The Souris Valley Theatre is moving forward with repairs to its buildings, and moving closer to having one or two productions next year.
The popular live theatre organization has been a summer staple and a tourist attraction for Estevan for more than 20 years. But the theatre has been unable to offer summer plays the last two years due to the Souris River flooding that swamped the theatre's venues in 2011.
Work is now underway to repair their concession/washroom building, and to repair Frehlick Hall, which is where productions are staged. The concession and bathroom building had to be gutted, said board member Maureen Ulrich. All of the seats in Frehlick Hall had to be removed because of mold
New chairs have been ordered from Centaur Products and will be installed in Frehlick Hall in early November. They will be non-cushioned, plastic seats.
“We decided not to re-install upholstered seats,” said Ulrich. “Frankly, we couldn’t stomach the idea of replacing them if we ever (have a) flood again. The new ones are quite comfortable and will feature cup holders. A sample will be on display at Estevan Showcase (from September 28 to 30), so patrons can see for themselves what a quality product we have purchased.”
Theatre-goers will be able to bring their own seat cushions, or borrow them from the theatre.
The new seats are being used as a fundraiser, as the theatre is selling them for $150 each.
A large plaque will be created to recognize those who sponsored the old seats. The flood destroyed many of the original plaques, but a list is being generated from records that survived.
C&T Construction has been contracted to carry out the remodeling of the washroom/concession building – a project that will be completed this fall.
“Basically, the building was gutted apart from the frame,” said Ulrich. “Everything was removed. We lost all our coolers. Any equipment that we had inside … had to be thrown out. The bathrooms were basically dismantled. The only thing that was left were the toilets.”
Part of the old storage room between the washrooms and the concession will be converted to a temporary office space.
A modular home will be purchased from Sherwood Homes for an estimated $80,000. It will include a dressing room and living quarters that can accommodate four to six cast and crew members. The Spectra Community Foundation contributed $20,000 to the project. Local businesses have come forward to donate labour and materials.
There will be two bedrooms and washrooms, as well as a kitchen and a living area.
“We are so lucky to live in this community. No matter how busy this city looks, there are always people willing to help out in whatever way they can, big or small,” said past chair Tim Jenish.
The previous living quarters were ruined by the flood.
Board chair Heather Vermeersch said that the flood also cost the theatre many of its historical items and memorabilia.
“During the flood, we lost videos, pictures, posters, and programs from our old shows, as well as many of our records,” Vermeersch said.
The theatre's board is nearing a decision on whether they'll have one or two plays next year, and which plays will be offered. They're in conversation with a potential director; he'll then pitch ideas for the plays. Ulrich said she hopes they'll have a decision in the next couple weeks.
They are also hopeful that their musical theatre camp for youth will return next year, too.
A virtual box office will soon be on the theatre’s website. Patrons will be able to phone in an order or buy tickets on-line.
“It will hopefully get us the impulse buyer, the person who hears about a show and decides 'I'd like to buy tickets,'” said Ulrich. “They can go on-line and buy tickets, and make a donation on-line at the same time. There'll be a … tip jar, if they want to donate towards a specific cause, like maybe our musical theatre camp, they can do that while they're purchasing a ticket.”
They have also increased their social media presence.
Jocelyn Anderson, a music grad from McGill University, has been hired as an administrative assistant. Her role will be mainly reception, clerical, and promotion, as she will handle ticket sales for the 2013 season, and for fundraisers.
“She's been involved with community theatre, and she's very, very passionate about the arts and the arts on stage,” said Ulrich. “We're pretty excited that she seems to be pretty savvy on the business end of it, and isn't afraid to make phone calls, isn't afraid to tackle a long list, or problem solve, or brainstorm ideas.”
Ulrich said the board never discussed permanently shutting down the theatre, and they knew it would survive once they found out that Frehlick Hall was sound, and that the concession/washroom building could be salvaged.
The board is optimistic that the public will return to the theatre next year after its two-year hiatus.
“I think they've missed it enough that maybe they'll really get behind us when we start off in 2013,” said Ulrich. “I know it was a fabulous opportunity for young actors, the musical theatre camps were just starting to take off, and I think people really have missed it. Sometimes I don't think you realize how much you miss something until you can't do it all.”
The theatre does have a couple fundraisers planned for this fall. The first is a Two Plays in a Day event, in which the theatre would take people to Regina to see a production at the Globe Theatre, followed by Applause Feast and Folly. It'll likely happen in November.
The other is a Christmas party for small businesses on December 1 at the Estevan Exhibition building. It's a chance for small businesses to come together for their Christmas party, and leaving the planning up to the theatre. A menu has already been established, and they're finalizing the entertainment.