Meaford's two community theatre groups, the Kids in the Meaford Hall, and the Meaford Theatre Company (formerly Meaford Community Theatre) are in need of some permanent space to store their growing collections of costumes and props, and to design and build sets for plays they stage at Meaford Hall. They've asked Meaford's council for some help.
Kim Ransom of the Meaford Theatre Company group spoke to council on behalf of both theatre groups at the May 8 council meeting, where he asked councillors to consider a proposal to allow the theatre groups increased use of the municipal public works building beside the arena on Collingwood Street.
“Our single biggest challenge has been and continues to be the inadequate space we attempt to use for set construction and storage of material such as costumes and props,” Ransom told council. “This proposal submission addresses this particular challenge and offers a credible solution.”
Both theatre groups have staged several plays at the hall, including the popular Kids in the Meaford Hall holiday plays which offer a free theatre experience to all elementary school children in the municipality. Ransom noted that over the years 7,000 students have attended the holiday season plays.
For the past eight years the theatre groups have had use of a small portion of the building, equivalent to slightly less than a quarter of the building's floor space, however they say the limited amount of space doesn't allow them to build full size sets for the stage. As a result, many of the sets that have been used for productions at Meaford Hall have been built outdoors or under tents. Ransom noted that often the actors in the plays don't get to see the stage sets until the day before the plays are staged at Meaford Hall, and set builders often don't know with certainty that the set pieces will assemble properly and safely until they are brought to the stage.
“The space we (currently) occupy is less than one quarter of the garage floor space in which we attempt to store props and set building materials, build set components, and store our increasing accumulation of costumes. We have no control of the space and often have to move our material to make room for additional town equipment or material,” Ransom told council. “Note that due to the lack of space, sets often needed to be assembled outside. In some cases sets needed to be constructed and set up at members' garages, driveways, or facilities donated by supporters of the arts, often located far out of town and in facilities that are woefully inadequate to the needs of the construction crew.”
The theatre groups have proposed that the municipality and the theatre groups enter into a written agreement that would allow the theatre groups exclusive use of a roughly half of the building floor space, and they said they would also like to make some minor renovations to the space at their expense in order to address some safety and storage issues.
“We are hoping to lease the entire kitchen space off the main garage and the entire back half of the storage component of the garage including the two bays, the back entry room and the upper storage area above the back entry room,” Ransom told council.
Mayor Barb Clumpus asked Ransom if they have explored other options for their space needs.
“Have you looked at any other commercial space that is vacant at this time to house your equipment and props and staging and the rest of it?” the mayor asked.
Ransom said that the theatre groups had struck a committee to explore that very question, however cost has been a major barrier to the groups finding adequate space. He also noted that space has been donated at times, however the donated spaces were often out of town, or have lacked important amenities like heat.
“Ultimately this was our best choice,” Ransom told council.
While members of council asked several questions and offered suggestions for exploring alternatives to the public works building, they offered no commitment to the theatre groups.