St. Croix Theatre Company has permanent home in newly-renovated SSMS theatre

St. Stephen – The St. Croix Theatre Company has been operating for 25 years, without a permanent stage to call their own. That all changed last week when they received their memorandum of understanding from the ASD-S school board, and now they are able to call St. Stephen Middle School home. This is something that has been in the works for several months, and now the theatre company has a place to perform. On top of that, they get to perform in what is essentially a brand new theatre, with many renovations having been done in the theatre, including brand new seating.

St. Croix Theatre Company Chairman Brian Brooks said they have been working on the memorandum of understanding with the school district for some time, and now that it has been signed by St. Stephen Middle School Principal Bronwyn Tanner and ASD-S Director of Finance and Administration John MacDonald, they can start working on new productions.

“That memorandum is signed, and it’s going to allow us to use the middle school theatre twice a year for productions, plus a fundraising event, if we choose to go ahead with it. It’s also allowing for us some storage space for props and costumes and so on,” said Brooks.

Brooks said having the memorandum of understanding is a huge thing for the St. Croix Theatre Company, because they haven’t had a permanent home in the 25 years the company has been in existence. Now, they have a home for the next five years, as per the memorandum of understanding. Since the company began, they have been moving from venue to venue, wherever they could get space to rehearse and perform. One of the biggest challenges they faced was the cost of renting venues for their performances.

“We put on plays at time in the school theatres, especially the high school, a couple of times or more. But the cost just got to prohibitive,” said Brooks. “We couldn’t afford the rental cost. What they were charging was just way beyond what we could do because we’re just a non-profit organization. The only money we make is through the productions, and that’s barely enough to get us on to the next one.

We’re really appreciative of the school district entering into this agreement with us. I should add that this is going to be free to us, except for custodial costs. We have to pay for the janitors and so on. That’s under union agreements.”

The biggest concern for the theatre company now is COVID-19. Brooks said they are not sure what will happen, but he is hopeful that they will be able to start working on productions as soon as possible. He said they will work that out as they go along, and is happy that they have a new home as a starting point.

St. Stephen Middle School Principal Bronwyn Tanner said she is excited to have the St. Croix Theatre Company call the middle school home. She called it a win/win situation, because not only is it a permanent home for the theatre company, it is also good for the community, and for the students who get to see how a theatre company actually works. While COVID-19 may have put a bit of a damper on many school activities for the time being, Tanner said she is hopeful that in the future students will be able to take part in theatre workshops with the members of the community theatre group.

“Theatre has been an important part of this school for many, many years. This just seems like a wonderful partnership,” said Tanner. “When we embarked on the fundraising for the theatre, they approached us and supported the whole project from the beginning. For us, having them housed here will be great. It not only opens up our school to the community and allows a focus on the arts. It’s wonderful for our students as well to see a community theatre group use the space.”

Tanner said she is thankful for the community support received when they were looking for donations to complete the theatre renovations, and said it was a huge community effort from the outset. She would like to thank everyone who supported the project, including the St. Croix Theatre Company, local organizations, individuals, and the J.T. Clark Family Foundation for helping to make the theatre renovations possible.

Brooks is also thankful for the support from the ASD-S school district, and from Tanner, as well as everyone who has made it possible for his group to have a permanent home.

“We hope this is going to be a good partnership between the school district and the community theatre group, and that they’re open to making their facilities available to community groups like us.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca