Showcase Productions leaving Amherst?

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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Board members tired of fighting with school over theatre use

Showcase Productions, which last year produced My Fair Lady, says it’s leaving Amherst Regional High School because of changes to policies for use of the Susan Taylor Theatre. 

AMHERST – It appears Showcase Productions has performed its final act at Amherst Regional High School’s Susan Taylor Theatre.

Michelle Hicks, who is a member of the organization’s board of directors and will produce its next play Happy Days: The Musical, said the theatre company is leaving the high school after the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board changes its policies for use of the theatre.

“They’ve made it so that it’s impossible to hold a community production there,” said Hicks, who has been engaged in a lengthy battle with the theatre foundation and school officials over use of the theatre. “Because of this we are looking at other options within Amherst and in Sackville at Tantramar High School or the new performing arts theatre that will replace the Windsor Theatre.”

Hicks said the theatre’s new policy states theatre productions can only have use of the theatre a week before opening night while future rentals must use the theatre’s technical person when using theatre equipment.

As well, she said, future productions will not be able to secure anything to the floor.

“How can you use a set if you can’t secure it to the floor, it’s not safe,” said Hicks.

Hicks said Showcase Production has poured thousands into education in the arts since the non-profit organization was created. Just last year, she estimated that $14,000 in proceeds from shows like My Fair Lady were funneled back into the community through scholarships, bursaries and awards at the high school as well as by supporting spring musicals at Spring Street Academy and Cumberland North Academy, helping Don Miller’s dessert theatre and bringing Neptune Theatre to Cumberland County.

She’s also concerned with the “ripple effect” the loss of Neptune will have on the community economically.

“When we host productions there are buses that bring people from Halifax to see our shows. They come to Amherst early in the afternoon and have dinner here at either Duncan’s or Bella’s,” Hicks said. “That’s going to be lost if we move to Sackville.”

She is also disappointed that the town has been silent on the issue considering it and the county both provided funding for the theatre when it opened as part of the new high school that’s just over a decade old.

Hicks feels both the town and county should be asking the school board for its money back.

“I don’t think people will understand what they had until it’s gone,” Hicks said. “We’re basically saying to the school and the school board that ‘you won, but the community has lost.’”

Tantramar High School, she said, has a policy that ARHS has in that the rental fee is waived for theatrical productions in which the proceeds go back to the students.

Board spokesperson Debbie Buott-Matheson said she did not know of Showcase Productions’ decision and was surprised by the news. However, she said, “the school board remains committed to the theatre being accessible to the community.”

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Amherst Regional High School, Tantramar High School, Susan Taylor Theatre The Musical Central Regional School Board Windsor Theatre Street Academy Cumberland North Academy Neptune Theatre

Geographic location: Amherst, Sackville, Chignecto Cumberland County Halifax

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Recent comments

  • Ed MacKay
    July 19, 2013 - 08:13

    As the founder of Showcase Productions Society some 23 years ago, I am saddened that we must look elsewhere for a venue to perform. It is a sad state of affairs when one small group can close down something so wonderful as what people witnessed this spring at the Susan Taylor Theatre. Showcase has provided excess of $100,000.00 to deserving students over the past years. Yes, we have had bumps along the way, some people taking from the group for their own benefit, but we have survived and will continue our excellent job of providing financial assistance to deserving students but we will not be performing at a community theatre in Amherst. The financial assistance will continue but our theatre productions will not – at least not in Amherst unless things change. Our theatre tours will continue providing opportunities to see professional theatre as they have for 23 years now – in fact they are expanding. I am so proud of what Showcase has accomplished and so proud to be a member. Ed MacKay

  • Ed MacKay
    July 19, 2013 - 08:11

    As the founder of Showcase Productions Society some 23 years ago, I am saddened that we must look elsewhere for a venue to perform. It is a sad state of affairs when one small group can close down something so wonderful as what people witnessed this spring at the Susan Taylor Theatre. Showcase has provided excess of $100,000.00 to deserving students over the past years. Yes, we have had bumps along the way, some people taking from the group for their own benefit, but we have survived and will continue our excellent job of providing financial assistance to deserving students but we will not be performing at a community theatre in Amherst. The financial assistance will continue but our theatre productions will not – at least not in Amherst unless things change. Our theatre tours will continue providing opportunities to see professional theatre as they have for 23 years now – in fact they are expanding. I am so proud of what Showcase has accomplished and so proud to be a member. Ed MacKay

