Monday, February 22, 2010

Fast Times at the Fergus Grand Theatre

There's been a lot of activity going on recently at the Fergus Grand Theatre. New draperies have been installed onstage, and some badly needed backstage clean-up and repairs have been done.

The new draperies are a direct result of the Trillium Grant currently being overseen by a collaborative of user groups of the Fergus Grand. Grinder Productions is pleased to be a member of this collaborative, doing our part to ensure the signature theatrical venue in our community remains a viable, vibrant space for years to come.

It's the "for years to come" part that I find the most important part of the whole project. The Grand is over 80 years old already - she needs constant care and attention to be kept in suitable shape for live performance, and as much as these new draperies are a welcome (and badly, badly needed) addition what's just as important is the sense of ownership amongst the user groups that this sort of collaboration can generate.

What's happening here, albeit very slowly, is an assumption of the narrative of this building by the community, and the subsequent validation of the space in the eyes of more and more people.

If you walk into any other theatre space that a company calls home you'll soon notice that for a lot of the members of that company the theatre does feel like home: people seem more affable, more at ease, and while a few may be a bit more messy most are a bit more careful not to make a mess in the first place, especially in a public area. They are a community, and this is their place, and they are welcoming the friends, family, neighbours and guests.

There was such a feeling when I first started doing shows at the Grand almost 15 years ago. A big part of what attracted me to the companies that called FGT home at that time was the warm, welcoming group of people who were eager to share their passion for the stage, people who could and did take pride in both the shows they were doing and the space they were doing them in.

Sadly that feeling was lost over the years, as community was replaced by corporate, and while there some great plays did hit the stage they came at the cost of the personal triumphs and the close-knit community of friends. By the time the ax finally fell on professional theatre in Fergus the community I had known when I first arrived was long gone, never to return.

For the past seven years now we've been forging a new community at the Grand, with players both new and old. Are we there yet? Not by a long shot. It turns out that you can't build a community overnight, or proclaim one into existence. Community is something that comes one show at a time, one meeting at a time, one day at a time.

But I'm not worried, because as I said, this is "for years to come." I've already been putting on plays at the Grand for 15 years, having done countless shows already in every capacity imaginable. In another 15 years and countless more shows I hope to be doing it still, and 15 years after that maybe I'll consider myself off to a decent start.

We've got a great thing going at 244 St Andrew. Here's to the next 80 years.

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