That grand old lady of theatre on the West Shore is finally getting a face lift.
Renovations in the Isabelle Reader Theatre in Spencer Middle School were completed at the end of November, said Ravi Parmar, school trustee and chair of the board for the Sooke School District.
“The Isabelle Reader Theatre has a long history as a teaching place for kids,” noted Parmar, who attended Spencer Middle School 10 years ago. “It’s one of the only live theatres on the West Shore, besides the one at Royal Bay Secondary. “Not much has been done since the theatre opened in 1978, so the improvements are welcome news for PACE Musical Theatre, local churches and other user groups, he added.
The renovations were made possible in part by a $20,000 donation from the City of Langford. “They saw the theatre was getting old and wanted to step up,” Parmar said. “I can’t think of a lot of municipalities that would be of the mindset to support the school district and community space in this way.”
The school district is limited by what can be done in terms of renovations, he noted. An annual grant of about $1.5 million from the government must be earmarked for infrastructure and can’t be used for new equipment or cosmetic improvements.
SD 62 was able to come up with the balance of the $115,000 required for new seats and a new stage from a combination of $65,000 from the board reserve and funds that PACE and the school have been allotting for the seats for a number of years.
“It’s great that we were able to complete the work in time for the annual PACE Christmas shows,” he said.
Sandy Webster-Worthy, artistic director for PACE Musical Theatre, was eager to share her enthusiasm for the improvements.
“We have a fantastic new state of the art stage and not only are the new seats comfortable, but they’re staggered to improve the sight lines,” Webster-Worthy said. “We have ample wheelchair space in a variety of areas as well. It’s an excellent working theatre with a long history that’s undergone some wonderful improvements thanks to a marvellous collaboration between the school district, the City of Langford and the community.”
Langford Mayor Stew Young said council recognized there was a need to make improvements to enhance the long-term viability of the theatre. “It’s important to support the arts,” he said. “The new seats will make the experience more comfortable and enjoyable for students and the community.”