  • Supporting The Arts In Cumberland County
    July 19, 2013 - 07:43

    Hey Interested -the newly developed Rental Guidelines For Use of the Susan Taylor Theatre make it impossible for Showcase to hold a production at the ARHS (Susan Taylor) Theatre. Follow this link if you would like to view the Guidelines http://www.arhs.ccrsb.ca/node/292. With a production like the Spring Show of My Fair Lady it was imperative that the set be moved to the ARHS (Susan Taylor) Theatre a few weeks before opening night. This allows the cast, technical and backstage crew to fine tune the show before opening night. The new Guidelines state that "The set up for performance will be no more than one week prior to the event". Do not confuse frustration with renting the theatre with an intent to "abandon this town and the children/community they claim to care so much about". Showcase was established 23 years ago to promote the performing arts in Cumberland County. A number of years ago, The Showcase Board of Directors established a sizable trustfund which will ensure, for many years to come that Youth in Cumberland County will continue to benefit from Scholarships/Sponsorships/Bursaries and funding. The only change is Showcase is no longer able to use the ARHS (Susan Taylor) Theatre to hold it's musicals.

  • Interested
    July 18, 2013 - 20:43

    After reading the numerous articles regarding Showcase Production, one is left to believe that they, although have given much time, money and entertainment to our community, they would abandon this town and the children/community they claim to care so much about, because they aren't getting exactly what they want?? I've utilized the venue and have attended many shows at the Susan Taylor Theater, I'm not sure why exactly showcase is having such difficulty renting the space. Showcase is a business and the theater is a venue. What I don't read in this article is why it is so "impossible to hold a community production" there?

    • Lightbulb moment
      July 19, 2013 - 05:38

      Let me shed a bit of light on the fact that Showcase Productions Society is a not for profit community theatre organization, devoted to developing an appreciation for the arts. If you need to accuse them of being childish, or leaving because they are not getting what they want, then go ahead and do so, obviously someone did get what they wanted by pushing them out. Anyone in this town and county who has seen a production from Showcase has helped to further some young person in aspiring their dreams. This organization has given so much to the Town of Amherst and County over the years and it is insane to believe that they WANT to leave the children and community that they do care so much about. Obviously this is deeper than what we know about, maybe someday some more light will be put on this subject, it is up to the Town, and County to inquire about their investments in this wonderful theatre.

    • TONY SOPRANO
      July 19, 2013 - 07:45

      If interested ever worked on a project such as MY FAIR LADY, she would know that it does not happen overnight. With the new restriction that any group can only use the theatre for one week, they should realize that to build a set, set up the set, rehearse the actors all takes time - a lot more than one week. The new regulations are written so as to prevent this from happening, except for touring groups who have paid, experienced workers who set up at night and can do it in a matter of hours. Showcase has all volunteers....

    • TONY SOPRANO
      July 19, 2013 - 08:05

      If interested ever worked on a project such as MY FAIR LADY, she would know that it does not happen overnight. With the new restriction that any group can only use the theatre for one week, they should realize that to build a set, set up the set, rehearse the actors all takes time - a lot more than one week. The new regulations are written so as to prevent this from happening, except for touring groups who have paid, experienced workers who set up at night and can do it in a matter of hours. Showcase has all volunteers....

