Lyric Theatre hosting Sept. 17 fundraiser for building upgrades

By Matthew Liebenberg

The fundraising initiative for the Lyric Theatre’s building upgrades will kick off on Sept. 17 with a variety of fun activities and entertainment.

The Shades of Chautauqua fundraiser takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Market Square in downtown Swift Current.

“There’ll be lots of activity and lots of food,” Lyric Theatre board member Bob Jamieson said. “It’ll be very kid-friendly and family-friendly. It should be a really good time.”

There will be hot dogs, pie, ice cream and drinks as well as a raffle, silent auction and door prizes. In addition, the Market Square stage will feature a variety of performances.

“It’s going to be a bit of a profile of the things that go on at the Lyric,” he said. “There’ll be a youth talent stage represented there, Write Out Loud will be represented and the Open Stage, which is a free jam group that meets regularly at the Lyric. There’ll be some drama presentation as well. Basically, a sample of everything you might find at the Lyric in the regular course of things.”

The fundraising event’s name and format recall the Chautauqua festival, which was a popular event hosted by the Lyric Theatre for many years.

“It was one of my favourite events and I used to play music at it,” he mentioned. “We say Shades of Chautauqua, because the stage is going to be like that. There’s going to be drama, kids, music, people doing some readings and a real variety of things, just like Chautauqua was.”

The Sept. 17 event will therefore be both a way to raise funds for the building upgrades and to remind people of all the different activities that have become such a familiar and integral part of the Lyric Theatre, which will return once the renovations are completed.

Jamieson, who is the chair of the fundraising committee, said around $150,000 is required to carry out the upgrades. The theatre closed temporarily in late May due to the need for fire and safety upgrades.

“We’re required by the Fire Department and by the City to do some renovations, particularly drywall fire guarding in areas that weren’t done when we were doing some initial renovations three or four years ago,” he explained. “Unfortunately, those renovations got stalled when COVID came along and of course our income stalled. And so, the renovations that we were doing then stopped and the Fire Department came in again recently and said we’ve got to get that done.”

The work will include the installation of fire-resistant drywall sheets as well as some fire doors. P3A, the architectural firm that did the initial designs and plans for the theatre renovations four years ago, is putting together the plans for these upgrades.

“We’re working really closely with the Fire Department and the City and P3A,” he said. “We want everybody to be happy with what we’re doing and to get it done right.”

The final plan for these upgrades will be ready in a few weeks and the intention is to carry out the work in three phases.

“There’ll be an initial phase, which would be a one-to-three-month work project,” he said. “That should get our doors open, we hope. And then a middle phase to do the next load of renovations and then the final, longer-term stuff that doesn’t have the immediate impact on public safety. The first phase is really where the public safety factor comes in and we want to make sure the building is secure from a fire guard perspective.”

The fundraising campaign for these upgrades will mainly be aimed at covering the cost to purchase drywall sheets and the labour expenses. The Lyric Theatre will therefore be launching a campaign called Give a Sheet to the Lyric with a request for donations based on the cost of a single sheet of drywall. Details about this initiative will be released soon on the Lyric Theatre website and Facebook page.

“So really our plan is to be raising awareness and funds to buy drywall and have it installed,” he said.

The fundraising effort with the target of around $150,000 will start with some funding already secured.

“We’re bringing in about $30,000 from our past budgets that we still had in reserve,” he said. “The S3 company has made a generous move. They had some money that they had allocated to us for stage and lighting improvements. And they graciously allowed us to move that into the new renovations project. That’s given us a good head start on our fundraising right there between what we had in reserve and S3’s fabulous gift of $30,000.”

The Shades of Chautauqua on Sept. 17 is therefore meant to be both a fundraiser and awareness event for this campaign in support of the building upgrades.

Jamieson remains hopeful the Lyric Theatre will reopen for public events in the late fall or otherwise early in January, but it will depend on the progress with the project details and the completion of the initial phase.

“P3A figured the first phase should only take one to three months to complete,” he said. “It depends a lot on whether we get the labour to get in there. That’s not always an easy thing to get builders and construction people. They’re very busy right now, but we’re working on that and some volunteer drywallers have indicated they’d like to help us out and get things done.”

He feels optimistic about the future of the Lyric Theatre as an important cultural and artistic hub in the community after the completion of the building upgrades.

“That’s something that doesn’t go away,” he said. “People are going to come back to that. The people that love the Lyric, they really love the Lyric. They’ll be there and we’ll be thriving again in no time.”