Almost two decades ago, when community builders envisioned the Port Theatre, they saw aging musicians with long hair recreating the sounds of ’80s metal bands, the ear-splitting vocals of a Bonn Scott wannabe reverberating through the building’s state-of-the-art, finely tuned sound system.
Tribute shows to bands in all genres from AC/DC to Neil Diamond and everything in between are popular attractions, but limited in the cultural contribution made to a city.
Rather, the Port Theatre was designed to celebrate the best Canadian culture had to offer in music, dance and theatre.
Now that the Port Theatre Society is facing a $114,000 deficit for the first time in its history of operating Nanaimo’s jewel of the downtown arts district, citizens must make a tough choice whether to support an increase of $90,000 to the theatre’s annual grant of $454,000 from the city.
Much of that money is used to present groups like the National Ballet of Canada, where the artistic merit is without reproach, but the financial risk of flying more than 100 cast and crew – plus costumes and props – across the country is almost prohibitive.
But the return on that investment is not just in cultural value.
Downtown hotels and restaurants benefit whenever the Port Theatre hosts a show, which is why management is looking to establish partnerships with businesses to mitigate the financial risk.
The theatre isn’t just asking for a bigger handout – it’s asking residents to support its ongoing efforts to enhance the arts and culture community, and quality of life, in Nanaimo.
Or it could sit empty, waiting for the next comedian to make a fart joke.