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Curtain Up

Thirty six years ago tonight May 18, 1964, the curtain went up for the first time in the theatre of the Confederation Centre of the Arts. What an exciting affair. It was the Dominion Drama Festival and the play that night was "Chips With Everything" by the PTA Theatre Wing from Kamloops under the direction of Tom Kerr. It was the first of eight plays that we'd see that week.

By the time the Beaux Arts Ball began following the Presentations of Awards on Saturday night, we were sold and committed to making the Centre work. We had laughed and cried together and we had, almost all of us, seen Mrs. Keith Rogers walk out of "The Taste Of Honey" in disgust, because she perceived that the brass bed she had loaned for the performance was being sinned upon! Oh, the innocence of the time.

The local committee under the chairmanship of Randy Manning and Beth McGowan had worked so hard for months. Lillian Duchemin, as secretary, kept everyone in line. There were so many details. For instance Gwen Fichaud, who was in charge of tickets with the help of her group, sold that house out -in advance - for every performance! With Bill Hancoxs and Betty Large in charge of publicity it was assured that matter was well looked after.

There were accommodations to be found in the pre-Prince Edward Hotel days, and there were the props to find. So many more things than the brass bed. City Hall's Mary McQuaid with the help of the Little Theatre Group looked after that.

Daphne MacKinnon and her crew looked after the registration and yours truly and Alf looked after Entertainment and Hospitality. Eileen McMillan, Art McInnis, Sterling Walker and others helped us there. We even hired Jim McNutt to take the delegates on a Island tour. I still remember them coming off the bus with minutes to spare to curtain time. If you think Jim is blustery now, you should have seen him then.

Now the building. It was no mean chore to have that theatre ready for that night. When the lights dimmed it was as much of a big show as the play itself. Even the concourse was not finished until the Saturday of the Ball. Gordon White had worked with the contractors etc. to hurry it along. It was exciting and the fashions were great. Mavor Moore was there, Mary Jolliffe, Bob Dubberly and, yes, Ron Irving. One wonders what happened to all the performers and how many stayed in theatre.

There were so many wonderful people. And we proved that when Islanders work together we can accomplish wonders. The budget for the week was $17,901 less than was budgeted. That covered theatre rental, stage crew, competitors' allowances, adjudicator etc. Not bad, eh.

Not all Islanders looked at this building as a potential potato warehouse. It was a dream come true for a great many people ... people who had worked hard to maintain a presence for the arts through very difficult times - and whose ancestors had done likewise. The road had not been easy and it has not been easy since for whose who have assumed the heavy cares of operating an edifice like this one. Let us use this important anniversary to rededicate ourselves to this wondrous community resource and gently nudge the present authorities to hold a review on the place of this Centre of the Arts in our community. They don't have to carry all the weight themselves.

Written Thursday, May 18, 2000 at 08:08 PM

(c) 2000 by Catherine Hennessey. Questions or comments? Email me@catherinehennessey.com

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ISSN 1496-3108