the dinner bell rings, guests are invited to fill the banquet hall  to enjoy a fine meal and accompanying wine. Additionally, a cash bar is open. During the dinner, the best entertainment is David Nairn himself as auctioneer for the live auction items, headlined this year by tickets to a Diana Krall concert with back-stage passes!

There is more wonderful entertainment lined up; all in all, a most satisfying start to the holiday season.

When he went to his first Theatre Orangeville Board of Directors’ meeting, Christopher Harrison, this year’s chair of the Victorian Christmas committee, described Mr. Nairn talking about the theatre: “David launched into an animated discussion about the role of the arts in the community at large and the specific means by which Theatre Orangeville raises the quality of life of our local citizenry. By the time he finished he was quite out of breath and my mouth was agape, as I witnessed first-hand the passion that “your theatre” has for the lives of its community members…. I was hooked!

“…Victorian Christmas is the primary fundraising event for the theatre. Just as the theatre is an important element in the cultural life of the Headwaters area, Victorian Christmas is an important event in the life of the theatre. I am so thankful for my committee of unsung heroes who look after everything … and never blink when asked to add one more item to their list. As this is the 20th anniversary of this most worthy event, please consider supporting the theatre .. by joining us in our celebration of Theatre Orangeville.”

Tickets for the Victorian Christmas can be purchased at the Box Office, by telephone on 519-942-3423 or now online at

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