The R.E.M Lee Theatre Alive Society received close to $200,000 from the federal government to put toward the theatre’s seating, lighting and soundboard upgrades, transforming the 40-year-old theatre into a state-of-the-art facility.
The investment through the government’s Canada Cultural Spaces Fund will allow the organization to renovate the R.E.M Lee Theatre into a modernized multidisciplinary cultural centre for theatre, dance, music and film.
The society received news they were approved in December, leading them to exceed their $400,000 goal by an extra $60,000.
“We were all shell-shocked because our scope changes now,” says Nancy Stone Archer, R.E.M Lee Theatre coordinator and Theatre Alive Society secretary.
The society began fundraising to update the theatre three years ago and has raised more than $260,000 through community fundraisers and various grants, including $100,000 from the BC Rural Dividend fund and $35,000 from the Northern Development Initiative Trust for a new soundboard and LED lighting system.
With this grant, she says renovation work can start immediately, starting with the replacement of the theatre’s 40-year-old chairs.
“We can buy seats now — we have three sample seats arriving from shortlisted companies so we can see which ones we like and which ones are going to work in such a versatile place,” Stone Archer says, adding that the seats should be installed by the fall.
Part of the work will include a plan to better stagger sightlines in the theatre, and a renovation to the front row, which will allow patrons with mobility issues better access to sit with their guests.
“Currently, I remove one bank of four seats and we ask that wheelchairs are placed there, which is not next to their family or with their people, so we would like to recraft the front row,” says Stone Archer.
With more modern technical equipment, Stone Archer says the upgrades should also attract more touring musicians and artists to Terrace.
The theatre itself is a Coast Mountain School District building, but because of budget constraints, there is usually no money left over to upgrade the theatre’s technical systems, seats or carpeting, Stone Archer says.
“It begins to look a bit tired, and it’s a very important place for the community of Terrace. It’s so exciting for Theatre Alive to spearhead this campaign on behalf of the theatre.”