Theatre user groups receive grant from Trillium Foundation

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.