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Corner Brook’s arts community still feels strong support for local performers

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Last week, David Smallwood went public about his concerns for the future of hosting the Debut Atlantic classical music concert series in Corner Brook.

The chairperson of the Rotary Arts Centre said slow ticket sales could jeopardize the continuation of the concert series making Corner Brook a tour stop.

After his public comments, people responded and ticket sales for the most recent Debut Atlantic concert fortunately did better.

The Western Star thought it would be a good idea to ask folks involved in the local performance arts community about what the support for local arts at local venues has been like lately.

We asked if that support has been waning at all and, if so, what can be done to make live performance art done at the local level better supported by local audiences.

David Smallwood

Chairperson, Rotary Arts Centre

I don’t think it’s waning.

We had sold out our Sherman Downey show the previous Saturday, we have sold out our Monday Movie show “Lion” and we just sold out two performances of the tribute to Leonard Cohen.

I think most of our acts are local and most of them are very much subscribed to. We have been very happy with how ticket sales have been.

I don’t think there is any shortage of audiences going to local performances (at other venues) either.

The biggest hurdle is getting the word out. Other than paying for an ad in The Western Star or getting something on the Saturday morning (segment) done by CBC Radio, there aren’t a lot of other options to promote other than by poster or by social media.

It would be nice to have a weekly list dedicated to local arts events specifically.

Jim Parsons

Venue owner, Swirsky’s

I don’t know that there is waning support for local artists any more than there is for come-from-away artists, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to get people to come out generally.

A lot of times, it comes down to the show and whether or not it is something that has wide appeal. I don’t know if we should blame that on the audience. Obviously, venue owners have some passion about what they want to get out there and promote and what artists they want to help along.

I know when I have a poetry reading, a performance art thing or a lesser-known artist, I know I’m not going to get a big audience. That’s not a surprise. You’re just hoping more and more people would give things a try and hope they get an appetite for going out to see more live shows.

Carolyn Parsons

Vice-president, Off Broadway Players

With Off-Broadway Players, we’ve found there’s always been lot of community support for our shows, but it depends on the show. If you put on a show you know is not appealing to most people, then obviously your audience is smaller and we don’t have the expectation of 300 people coming out to see it.

That’s fine and we sometimes choose our venue based on that.

If it’s a show not everyone will like, then you don’t want someone to come who is not going to enjoy it and who then won’t come back to another show because of that.

The key is finding a way to market the lesser known shows that people might enjoy and getting a few more new people out each time and hope they realize they do enjoy it.

Mark Bradbury

Hard Ticket Theatre

I don’t think it’s waning. We have a decent base of people, but we need more. The opportunities for people to see live theatre, music and dance has grown exponentially here in the last 10 of 15 years, but I don’t think the audience has grown with it.

It’s a lot of work and money to put shows together and if we don’t know how many people will be there, it’s a hard hill to climb.

It’s exasperating sometimes trying to reach people who don’t normally go out to see shows. We have the same people supporting us and there is usually a mix of new faces, but I’m sure there are still people in town who think only certain arts people go see those kinds of things.

That’s not true. If you can sit down and watch an episode on Netflix, then you can definitely sit down and watch a play. If people only knew how much more exciting and engaging it can be to be in the same room as the character you’re watching. It’s a totally different experience I’d like more people to buy into.

The chairperson of the Rotary Arts Centre said slow ticket sales could jeopardize the continuation of the concert series making Corner Brook a tour stop.

After his public comments, people responded and ticket sales for the most recent Debut Atlantic concert fortunately did better.

The Western Star thought it would be a good idea to ask folks involved in the local performance arts community about what the support for local arts at local venues has been like lately.

We asked if that support has been waning at all and, if so, what can be done to make live performance art done at the local level better supported by local audiences.

David Smallwood

Chairperson, Rotary Arts Centre

I don’t think it’s waning.

We had sold out our Sherman Downey show the previous Saturday, we have sold out our Monday Movie show “Lion” and we just sold out two performances of the tribute to Leonard Cohen.

I think most of our acts are local and most of them are very much subscribed to. We have been very happy with how ticket sales have been.

I don’t think there is any shortage of audiences going to local performances (at other venues) either.

The biggest hurdle is getting the word out. Other than paying for an ad in The Western Star or getting something on the Saturday morning (segment) done by CBC Radio, there aren’t a lot of other options to promote other than by poster or by social media.

It would be nice to have a weekly list dedicated to local arts events specifically.

Jim Parsons

Venue owner, Swirsky’s

I don’t know that there is waning support for local artists any more than there is for come-from-away artists, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to get people to come out generally.

A lot of times, it comes down to the show and whether or not it is something that has wide appeal. I don’t know if we should blame that on the audience. Obviously, venue owners have some passion about what they want to get out there and promote and what artists they want to help along.

I know when I have a poetry reading, a performance art thing or a lesser-known artist, I know I’m not going to get a big audience. That’s not a surprise. You’re just hoping more and more people would give things a try and hope they get an appetite for going out to see more live shows.

Carolyn Parsons

Vice-president, Off Broadway Players

With Off-Broadway Players, we’ve found there’s always been lot of community support for our shows, but it depends on the show. If you put on a show you know is not appealing to most people, then obviously your audience is smaller and we don’t have the expectation of 300 people coming out to see it.

That’s fine and we sometimes choose our venue based on that.

If it’s a show not everyone will like, then you don’t want someone to come who is not going to enjoy it and who then won’t come back to another show because of that.

The key is finding a way to market the lesser known shows that people might enjoy and getting a few more new people out each time and hope they realize they do enjoy it.

Mark Bradbury

Hard Ticket Theatre

I don’t think it’s waning. We have a decent base of people, but we need more. The opportunities for people to see live theatre, music and dance has grown exponentially here in the last 10 of 15 years, but I don’t think the audience has grown with it.

It’s a lot of work and money to put shows together and if we don’t know how many people will be there, it’s a hard hill to climb.

It’s exasperating sometimes trying to reach people who don’t normally go out to see shows. We have the same people supporting us and there is usually a mix of new faces, but I’m sure there are still people in town who think only certain arts people go see those kinds of things.

That’s not true. If you can sit down and watch an episode on Netflix, then you can definitely sit down and watch a play. If people only knew how much more exciting and engaging it can be to be in the same room as the character you’re watching. It’s a totally different experience I’d like more people to buy into.

David Smallwood
Jim Parsons
Carolyn Parsons
Mark Bradbury

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