The Fergus Grand Theatre is getting yet another facelift – this time thanks to a $41,500 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
That money will be used over the next two years to address health and safety issues at the theatre through the delivery of workshops and volunteer training programs, as well as the replacement of aging stage draperies and hardware.
Funds will also be awarded for marketing to support the development of a vibrant theatre community in Centre Wellington.
The money will be administered by a newly-formed collaborative, called the User Groups of the Fergus Grand Theatre. That group, comprised of many of the Grand Theatre’s regular users, has cooperated and seeks to improve not only the quality of the theatre itself but also the quality of the individual shows each group mounts.
The current members of that collaborative are the Elora Community Theatre, Wellington-Waterloo Playhouse, the Not So Grand Players, the Fergus Grand Theatre volunteer committee, Vision Theatre Productions, On the Spot Productions, Grinder Productions, Centre Wellington Children’s Drama, and Climbing Vine Productions. Other local theatre groups have also expressed an interest in joining the collaborative to assist in their efforts to effectively deliver the grant.
The benefits of the workshops will not be limited to Centre Wellington. Theatre groups throughout Wellington, and Dufferin Counties and Waterloo Region will be encouraged and invited to send representatives to join the local groups in the workshops and training programs that will be offered in the months ahead.
Alan Argue, of the Wellington-Waterloo Playhouse, said in an interview that the progress has been “a long time coming. A lot of people have worked hard. We’ve got a beginning.”
Argue, a veteran of the theatre and entertainment business, said that for some reason “Everybody seemed to come together at the same time.”
When added to the cash for infrastructure, council got on board, and Argue said the Parks and Recreation Department has been working hard for positive changes at the theatre.
“All the groups have collaborated somewhat,” he said. “Now, this group provides a focus. There’s been patch jobs and patch jobs.”
Argue said he believes that the theatre can find a unique niche in Ontario, being a theatre focused on community groups rather than professional theatres, of which there are already many in the area.
“The dream has been a community based performing arts centre,” he said. “The whole key to this is it’s not a professional theatre. As we succeed, we think we’ll find a unique place in the province.”
He said many municipalities have their theatres that bring in acts, but, while Fergus can do that on a smaller scale, its size is just not practical for major professional attractions, so community groups are the best way to use it.”
Argue said, “Somebody can bring in professional acts,” but he noted, “This is a small stage,” and would not meet actors’ equity standards for dressingrooms and rehearsal and storage space.
Argue said, “Here, we can have community theatre, community musicals, community music. The ingredients have always been there.”
He was referring to the large number of performers who are located in Centre Wellington, from writers to directors to musicians to actors.
The grant was simply more good News. Just a week earlier, Centre Wellington council voted to spend $292,110 on the building that opened in the late 1920s as a movie house.
That means the building will get a new roof, new heating and air conditioning systems, as well as replacement of doors and windows and other renovations. Doing those projects will resolve a number of fire, structural, and safety issues with the building.
The Ontario Trillium Foundation is an agency of the government of Ontario. The Foundation allocates grants to eligible charitable and not-for-profit organizations in the arts and culture, environment, human and social services and Sports and recreation sectors.
The money from the foundation comes from the OLG, the provincial arm of the lottery and gaming corporation. The funds are profits from slots facilities and casinos.