Is It Curtains For Stage North?

 All packed up and nowhere to go. Stage North Theatre Society has scouted out suitable spaces for rent and discovered, as a non-profit organization, they cannot afford any of those available spaces.

As of March 30, Stage North no longer has a home to rehearse shows nor build sets. This could mean no season of productions for Stage North next year in the North Peace Cultural Centre. With no place to mount a production, which takes about 3 months preparation, Stage North will have no shows to perform.

The membership of the theatre society has been sorting and packing set pieces, costumes and tools since they were given 30 days to vacate the basement premises of the old COOP. The 30 days notice was no surprised since it was part and parcel of the affordable rental agreement. Previous to moving into the Coop about 4 years ago, Stage North found similar affordable arrangements with Tracker Contracting before they also opted to renovate their premises.

After nearly 15 years of development, Stage North is homeless. Packed into two C-cans with costumes stored in a dry temporary location, Stage North is searching for a heated space of about 2000 square feet with a washroom. Stage North President Oliver Hachmeister said that a shared space is possible. “Our rehearsals are in the evenings and on weekends since everyone is a volunteer with a career job elsewhere or is a student. However, sets are constructed early and they remain in place until we truck them to the Cultural Centre for performances.”

Stage North has few options. Finding affordable, suitable space is the best answer and an immediate solution. The problem is the affordability. Stage North’s fundraising capabilities are already stretched to the maximum and commercial rents in Fort St. John are not within Stage North’s range. Hachmeister said, “Stage North can afford about $25,000 per year to rent rehearsal space.” He explained that rehearsal space, the cost of each production and the fees for performance space are the major line items in the annual Stage North budget.

Another option is pursuing the construction of a permanent space which would involve the purchase of land and a long-term fundraising program plus sustainable funding for operation. Stage North is a volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to providing quality theatre for residents and visitors and mentoring youth in presentation and technical skills of production.

Without on-going support from the community, this major project is not possible.

A third option is to return to the days of producing plays with small casts in make-shift locations only when a space is available for rehearsals. Theatre in Fort St. John, as far back as the 1940’s, found nooks and crannies to rehearse and perform. The casts were small; there was no program of mentoring youth; and technical instruction was non-existent.

It has only been in the last 20 years since the North Peace Cultural Centre opened in 1992 that a proper theatre facility has been available for performances. Local theatre has taken huge strides with larger musical productions, youth theatre summer schools, acting workshops, and instruction in production and technical aspects of theatre. Stage North provides production support for other community organizations and costumes for schools shows, talent shows and more. The opportunities for honing personal presentation skills for the young and the not-so-young provide another benefit to the community.

Stage North pays $30-40,000 each year in performance fees to the North Peace Cultural Centre. This, along with all the other indirect economic benefits to Fort St. John, will be lost if Stage North cannot mount a season of shows.  

Stage North is open for suggestions and partnerships with other organizations in solving the problem of lack of space for non-profits in this community. Contact Oliver at 261-1639 or with any possible solutions.