Summerside theatre complex celebrates ten years in the business
by Michelle René Sexton
Past, present, and future give cause to celebrate as the Harbourfront Theatre honours its ten year anniversary. What better way to do this than reflecting on the past, changing the present, and reaching high for the future. In the past the theatre was used strictly as a rental facility, but that had huge implications and made it hard to develop its own identity. “We had a few lean years,” remarked Maurice Gallant, General Manager.
In the summers of 1997 and 1998 the theatre mounted Maritime Star Musical and Jamboree, both successful and the start of more productions to come. “People thought it couldn’t be done,” said Maurice. It ended up working better than anyone could have hoped. “It was a catalyst for some arts and doing more things,” said Joady Walton, Director of Youth Programs. Community effort and support helped make the theatre a success and in 2003 a turn around in management brought a different vision which helped the theatre finally come into its own.
In its present state the theatre has a stronger involvement with the community. Schools perform high quality plays with realistic props. There are also more youth programs. “We do a lot! We rent, produce, and present. We’re well balanced in all three. The goal was to become more of a community based theatre. It worked to be connected to what sells with the community, what clients want, and more development,” said Maurice. In addition the theatre boasts its own production company, which stages seven to eight shows a year (Melville Boys, Wizard of Oz). The theatre also works well due to its fantastic volunteers. “They’re a huge part of us,” smiled Mary Gallant, Director of Operations. Another aid is the new sign that stands proudly in front of the theatre, a generous gift from Oran Canada. “It’s our sign now,” smiled Joady. “Before we were sharing signs with the yacht club and waterfront mall so things got confusing about what or who was playing where. Now we have our own sign displaying what we do.”
Reaching for a stronger future, the Jubilee will hold more fundraising projects such as selling off remaining theatre seats at $1000 each, sponsorship books, and offering a subscription series and program. Anne and Gilbert will return to the stage in the summer of 2007. Cinema showings will continue as will concerts—a modern and classical series—, weddings, and more. “The theatre is in constant use,” agreed Maurice, Joady, and Mary. The community is starting to build the theatre’s popularity. “We owe a lot of people thanks: The City of Summerside, Government, the province, partnership with the Wellness Centre, and finally tourism,” said Maurice.