Jocelyn Dickson

Jocelyn Dickson

Theatre revamp

NANAIMO - Vancouver Island University is raising money to upgrade Nanaimo's Malaspina Theatre.

There are discernible creaks and groans when patrons shift in their seat during a performance at Malaspina Theatre.

It can not only break the immersive experience for an audience member next to a patron, but can also interrupt the train of thought of actors onstage.

After 40 years of hosting Vancouver Island University plays and productions, and numerous community presentations, Malaspina Theatre is in need of upgrades and repairs.

When Malaspina Theatre was built in the 1970s it was the only theatre in town.

“The town was really excited to have a real theatre … a lot of people came up,” said Ross Desprez, a professor for VIU’s theatre department.“We’ve done some really beautiful shows over the years.”

Desprez said the theatre is one of the original buildings on campus and it speaks to the foresight and commitment to the arts of faculty members at the time to have it included.

A memorable past show for Desprez was Equus.

“It was in the early ’80s and it had nudity in it, so it got the town curious,” said Desprez.

Jocelyn Dickson, who is completing an English major and the theatre program diploma, said the theatre program at Vancouver Island University offers a more intimate experience. It allowed her to form tight bonds with people.

She’s had a chance to act in the plays, including Servant of Two Masters and Tartuffe, on the Malaspina Theatre stage. While she has experienced being in the spotlight, one of the aspects she loves about the program is the technical backstage skills the students get to learn.

When she graduates she hopes to work as part of a theatre company, perhaps as a stage manager, or teach English and theatre in high schools.

Vancouver Island University has launched a fundraising campaign, called Encore, to raise money for upgrades to the theatre. Planned upgrades include new seating, a facelift for the lobby and technology upgrades.

People are asked to become seat patrons. There are four levels.

The producer seating is $500 and there are 47 seats available.

Director seating is $400 and 60 seats are available. Performer seating is $300 and there are 187 seats available. Standing room only is $100.

Seat donors for the producer, director and performer levels will have a customized plaque on the seat. All donors will be recognized on a donation wall. For more information or to donate, please go to