GRAND BANK, NL – With just over a month to go until its gala night opening, the Grand Bank Regional Theatre is homeless for the 2018 summer season.
The theatre has had to receive permission from Fire and Emergency Services – Newfoundland and Labrador to use the theatre space on Water Street for the last number of years.
This year it has been denied due to the condition of the Samuel J. Harris Building, which houses the theatre space on one side and an unused area that was once a former fish plant on the other.
Jack Burfitt, vice chair of Lighthouse Production Inc.’s board of directors, said the old section of the building has been the main source of concern in the past and continues to be the problem.
It's only getting worse, he said.
“They’re afraid that if we get a really strong storm of wind, they’re scared that if that (side) started to crumble, that it would pull the (rest of the) building with it,” Burfitt told the Southern Gazette.
That leaves the board scrambling to find an alternative location for the theatre and with few options.
One that is being discussed is Partanna Auditorium, a gymnasium in the town’s municipal centre, which used to be a former school.
The other is the Bait Depot, a one-time bait storage facility just around the corner from the current theatre space that is owned by the town and is used occasionally to host events, usually in the summer.
“We’ve got obstacles in both places, and we’re trying to keep in mind that the gym is used by the youth,” Burfitt said, adding there are issues with poles obstructing sightlines at the Bait Depot.
An inquiry has been made to see if the gym at John Burke High School could be used by the youth if they were to be displaced by the theatre for the summer, Burfitt said.
“That’s where we’re to now and there has to be a decision made because we’re just about ready to start moving,” he said.
Burfitt said the future of the theatre space in the Samuel J. Harris Building is uncertain for the time being.
It could be a number of years before the theatre gets back there, he said, the Town of Grand Bank’s downtown and waterfront re-development project being one of the factors.
This will be the 23rd season for the Grand Bank Regional Theatre. At least four other venues have been used to host productions over the years prior to the Samuel J. Harris Building.
Burfitt said the board is focusing on the short-term now and trying to get through the upcoming season, which is scheduled to open on July 7. Once it’s over, they’ll have some more time available to plan a new strategy.
Burfitt said he’s confident arrangements can be made for a temporary space to host the theatre in the interim.
“Oh, I think we will. Most definitely. We’re not about to give up on our theatre in Grand Bank,” he said.