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Popular Island dinner theatre hoping fundraiser can Bridge The Gap

Chemainus Theatre patrons launch campaign to assist in filling the void until performances return
Strong support from the public for the Bridge The Gap campaign will keep the Chemainus Theatre going until performances can hopefully return to the stage in the fall. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The Chemainus Theatre is banking on a Bridge The Gap matching funds campaign to match the success of last year’s Crisis Relief Fund.

The theatre has been shut down for performances since March of 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Audience members who come from around Vancouver Island and beyond are feeling the void after so long.

Dr. Don Hilton and his wife Joyce put up $50,000 for the Crisis Relief Fund and the matching funds far exceeded that amount.

“That campaign went really well,” said the theatre’s managing director Randy Huber.

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The Hiltons are back again, along with Gregg and Jennifer Perry, Duncan Iron Works and the theatre’s board of directors in putting up $60,000 in matching funds for the Bridge The Gap campaign.

“We’d love to match and hopefully exceed the $60,000 of the three patrons,” said Huber.

“The gap is the period of time between now and when we’re back on stage. We don’t know how the restrictions are going to unwind – just wait and see what happens.”

The theatre used an innovative approach with a cabaret series in the Playbill Dining Room late in 2020 but that was short-lived when public health officials tightened restrictions again.

At the very least, the theatre hopes the cabaret series Playbill Presents can be started again before too long, with theatre stage performances to resume whenever deemed possible.

“We’re down to a pretty small core staff right now,” noted Huber. “We’re all digging in and doing what we can to pull through.”

The community wants to help the theatre pull through its time of stretching the finances, as evidenced by the last campaign and Bridge The Gap is not expected to be any different.

The Hiltons know the full value of the theatre to the community.

“It’s a big part of this town,” conceded Don Hilton. “We’re all here to help each other.”

“The economy of Chemainus has been impacted,” added Joyce. “It’s fun to see the actors wandering around the streets. We know who they are.”

The Hiltons also became well-known around town after the Crisis Relief Fund launched, although that was obviously not the intention.

“People would stop us on the road, in the grocery store and say thanks a lot for doing that,” Don explained. “People were aware of this.

“We’re very honoured to be part of that. It was intended to be supportive of the theatre, but it went way beyond.”

The Hiltons are frequent theatre patrons and are missing the stage performances like everyone else.

“We’ve been to the majority,” said Don.

The Hiltons are most impressed with how Huber and artistic director Mark DuMez are handling the difficult situation and hope the latest infusion of funds to be matched can help get everything back on track.

“Randy and Mark really figure that’ll be enough if COVID settles down we can get going this fall and winter,” said Don. “And they’re talking about putting on modest size programs. Who knows what portion of people they can put into the theatre?

“I see them every week or two. They are very creative and this whole cabaret kind of program – how to create different scenarios of live performances.”

“In no way did we expect the pandemic would cost us almost two full seasons of theatre,” summed up Huber. “We’re hoping that by the fall we can get back up on the stage.”

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Brent Dellebuur of Duncan Iron Works is a loyal supporter of the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo submitted)
Gregg Perry, left, and Dr. Don Hilton are on board with the Bridge The Gap campaign at the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo submitted)
Dr. Don Hilton and wife Joyce are solidly behind the Bridge The Gap fundraising campaign at the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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