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Theatre group confident in viability of Nanaimo Centre Stage

Nanaimo Centre Stage can be managed without being a huge draw on city coffers, according to the co-founder of a new theatre alliance.

The newly created Harbour City Theatre Alliance Society – made up of a board of six arts supporters – plans to audition for management of Nanaimo Centre Stage.

City officials have been on the search for a new theatre operator in the wake of a planned exit by the Centre for the Arts Nanaimo this June. The group announced in April that it would bow out of operation of the 100-seat venue, stating it could no longer oversee the building for the $11,350 annual subsidy the city offered to pay. It had asked for $40,000 in 2014.

The new alliance, founded by Schmooze Productions’ artistic producer Dean Chadwick and Barbra French, artistic director of In Other Words Theatre, are confident they could work within the city’s framework. The building would be operated by a volunteer board, rather than staff. During days without bookings, French and Chadwick say they have the experience as producers to put on their own shows, festivals and workshops to generate revenue.

“We want NCS to be a fantastic place for artists in the community ... we want to make it affordable and we can and I think we have the experience and the know-how in order to produce great events and offer this amazing space – without having to continually go back to that municipal well over and over again,” French said.

The alliance formed earlier this year when the founders realized the theatre could close. According to French, there are no other spaces in the community that are affordable or viable for small to medium theatre companies and it needed to be saved.

She gives credit to the Centre for the Arts, which ensured the venue is in good shape and recognized as a performing arts space. A new not-for-profit like theirs won’t have to start at square one.

Chadwick says he sees the potential for a vibrant theatre.

“The big difference is you are dealing with two people that have had their hands in theatre for most of their adult life. We know the inner workings, we know the people involved ... and now we want to keep this space open so that we can all use it.”

The theatre alliance plans to submit a proposal before the city’s May 23 deadline. According to Chris Sholberg, the city’s culture and heritage planner, three non-profits and one arts organization have toured Nanaimo Centre Stage and there is definite interest to potentially take over management of it.

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