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Fergus theatre to officially reopen Nov. 15 with Great Canadian Songbook on Nov. 15

Grand reopening - Fergus Grand Theatre coordinator Eric Goudie says an official re-opening of the renovated facility will be held on Nov. 15, featuring The Great Canadian Songbook at 8pm. A soft relaunch was held early in September and the facility has played host to events throughout the fall.   Photo by Mike Robinson

Fergus theatre to officially reopen Nov. 15 with Great Canadian Songbook on Nov. 15

by Mike Robinson

FERGUS - The Fergus Grand Theatre officially kicks off its grand reopening on Nov. 15 with The Great Canadian Songbook at 8pm.

Theatre coordinator Eric Goudie noted a soft relaunch was held in early September and there have been events at the theatre throughout the fall.

He noted a significant portion of the renovations in the summer months was funded through a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Recognition of the contribution will be part of the evening.

“It is not a stand-alone ceremonial event,” Goudie said.

For him, the main event is The Great Canadian Songbook, a celebration of Canada’s musical history from coast to coast to coast.

“I want that to be our focus ... at the heart of this is a really great night of entertainment,” he said. “This is a really great show that I am so thrilled we were able to get.”

The show is the first of three events, which form the  Fergus Grand Theatre’s first presenting season.

For the past 15 years, since the township took over the theatre building, it was a rental facility available to community groups, businesses, touring shows, charities - anybody and everybody - Goudie explained.

“We’ve had a great variety of events such as plays, concerts, magic shows and weddings - pretty much everything,” he said.

“And we are still going to do that. But now we have reached the point in our development, thanks to these renovations and the ongoing success of our user groups and the support of the community, (that) the theatre is stable enough as an organization that we can now add presenting to our mix.”

Goudie explained, “Rather than a group renting the theatre to bring in a show, I as the theatre coordinator go out to the market and find shows out there, which are touring, which want to tour Ontario. I then negotiate with the agents or managers to essentially purchase the show to bring it in.”

The Grand Theatre then markets the show.

“We are the ones who will make a profit or loss on this so there is an element of risk,” he adds.

“The key difference is that the shows selected are ones I believe fill a need in the community and not competing with other theatre clients/users.

“I am looking for unexplored niches in the community in terms of style of performance, content and it allows me to think in terms of the community cultural narrative.”

Goudie added, “It is not just about something people can enjoy, but a performance they will get something out of.”

He added he likes to pick shows based on a theme.

For the theatre’s first presenting season, Goudie chose three performances based on Canadian history and Canada’s 150th anniversary.

“It seemed an obvious tie-in, but I also wanted to focus on some lesser aspects of Canadian history. It was not about exploring obscure corners of history, but as a lover of history and a history major, I’ve been interested in Canadian history for a long time.”

He said that with The Great Canadian Songbook, “there will certainly be a lot of music people will recognize, and I am not going to make any apologies for that.”

Goudie said music includes that of Stompin’ Tom Connors, Blue Rodeo, Barenaked Ladies, Stan Rogers and Ian Tyson.

“But there is also some stuff people might not generally hear - such as traditional tunes, some francophone songs and indigenous music,” he said.

He added the performing artists are very much aware of the depth and breadth of Canadian music - not just picking and choosing from what is easy to sing.

Goudie said the performance dovetails well with the other upcoming shows.

He said February’s performance, Sugar and Gold: Stories from the Underground Railroad, features performers Diana Braithwaite and Chris Whiteley.

The season closes in April with Soldiers of Song which focuses on the Dumbells, a First World War party band.

Goudie noted the band was formed from active Canadian soldiers on the front during the war.

“These guys fought at Vimy Ridge and entertained the troop and fellow soldiers,” he said.

After the war, the group went to London, entertaining folks for the next 10 years, Goudie explained.

“They were the forerunners of modern sketch comedy ... and are a totally forgotten part of Canadian history,” he said.

Foremost to Goudie is that these are highly entertaining shows.

“I don’t see any of these as being academic or inaccessible,” he said. “They are just utterly entertaining on so many levels.”

Renovations

Goudie pointed out the renovations were possible through an Ontario Trillium/Ontario 150 grant.

For the most part, the funds were used to improve accessibility of the theatre.

“Anyone familiar with the theatre knows there were some very significant challenges for anyone with mobility issues,” he said, adding those issues have now been addressed.

The front entrance is now fully accessible as are the washrooms on the ground floor.

Not only is there a wheelchair accessible washroom, but other patrons are no longer required to transverse upstairs.

He agreed most public buildings do not “crow” about their washrooms, “but I’ve heard from so many people as to how grateful they are that the washrooms are now on the ground floor.”

Goudie said the renovations have allowed patrons to return to the venue.

He was also pleased to be able to restore the box office to its original location within the lobby while at the same time preserving the heritage Terrazzo floor.

He said the biggest spin-off is that the renovated look happens to be amazing.

“Our architect used a photograph of the theatre from the 1940s and used it as the inspiration for her design and tried to recreate that,” he said.

During demolition work of the facade, Goudie said workers discovered portions of the original pilasters.

“The carpenter was able to use that as template,” he said. “The result was we have a front facade with more architectural detail and a level of complexity you would not see in a modern building.”

He added the building is very much in the art deco style as originally designed.

At the same time, the original transom windows were saved.

“The result is absolutely amazing,” he said. “It is the best unintended consequence I’ve ever seen.”

Community invite

The Fergus Grand Theatre invites members of the public to join in celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary, and the start of a new chapter for the performing arts in Centre Wellington.

November 10, 2017

 
 

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