  • Concerned
    July 18, 2013 - 19:28

    If people only knew HOW MIS- MANAGED the theatre at ARHS truly is . The town , it's Mayor and council need to seriously look into all of the points not only brought up by Ms. HIcks as part of her work with the town as an appointed Arts Council member,but also by many other groups who have tried to gain assess to the theatre in the past . The town brought in an independent group to study this issue and came away with the same conclusion- things at the theatre need to change . It is not a community theatre but a personal playground for those in management there. Ms. Hicks was not asking questions in any capacity as a member of Showcase Productions but as a Town arts council member who was appointed by the mayor and council to do these inquires. The management at the theatre as well as the principal of the ARHS school love to hide behind the fact that Ms. Hicks is ,yes a member of Showcase productions , and using this fact to avoid questions , of responsibility , not following their own bylaws , lack of meetings , transparency, accountability , and repairs to this beautiful venue . Stating that showcase is hard to work with or has an agenda -- that is just Bull , they are only trying to deflect from the true answers on why meetings were not held , who made decisions on how money was spent , who approved these ,why were repairs are not made , why was legal paper work not filed for many years , why are booking policies and fee structures at the whim of the person doing them , assess is granted for some but not others , repairs not kept up for for proper use as a theatre, with regards to lights- ceiling and spot lights , electrical items , sound and speakers , , curtain and floor repairs - but yet very expensive projectors and other media type equipment purchased - as it would appear without any more than a one or two persons involvement , certainly not a committee vote or true board decision- if infact any committee has really existed until this past year when inquiries started to happen . These facts start to make it appear that the community theatre is moving more into a conference centre than what it's original purpose is for . I have had enough of the mud slinging , and questions need to be answered. There were a couple of council meetings that the public were invited to and some very irrational things stated on behalf if the theatre management , and the public was not allowed to ask questions , not at only 1 public meeting , but at 2 meetings -Why was it that the public could not ask questions ? It appears as if the current council and mayor are afraid of this issue . Also as I understand it the newly formed management committee ( which was only formed after several years of zero meetings ) was invited to an independent meeting ( approved by registry of joint stocks ), to see about an audit of the books , adding new community wide people to this "closed" membership etc, over 40 concerned citizens came to voice their opinion ( not only showcase members ), but many well respected local people of several different groups attended this meeting - hoping for a resolution . However not a single " supposed " current management committee member or the principal had the decency to show to this public meeting - even after personal invites were sent . These local community people choose to try to work with the existing theatre membership , instead of ejecting them , ( which according to joint stocks would have been with in the communities right to do so),to see if they could work together to form new policies , fees , items and accountability for the theatre to make it truly a community theatre . But no - this meeting and the requests of this group have been totally ignored by the existing theatre committee . So do not say people or Showcase Productions or other community groups are whining , give them the answers this community deserves , and work with people who want to use the theatre as a truly community accessible venue. Know a little about the facts before you assume anything ! Enough is enough , what a loss to this community if the current theatre management and school board cannot see past then end of their nose to try to work with any of the many groups , Showcase Productions included who gives so much back to our young people and this town !! Shame on you !

  • Tony Soprano
    July 18, 2013 - 16:57

    One has to question whether “Artsy” has any experience in theatre and really understand that this was constructed for the community with “tax money” and is NOT a business. During the construction of the theatre, someone specifically requested soft wood for the upstage because in their experience, they found screwing the sets worked better than “sand bags”. This situation may not have gotten to the point of not being able to fix sets on the stage, had the theatre been properly managed in the last 12 years and the revenues from the rental of the facility gone to maintenance, repairs and upgrades as was agreed.

    • just wondering
      July 18, 2013 - 19:24

      Having listened to the points raised at the meeting called by general members of ACCTF(not attended by Board members- despite invitations), I just wonder WHY, when one simply asks to "see the books"--to SEE where the money being paid by the tax payers and by Showcase etc, is being spent--that a WALL of secrecy and hostility goes up. It is the RIGHT of a taxpayer to have access to this information. I also wonder WHY this is the time that discussion is recorded in the minutes of a private Foundation Board meeting regarding DISBANDING the Foundation. It seems odd that one would want to disband the Foundation, just when more transparency about finances is being requested---and that, legally, the only time an organization can destroy all "books" is if the organization is disbanded. That is SOME coincidence!!! Ms Hicks, and Showcase and the general membership of the Foundation are right to ask questions--and that is all that is being done--asking questions! What is so hard about opening the books? It appears all measures are being used to divert our attention away from that single request, by hurling disparaging comments back at a woman and organization who has done nothing but work to enhance life in Amherst. OPEN THE BOOKS!

