Supporters of Smiths Falls Community Theatre Foundation fill council chambers in support of Station Theatre lease renewal

The Smiths Falls Station Theatre, located at 53 Victoria Ave., Smiths Falls, is in need of new LED lighting. The town has supported a grant application for up to half the cost of the project. – Laurie Weir photo

After a recent Smiths Falls council request to see what is going on at the Station Theatre before renewing a 10-year lease, the Smiths Falls Community Theatre Foundation took the opportunity to fill the seats in council chambers on June 10, while their spokesperson touted the virtues of the group and its partnership with the town.

Jamie Schoular, past president of the Smiths Falls Community Theatre Foundation, spoke on behalf of the group to an abbreviated council –councillors Dawn Quinn and Chris McGuire were absent from the meeting.

“We know we can’t sustain what it is we’re trying to do without that continued support (from the town) and we really do value that good working relationship with town staff and councillors as well,” Schoular said.

Schoular launched into a 28-page, 18-minute PowerPoint presentation that highlighted the 25-year working relationship with volunteers and town staff and councillors, the improvements done inside and outside the theatre, partnerships, performances, patrons, rentals, and even the work done behind the scenes notching countless volunteer hours.

“It’s nice to see the usage rebounding since COVID,” said Coun. Jennifer Miller. “The arts community was hit so hard.”

Mayor Shawn Pankow said it was an incredible commitment from volunteers to make the community theatre happen in the town, and to “ensure it continues to happen.”

It’s a great venue, he added. “I think it’s been a great partnership. It’s something we have … (and it’s about) accountability to our taxpayers and we commit to it every year.”

Pankow commended the work of the volunteers and those who filled council chambers to show “the commitment it takes to pull this together…And to deliver as much value to our town as you mentioned … hundreds of days every single year.”

The mayor said he didn’t have a question but rather “an expression of gratitude. We have a responsibility to maintain the structure, maintain the facility … and recognizing when there are needs.”

To justify the commitment is something Pankow noted they needed to do, “and we know that over time it will be an ongoing investment. Like any other asset, we have a nice financial plan which indicates the conditions of all of our assets – (that shows) when do we need to invest, what and when, and how much. This fits into that (plan).”

The mayor said there have been some “challenges and bumps” over the years. “Our interest is trying to make this facility and everyone involved provide the best possible value to the community.”

That is shown through their ongoing demonstration of events.

“It not only develops a community, but it develops individuals involved,” Pankow said, as he expressed that he’s ready to continue a partnership of strength and collaboration with the theatre group.

“There is so much untapped opportunity within our borders for people to get in there and see what great things are happening,” Pankow said.

Coun. Peter McKenna said he’s ready to go with the next 10 years and sign the lease.

Coun. Steve Robinson also appreciated the presentation, quipping that that Schoular should have been a school teacher (he was).

Coun. Jay Brennan, who chaired the meeting, said he appreciated the presentation and the supportive crowd.

“There were questions a couple weeks ago, and you’ve answered them,” Brennan said.

One of council’s previous concerns was the open space on the calendar.

Schoular shared that their calendar after June 10 includes a theatre production, rehearsals for their summer youth show, and a movie weekend. They’ve added some June rentals as well as an annual general meeting and a graduation.

July events include rehearsals for a summer show, and rentals for a tribute show, a comedy festival and a “possible magic show.”

There are 15 days in August slated for rehearsals and the performance of their summer show.
September onward, there will be two more theatre productions, movie weekends, and another concert. Rentals have been booked as well, including for a burlesque show, heritage symposium, high school musical and local concerts.
Schoular received an ovation for his presentation as he left the podium, as the crowd thinned out behind him.

A new lease agreement will come to council at a later date for consideration.


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