Good time had by all

Michael
Michael Johansen
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Only a year ago, the floor of Labrador's newest performing arts theatre was just a pile of sand. For the most part, except for some surface scars made by latter-day earth movers, it had remained untouched since glacial run-off dumped it on Happy Valley-Goose Bay's future townsite thousands of years ago.
At the time (last year, that is, not at the end of the last ice-age), the sand was covered with a roof and surrounded by walls - all of them starkly bare. It was clearly a building of some kind - extension, really, since it was attached to the side of the Mealy Mountain Collegiate school - but it looked nothing like what it has since become: the much anticipated Lawrence O'Brien Arts Centre.
Now, none of the sand is visible. Much of it was dug out to make room for an as-yet unfinished orchestra pit and for the foundations of a deep stage and for the sloped floor that's supporting row after row of seating so comfortable someone could easily doze off during the quiet moments of a performance.
The roof is now rather difficult to see, since the big doorless holes that let in the sunlight a year ago are all closed up.
The present gloom is intentional, of course.
It's meant to hide the ceiling and all the state-of-the-art lighting attached to the rafters from the audience, whose eyes are supposed to be attracted to the stage, not the sky.
None of the walls look as they once did, either. The ones in the lobby are adorned by several dozen beautiful clay tablets that had been fashioned by students from all over Labrador just for that purpose (the tablets show scenes of life from around the region).
The walls of the theatre proper, while not decorated, are covered with materials and panels engineered to help the carefully designed space clearly deliver every word spoken or sung, every note played and, in fact, every sound made on the stage to every ear in the audience.
The design works. As more than one member of the very first audience said: "There isn't a bad seat in the house."
The people of Labrador - at least the thousands of students, actors, musicians, artists and lovers of live music and theatre who used to enjoy the many performances staged in the old Goose High auditorium before it closed six years ago - are delighted.
They have not been waiting since the last ice age for the new doors to open, but you might think they had, to judge by the looks on the faces of everyone who filled nearly all the seats for a two-night variety show.
Organizers called the show "Wish Fish Celebration." The name came from the large papier machÉ mascot adopted by the movement made up of many students, teachers and culture lovers of all ages whose imaginative, lively and incessant lobbying overcame stubborn political resistance. They forced the provincial government to finally cough up the four million or so dollars needed to build a performance space that meets Labrador's needs and desires.
There's no doubt the opening last weekend was a success. The hundreds of spectators loved the dozens of performers who acted, danced, sang and played guitars, drums, bells, horns and pianos.
The performers loved it - delighting in the stage that seemed to effortlessly carry their art to their audience. The organizers loved it, too - in fact, at least one of the directors of the Eastern Labrador Arts Alliance (which now runs the facility) was so giddy, she could hardly talk for happiness.
To sum up, a good time was had by all in the new Lawrence O'Brien Arts Centre, and that bodes well for all the times to come.

Michael Johansen is a writer
living in Labrador.

Organizations: Lawrence O'Brien Arts Centre, Mealy Mountain Collegiate school, Eastern Labrador Arts Alliance

Geographic location: Labrador, Happy Valley, Goose Bay

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