DRAYTON – Alex Mustakas, founding and current artistic director of Drayton Entertainment, has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division).
Governor General Mary Simon presented Mustakas with the medal during a ceremony on May 26 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
“It’s obviously a great honour, a great privilege, but I do share it with everyone involved with our organization,” Mustakas told the Advertiser.
“I may have been the founding artistic director, but it certainly, it takes a village to run the company and so I’m very grateful to [everyone], including our volunteers and our audience – we’ve all been part of this journey.”
The celebration also complemented the launch of Drayton Entertainment’s 2022 season and the reopening of all seven of its stages throughout Ontario on May 26.
Mustakas received the award, which recognizes Canadians for outstanding contributions in any field, for his lifelong commitment to making the performing arts affordable and accessible, according to a May 26 press release.
Knowing firsthand what it’s like to run a theatre company, Mustakas said he accepted the medal on the behalf of his organization, but also for the performing arts industry as a whole.
“Really, the big thing for me was the real honour that we’re recognizing how important theatre is and the arts are to our communities.”
After two years of not being able to operate due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mustakas said receiving the award was “a little bittersweet.
“But it inspires us to keep moving forward because, again, it just goes to show how important arts activity is in our communities for our balance community.
“We need education, and we need health care, and we need sports, but for a balanced community, we also need arts activity and culture.”
At the height of its operations, Drayton Entertainment stages over 800 performances annually at its various venues, with attendance exceeding 250,000 each year.
Mustakas, who holds a business degree in economics from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo and a master’s degree in arts administration at City University in London, initially started out in the corporate sector before moving into performing arts.
Recognizing the physical, social, economic and cultural barriers that limited access to the arts, particularly in rural areas, and the stigma that surrounded the arts, Mustakas made it a lifelong goal of his to rewrite the narrative.
When he began Drayton Entertainment 32 years ago, Mustakas said it was always important to the company to ensure theatre is accessible and affordable, “because it shouldn’t be out of reach for anybody.”
“We’ve really tried to do that over the years, and I think it’s worked well,” he said. “And we’ve introduced theatre to a lot of new communities.
“And as a result we have a really strong stakeholder base and that’s why we’ve been able to make it through these last two and a half years.”
Starting with an opera house in Drayton, Mustakas built up what is now known as Drayton Entertainment.
“It took me many, many years to kind of stand outside and look in and go ‘Oh boy, wow, we’ve really created something here that affects a lot of communities,’” Mustakas said of the organization’s success.
“And a lot of artists and it has economic spin offs and it’s a sense of pride for all our communities.”
Over the course of his career, Mustakas has been recognized with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Media and Entertainment), Theatre Ontario’s Maggie Bassett Award, and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Wilfrid Laurier University, amongst others.
His focus right now, Mustakas explained, is on the Drayton Entertainment Youth Academy, a new arts education facility operated by the not-for-profit professional theatre company.
“Really for us, it’s kind of a legacy thing,” he said.
“I don’t think we need any more theatres at the moment, but the ability to affect the lives of the next generation, and to make it accessible and to make sure that no marginalized community is left behind, that’s really our big focus at the moment.
“That’s where we’re hoping to focus a lot of our efforts over the next couple of years, not to mention running the other seven theatres.”