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.”