Globus Theatre’s capital campaign sets the stage for long-term success

By Geoff Coleman

James Barrett and Sarah Quick of Globus Theatre.

After what may have been the most challenging time of Globus’s existence, its owners are taking on the second most challenging thing they’ve ever done.

As the driving forces behind Globus Theatre at the Lakeview Arts Barn near Bobcaygeon, Sarah Quick and James Barrett likely would be happier if the last two years of COVID-mandated shutdowns had never happened, but there has been new opportunities.

The 2019 season was among their busiest ever —  the culmination of 17 years of gradual growth. But the enforced pause brought them to a crossroads.

“Creative people under pressure get very creative,” says Quick. Theatre companies across Canada folded, thrived and merged depending on how their organizations reacted.

Quick and Barrett were determined to come through the shutdown and build on the successes of the previous year, just as they had since the inception of Globus.

It couldn’t have been scripted any better, but the start of the 2022 season has been one of their strongest. Quick credits that to several factors.

“There is no perfect formula when it comes to attracting an audience. The Lakeview Arts Barn has a lot of different things going for it. It was a gathering place long before it became a theatre, functioning as a dance hall, so it has a folksy, familiar feel. Theatre-goers know they are going to see friends and neighbours at the shows, so there is strong social aspect to the experience, as well. If the building atmosphere enchants them upon arrival, it is the productions themselves that draw ticket buyers in the first place.”

Carefully curated to foster new Canadian playwrights and veterans, while remaining relevant and relatable to local audiences, Globus offerings range from murder mysteries to layered, inter-personal dramas to screwball comedies from Norm Foster, Canada’s most-produced writer.

Professional performers whom patrons may recognize from Canadian television or theatre work bring the words to life and get to spend a month working in the Kawarthas, creating a high-quality experience for all in attendance, and for those behind the fourth wall.

By the end of their 20th anniversary season in 2023, the pair hope that Globus will own the building, securing the company’s ability to produce theatre there for decades to come because they won’t have any rents to pay.

After gathering professional advice from industry colleagues, directors of development, other theatres and supporters of Globus Theatre and holding a townhall discussion in April 2022, it became clear that taking ownership of the venue is the next step to securing the company’s future. The initiative will transition Globus Theatre from being the theatre in residence of the LAB to Globus owning its own venue including 22 acres and the 7,000 square foot facility.

With an ambitious goal of $2 million, the fund currently sits at $1.3 million with anonymous donors accounting for the first million.

Quick also attributes the part of the strong response this season to a new demographic amongst subscribers. Many in the recent influx of people from the GTA were accustomed to attending live theatre frequently. Many were subscribers to companies where they previously lived and are happy to find theatre on their doorstep.

As subscriber and donor Jim Daly says, “We were subscribers to Mirvish, and we’ve gone to Chicago for theatre, and that’s a weekend . . . that’s a holiday to us. But to have the Globus right behind us, it’s just a real treat, that’s for sure.”

Quick and Barrett hope to tap another market this year with the establishment of a bus service from Bobcaygeon to the theatre. Created with transient Trent-Severn boaters in mind, it is also proving popular with ticket holders who don’t want to drive to the theatre.

Encouraged by steady progress made up until the shutdown, and strong community and subscriber support during the pandemic, Quick and Barrett have taken a significant step toward making locally produced live theatre a permanent fixture in Kawartha Lakes with their Raising the Barn capital campaign.

Says Quick, “We find that people are proud of the theatre and want to show it to visitors to the area, and with this campaign so strongly underway, we think we will be able to continue to be that point of pride for years to come.”

Lindsay Little Theatre knows value of building ownership

Shannon Bain, past president of the Lindsay Little Theatre, says building ownership is a game-changer.

“Long-standing members of LLT often speak about how difficult it was to find performance and rehearsal space that suited our purposes. Now LLT has complete control over our space so we can schedule rehearsals and show dates as we wish. We also have room to store LLT’s museum of props, costumes, and set building materials.”

LLT secretary, Christine Macauley, adds, “Since the building was the Lindsay Cable TV site it was great for us because it already had some features we could make use of such as a stage and seating area, overhead rods for hanging lighting and a booth for lights and sound. Any capital upgrades add value to our theatre home, and mortgage payments, although sometimes difficult, financially also add value versus rental payments.”

Patron and donor to Globus, Jelle Visser of Bobcaygeon chose to donate to its capital campaign.

“I’ve always appreciated local theatres wherever I have gone . . .maybe it’s because I’m not the type of person who would ever get on a stage myself. I think a community gets richer as a result of having a theatre, so I think it is important to provide the funding. I see people in the community involved in the process, which is also exciting. I see them walking on the street and so forth. It’s just natural to me.”

LLT has also been creative with its fundraising. “We do have to pay the mortgage and operating costs (so) LLT has been working with Bingo Bingo Lindsay, which supplies LLT with a share of lottery winnings in exchange for volunteering to sell bingo cards,” said Bain, adding she is “pulling for Globus to achieve their ownership goals.”

With a community playhouse like LLT, a storied institution in Lindsay’s Academy Theatre, the impressive new Grove Theatre in Fenelon Falls and the established Globus Theatre, there is no shortage of venues for live theatre in Kawartha Lakes.

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