  • Wants Answers
    July 18, 2013 - 16:30

    I too, am bothered by Artsy's comments and agree with Disappointed. My children have received direct benefit from Showcase Productions generosity, and would not have had the opportunity for exposure to the ars without this organization. I have been to just about every production that Showcase Productions has put on in the Theatre since its construction and have watched their members give tirelessly of hundreds, even thousands of hours of volunteer work, all for the benefit of the children in our communities. The irony is that CCRSB, an organization that is supposed to be advocating for our children seem to be working against an organization that works so hard to create opportunities and provide financial assistance for the children in our community. CCRSB should be working with Showcase Productions Society to say "what can we do to help you continue to do what you do for the benefit of the students in our schools" not working to their detriment. I, personally, will feel the loss if they leave Amherst, and it will certainly leave a void in the cultural and arts aspect of our Town. Good for you Michelle for bringing this to the attention of our community... I am with you... I want my tax money back, and really question the decision made to invest in a facility where there is clearly the lack of willingness to ensure that this theatre is accessible for our community organizations. Showcase... no matter where you go.... I will follow!

  • Disappointed
    July 18, 2013 - 14:55

    I am a little offended by 'Artsy's' comments as I am one of the 'people associated with Showcase ". Showcase has been serving Amherst & Cumberland County Youth for 23 years and has donated/awarded/sponsored Youth cultural events and continuing education to the tune of over $100,000. Showcase has rented the ARHS (Susan Taylor Theatre) for the past 12 years and fully acknowledges the space is amazing for Musical Theatre. It has a large backstage, the acoustics are wonderful and the seating is second to none. Our Community is blessed. The Community Theatre was built with Taxpayers money $100,000 each from the Town and the County. Because of these Tax Dollars paid to ensure Amherst has a phenomal Community Theatre, that community members, like Ms. Hicks, have the right to question CCRSB's management of the Theatre. Remember "Artsy' CCRSB is also funded by our tax dollars and is therefore accountable to the public it serves. Thank-you Ms. Hicks for raising these questions to CCRSB, I applaud your courage!

    • Big Bad Wolf
      July 18, 2013 - 15:39

      Well, when artsy "supervised the construction of the theatre, he specifically l ask for soft wood upstage because in his brief experience, he found screwing the sets worked better (that is what he did). The floors will get used and if the theatre manager does not take care of the theatre for 12 years, what can one expect. Artsy has his own agenda and we all know about it.

  • Ned Douglas
    July 18, 2013 - 12:28

    We need an arts center in Amherst. If a small parish like Pictou can support the Decoste Center, then why can't we as a community support an arts venue like this?

  • Master Thespian
    July 17, 2013 - 21:46

    It doesn't sound like CCRSB has made it impossible for Showcase to use the theatre only that the conditions aren't how Ms Hicks would prefer it. If using sand bags to hold sets is the obstacle to utilizing a great venue then I say take the screwdriver down the road. Showcase has a had a very positive influence on Amherst and its people. Its good that no matter where they hold their productions they can continue to help fund students, Neptune visits, desert theatres and elementary school musicals.

    • Artsy
      July 18, 2013 - 08:35

      This amazing legacy theatre.. It's part of a business, and in order for that to thrive in this economy, changes have to be made. I'm sorry that it's not to the liking of 'Ms Hicks' but it will still continue to see productions. Stop acting like children and quit complaining every chance you can to the media. You're not making anyone want to work with you. This was named after an amazing woman, who in my close relationship with her, didn't put up with pointless drama in any aspect of her life. Showcase is causing nothing but crap in Amherst.. they may bring good things, but in my opinion, it's not worth the crap and the people associated with Showcase. Good on ya CCRSB!

  • Bill
    July 17, 2013 - 20:59

    I feel that it is time for the government to look at Chignecto - Central Regional School board. WE still have no school in River Hebert, and when it comes to making decisions to help communities they could care less. There are new schools being built over the rest of the province . In the last 4 years nothing has been done in Cumberland County. Why do other school boards have money to build school and they seem to have none!!! The theater seems to be good for Amherst so why not leave it alone!!!!!