L-R: PSFT Board Member Brian Welsh, PSFT Artistic Director Simon Joynes,|
Elgin County Warden Cameron McWilliam, Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Joe Preston,
PSFT Board President Robert Halle, Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek,
Central Elgin Mayor Bill Walters, PSFT Board Member Mary Dunn
September 16, 2013: Past and present members of the Port Stanley Festival
Theatre Board, theatre volunteers, local politicians and media gathered at the back
of the theatre building today for a ground breaking ceremony to mark the theatre's
new expansion project, expected to take two years to complete.
With special thanks to the Ontario Trillium Foundation in getting this renovation
project Expand the Experience off the ground, Brian Welsh welcomed the guests.
Interestingly, the pretty bright pink hard hat was studiously avoided by the male
guest speakers until Artistic Director Simon Joynes laughingly stated "I'm secure
in my own masculinity" and plunked it on his own head. Only Simon could have pulled
off a pink hard hat as looking appropriately masculine.
"In the spring of 2011, the Board approved funding from the Theatre's reserves for
an initial assessment of needs and options for expansion. Audience numbers have
been growing for several years, with a number of performances selling out, and now
action was needed. A grant obtained from the Elgin Business Resource Centre allowed
the theatre to engage a consultant to come up with expansion options. An outline
plan was developed, and an initial set of design drawings and cost estimates prepared,"
Mary Dunn informed the gathering. "In the fall of 2011, the Board approved a fund-raising
campaign to raise the $1.5 million needed for the project. A focus team consisting
of several Board members and local volunteers was assembled to drive the project
forward, and start the fund-raising process."
"The project has three major components:" Brian Welsh explained, "(a) construction
of a 3-storey extension at the rear of the property, each floor of the extension
providing approximately 800 square feet of additional space; (b) renovation of the
stage and dressing rooms, and an increase in the number of seats in the auditorium;
and (c) construction of a multi-purpose room adjacent to the existing rehearsal
hall, overlooking Port Stanley harbour and Kettle Creek, to provide additional space
for youth theatre, workshops, lectures and various patron events. The Port Stanley
branch of the Elgin County library, located in the building, will also benefit from
Pointing out that the theatre has always been aware that this building has been
an unofficial community centre and how economic development can come from activities
other than manufacturing, "the Port Stanley Festival Theatre is a key business and
cultural contributor, directly and indirectly, in an area driven in large part by
tourism," PSFT President Robert Halle said.
Saying that Port Stanley was on the verge of a great leap forward into the future,
Simon Joynes thought the theatre redevelopment was perfectly timed to fit in with
and complement the harbour redevelopment.
The project is estimated to take 24 months to complete, with completion targeted
for the 2015 summer season. Funding for the project comes in part from the Ontario
Trillium Foundation, the Dorothy Faye Palmer Foundation, and the Green Lane Community
Trust." For more information, visit the project website at www.playbythelake.ca.