Leon Potter

Leon Potter

Vancouver Island University showcasing Malaspina Theatre renovations during open house

NANAIMO - Vancouver Island University hosts an open house at Malaspina Theatre Friday (Sept. 16) to showcase recent renovations.

Bright fall light streams through the windows of Malaspina Theatre’s lobby.

The space is open and furnished with chairs and tables for students, staff and theatre patrons to enjoy.

The lobby received a facelift thanks to donations collected through Vancouver Island University’s Encore fundraising campaign, which began earlier this year. The campaign raised more than $84,000.

In the lobby, the old concession was removed. Previously the windows around the concession were blocked off, but now they allow natural light to filter into the space.

“Now we have this big, wide-open, beautiful space that people can use,” said Leon Potter, chairman and an instructor for VIU’s theatre department.

The walls were repainted and new carpet was installed.

“The beauty of it is the lobby has become an attractive rental opportunity for people,” said Potter. “It’s a really nice warm atmosphere in here now, which is great.”

Potter said galleries are inquiring about putting installations in the lobby and the creative writing department is hosting poetry readings in the space.

Inside the theatre, new patron seating was installed.

“Now they don’t squeak, they are absolutely stunning,” said Potter.

Some of the old usable seats were donated to the Harbour City Theatre Alliance Society.

Potter said the decision to renovate started with the seats. They were designed to last 20 years, but had been in use for 40 years.

“We have always focused on the backstage, we haven’t really focused on the lobby,” he said.

Part of the goal behind the renovation was to raise the theatre’s profile in the community.

“We’ve had a small presence in the community and I don’t want that to be the case anymore,” said Potter. “We’ve got a big. beautiful space that is available.”

He said the university doesn’t want to use the space only for classes and lectures, but wants to see community groups using the theatre and lobby.

“There are sort of three key spaces in town. There is the Port Theatre, which is your big concert hall type … and that’s 800. There’s us that has 300 … and then there is Harbour City Theatre which has 100 people,” said Potter.

Potter said for many visitors coming to the university, the theatre is one of their first impressions of the campus.

“If we don’t take care of this building, then you are not putting your best foot forward,” he said. “This kind of renovation and this kind of upkeep gives us a real impetus and a real surge of energy to move forward and grow, and that’s great, and that is exactly what we need.”

To celebrate Malaspina Theatre’s 40th anniversary and the recent renovations, Vancouver Island University is hosting an open house Friday (Sept. 16) from 1-5 p.m.

The Encore fundraising campaign is still running. There were 217 seats adopted by donors, recognized through a customized plaque on each seat, and there are 76 seats remaining.

For more information about the Encore campaign, please go to www2.viu.ca/giving/encore.asp.