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Chemainus News - Trees and Theatre Developments

For many mural towns it is still early days to discuss What Next? after painting two score murals. But for the founding towns over the past two decades it is very much on their agendas, and Chemainus is of course no exception.

1. Theatre Development Continues

As the Duncan News reports, the ongoing work for the 75 suites spa hotel and new theatre workshops will enable short break theatre visits for two or three different shows. That's the latest turn of the wheel of economic development for a town that began just to paint murals.

Backstage space just big enough for munchkins could be enlarged by summer when the Chemainus Theatre opens The Wizard of Oz.
Managing director Randal Huber says his facility's 13th season starts Feb. 11 with witty work An Ideal Husband followed by farcical Arsenic & Old Lace April 8 while its $1.2-million production complex and 75-suite spa hotel are completed.
The 12,000-square-foot production facility will provide room for set building, costume making and storage, plus rehearsal space now rented in town churches.
"The immediate benefit will be the quality of our productions," he said.
"Church space worked out well but we can't put sets up for rehearsal.
Sets and costumes will be hauled down Chemainus Road to the theatre from the facility.
"Our hope is to rehearse Oz in our new rehearsal hall," Huber said of the famed musical fantasy opening June 17.
"We'll also gain a stage left, a backstage and dressing rooms that now hold our offices at the theatre."
That expansion should make for smoother staging of whodunit An Inspector Calls (Sept. 23) and yuletide musical Little Women (Nov. 25).
Children's plays include The Selfish Giant (March 19), Winnie The Pooh (July 1), and Nightingale (Dec. 10).
The production centre will likely make shows crisper while audience numbers are expected to climb thanks to accommodations in the new $9-million Best Western Chemainus Festival Inn opening in June, Huber said.
Savings, crowds, and easier preparation aside, picking the theatre's five annual shows and its trio of kids' plays will follow the same criteria, he said.
"We'll still hold with classic scripts and plays that will be unique to the area so people have a reason to come over."
Other reasons include hotel package deals and establishment of a second stage venue, possibly in a tent on a strip of Weyerhaeuser land opposite the theatre.
"Our costs will be pretty close to what they are now but we'll have the ability to produce for a second venue, and we'll sell more tickets," he said of the theatre with a current $2.8-million budget.
"The whole idea behind the hotel and production facility is to give us the infrastructure to launch a multi-venue festival here."
The theatre's planned third venue hasn't been targeted yet, Huber said.
"With the hotel we want to create a theatre destination so people can see two or three plays while they're here.
"There'll be hiccups in the transformation but we'll deal with those hurdles as we hit them."


And as if that news is not enough a magnificent grant of more than $Cdn 600,000 has now been received to renovate the Festival Theatre itself, again as reported by the Duncan News. Seems those that truly help themselves do in the fullness of time get their just rewards!

Fresh from a Jamaica vacation, a tanned MLA Graham Bruce handed a $613,000 grant cheque to the Chemainus Theatre Festival on Tuesday to help renovate the 13-year-old facility.
The grant through the Canada-British Columbia Infrastructure Program is the first major funding from that purse to arrive in Cowichan this year as the 2005 B.C. Seniors Games, and the 2008 North America Indigenous Games heat up.
But Bruce declined to pin the infrastructure grant on pre-election funding toward B.C.'s May 17 vote.
"I can't help it if good news is coming through the Valley.
"Is there more money coming? You bet."
Theatre manager Randal Huber and artistic director Jeremy Tow told patrons the grant - including a one-third share from their facility - will help replace aging light and sound systems, address health and safety concerns, repair roofing, fix exterior stucco, redesign interior space, and install washrooms for handicapped visitors.
Huber said a half-million patrons have visited the theatre since it opened in 1993 "but she's looking a little tired."
He repeated his goal of making the town a theatre festival destination such as Stratford or Shaw.
"This grant couldn't come at a better time for us."
Especially as the theatre prepares to move its production and administration operations down Chemainus Road to its new production centre (please see page 15) by spring.
Tow calls the grant "an incredible gift" that recognizes arts and culture as integral to the Little Town That Did.
But he was also dubious if Tuesday's funds are a pre-election primer.
"I'm not sure; I want to think the government believes in the arts."
North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure indicted his council also supports thespians and wants to do more for them next year through a policy concerning property tax relief under the new Community Charter.
"It's a personal goal of mine for next year," he said of the theatre's fall demand for tax exemption as a non-profit operation.
Lefebure envisions arts joining forestry as the town's economic trunk, noting the facility can still request municipal grants during the next few months.
Former mayor Rex Hollett praised the theatre and the town's mural project for helping yank Chemainus out of a slump.
"I had a vision about this too but this (success) is probably better than I anticipated," he said of the town's arts industries.


2. Exporting Red Cedars for Totem Poles

The second news report from Chemainus is in the Ladysmith Chronicle and tells of the short thank you visit by Prestoungrange to Chemainus in mid January to meet with Mayor John Lefubre who's Council has donated two 40 foot red cedars to the Prestoungrange Arts Festival for carving in partnership with Cowichan tribes in Scotland over the next 18 months starting April 2005.

Click on images to enlarge



The trees managed to overcome all man made and oceanic obstructions [including a short period of quarantine imposed by the Forestry Commission in Scotland]and are now safely secured at Wintoun Home Farm whilst preparations for carving are made. The quarantine 'scare' was overcome by a promise [backed by an Order] that all remaining bark would be removed and destroyed by Scottish fire.

Congratulations and thanks to all who helped to get the logs to Scotland safe and sound, especially the Baron Sergeand at Prestoungrange, Sylvia Burgess, and Douglas and Sir Francis at Wintoun House. Douglas is shown below doing the skilled work with their tractor and chains; and the size of the logs can be readily appreciated! The final removal of the bark was accomplished on our behalf by Tom Francis of the Forestry Commission himself, seen smiling below and with loaded barrow which he and Arthur from the Wintoun Estate later burnt.




Published Date: January 20th 2005


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