MINTY: A little help is needed to keep cherished Surrey theatre in business

A look back at 2015 includes fond memories of "Calendar Girls"

Surrey Little Theatre is located on a part of 184th Street that is slated for widening.

Surrey Little Theatre is located on a part of 184th Street that is slated for widening.

SURREY — It’s the end of another year. This is an artificial creation of humankind. Time is a seamless continuum, but for some reason we seem to need to manage time and space and assign methods of counting time in days and years. We mark birthdays, holidays and events of historical or special significance. We capture time on calendars, day planners and phones. All of my computers, tablets and other electronic devices track time better than I do.

Ah, but it is the end of one year and the beginning of another in our time frame and calendar. It’s time to look back over the last year and extract our favourite bits – and possibly make “resolutions” for the new year. Normally I resist performing these tasks – been there, done that, move along. It’s not that I am forgetful, but honestly, the filing cabinet of my brain is getting kinda full.

But this year past I made different choices. Change is not easy, but I did alter my life calendar and right now I am quite happy with the results of those changes. I made time to audition for, and participate in, “Calendar Girls,” the first play of the season for Surrey Little Theatre. I was thrilled to have secured a part in the play, which saw a final performance on Nov. 22. I will admit that this single project was the most positive rewarding experience I have ever encountered in community theatre. Every single person involved in this production was so positive, enthusiastic, supportive and hard-working that I can truly list “Calendar Girls” as my top pick for 2015.

That’s just the personal side of this show. Sold-out theatres, extra shows added and thrilled production managers were also part of this positive experience. I never heard a discouraging word, and saw an army of volunteers dedicated to Surrey Little Theatre turn out to fill all the front-of-house positions, make the popcorn, sell the 50/50 tickets and just generally keep things working. So three cheers to everyone with Surrey Little Theatre. You all make a difference to our city.

The coming year might be a challenge for Surrey Little Theatre. There are hundreds of people who are passionate about this community theatre club. But here’s the rub: The heritage building – part of it, anyway – sits on a part of 184th Street that is slated for sewers and widening. This puts the SLT building in jeopardy, as it will not have sufficient setback or access once the widening process is completed.

The SLT board members have been looking for solutions. I wrote a column about the problem a couple months ago, and I am repeating the message now. Surrey Little Theatre can be relocated, and club members are OK with that. We just need an intact theatre space, and not rent space from the city to put on productions. The physical space that makes up Surrey Little Theatre has costume storage, tool room, props storage, set construction space and rehearsal space. If all these elements had to be rented out per show, SLT would no longer exist. I am not OK with that outcome. Replace our community-owned and operated theatre with townhouses? I don’t think so. Sure, build the townhouses if that is what will be OK in that space, but save the theatre first. In January, there are meetings scheduled with the city to discuss the problem and look for solutions. I don’t think I am alone in wanting to preserve Surrey Little Theatre. It has a long history in our city, and has had a positive influence in many lives other than my own. I appreciate your support, as patrons, to all our community theatre clubs – Fraser Valley Gilbert & Sullivan Society, Surrey Little Theatre and White Rock Players’ Club. It takes some very dedicated individuals to keep these volunteer-powered clubs operating. All three of these clubs are facing financial and other challenges in 2016. You have a voice, use it. Be part of the project to save Surrey Little Theatre. We can show once again why Surrey was once selected as a Cultural Capital of Canada. Happy New Year.

melminty@telus.net

 

 

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