Eliza Gardiner, who saw TheatreOne through its most successful financial year, is leaving her position as general manager of the local theatre company to focus on her teaching role with Vancouver Island University.
Gardiner began her role in March of 2015 and under her leadership the organization went from what a she described in a farewell post as a “significant deficit” to a surplus.
She said she was drawn to the position because she wanted to work with award-winning artistic director David Mann, it was a good fit with her work as a theatre instructor at VIU and she is a believer in TheatreOne’s mission.
Gardiner said she feels she accomplished her goals of modernizing TheatreOne, streamlining its branding, developing its Just Kidding family series and putting more bodies in seats.
“Lack of funding and politics in the past decade have made operations challenging for a lot of arts companies across the province,” she said.
“And I was determined to use that marketing to really attract people to something that they would leave with a sense of wonderment in their mind and a smile on their face and build an experience for people, not just a ticket to a show.”
Gardiner said she is proud of her final year with TheatreOne. She said she veered from the company’s “traditional” perspective and took more risks.
“I started to get a little bit more courageous and helped to choose some shows that push the envelope a little bit because that’s my thing: the socio-political power that theatre has over the centuries, over the millennia, really, to impact a culture and a civilization,” she said, mentioning staging Mark Kunji Ikeda’s performance Sansei: The Storyteller, which covered the Japanese internment, and Jennifer Wynne Webber’s women’s labour movement play, With Glowing Hearts.
“As much as, in a way, I don’t want to go, I’ll look back and say it was a good way to end.”
Gardiner said it’s been a dream of hers to work full time at VIU and this is what she will be doing. She will now be able to give her full attention to her scholarly duties, which include teaching five courses, tutoring students in the writing centre, directing plays for the theatre program and doing research.
“It’s with some regrets that I’ll leave here, but with a lot of excitement about what’s to come,” she said.