MAPLETON – The township will provide Drayton Entertainment with $30,000 to help offset costs of operating the Drayton Festival Theatre in 2021.
Mapleton council agreed to the contribution during the Jan. 12 meeting, which featured a presentation from Drayton Entertainment artistic director Alex Mustakas.
The not-for-profit professional theatre company, which operates seven venues in southern Ontario, was founded in 1991 with the Drayton Festival Theatre as the original home base.
“Over the past 30 years I think the theatre has positioned itself as a showcase for artistic and cultural activities which celebrate and promote this community, attract and bring together youth, and attract and encourage visitors to this unique part of the province,” Mustakas told council.
“I believe it’s become a tremendous source of pride for this community.”
With theatre operations halted at all venues since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the prospect of another lost season looming, Mustakas said the financial impact on the operation has been severe.
“I think the impact is going to take a while for us to recover from,” he said.
“I believe it will be a multi-year recovery effort. I don’t think somebody’s just going to turn on a switch and it will be back to normal. I think it’s going to take a little bit of time.”
Mustakas continued, “Without revenue coming in we are looking at about $1.5 million worth of losses just for 2021. So we’ve got some work to do to raise additional funds.”
He noted that since its inception, Drayton Entertainment has never received grants for operating funds from any level of government or arts council (although it has received grant funding for capital projects).
“It’s a very unique model of sustainability because of the multiple theatres and moving shows from community to community and amortizing administration and production costs,” he explained.
“We’ve also been lucky compared to our industry peers because we had the good fortune and vision by some of our early board members like Jean Campbell and John Green, Ab Hesselink, Donald Cherry, who said we should set up a stabilization fund some 30 years ago to navigate a crisis like this.
“No one predicted a pandemic, but I think it was a wise move,” said Mustakas, adding that without the reserves, “all that hard work by all of us, including this community, over 30 years could have been just destroyed in a matter of months because of this virus.”
Mustakas said, “In conclusion, I just want to say that we need the creative sector. I think it’s important. I think we will get through this.
“I just believe that we will be a big part of our community’s recovery as well because we are an economic driver.”
Mustakas noted other municipalities where venues are located have already provided assistance in the form of grants, including $192,000 from the City of Cambridge and $25,000 from South Huron.
In addition, the Province of Ontario at Discovery Harbour, where the King’s Warf Theatre is located, has absorbed $30,000 worth of operating costs.
“All I have to do now is find the other million, but we’re on that road,” said Mustakas.
He added the company has appealed to both the federal and provincial governments for further assistance and has plans for further fundraising and revenue generating activities in the near future.
Councillor Dennis Craven moved that council contribute $20,000 to Drayton Entertainment, a figure that was raised to $30,000 after some discussion.
Councillor Marlene Ottens said, “I fully support this. As has been pointed out, the theatre certainly put Drayton on the map.”
“I think you’re preaching to the choir through your presentation,” agreed councillor Michael Martin.
“I’m sure presentations like this are ones that are probably hard for you, considering your standing in the community nationally, internationally.
“I’m certainly happy to support your ask.”
Mustakas, in reference to the theatre’s numerous private and corporate sponsors, said, “We’re used to begging for money because the true cost of producing theatre is not reflected in that average $42, $44 ticket price.”
After council voted to make the $30,000 contribution, Mayor Gregg Davidson said, “I’m really happy that we could support Drayton Entertainment and our local theatre house.”
“The operating costs are going to be basically the heat and hydro, the water – they have to get elevator maintenance done, things like that,” Davidson told the Advertiser.
“And at the end of the day the building itself is owned by the township, so it fits well with helping them out.”
Davidson said the theatre company has a strong positive impact on the local economy.
“If you can imagine losing … I would suggest your number one attraction in your community for people travelling around … If you lose that, your economic development drops significantly,” he stated.
“We definitely want to keep Drayton Entertainment in Drayton. They promote the name Drayton right across Ontario and across Canada.”