Figures just in for the visitors to Alumnae Theatre during last weekend’s (May 26 & 27) Doors Open Toronto event: On Saturday, when we were open from 10am – 5pm, we had 138 visitors. On Sunday, we officially opened at 1pm, but the very obliging InspiraTo Festival folks who are renting our Main Stage were in the building early for their tech rehearsal, and allowed some eager Doors Open visitors into the building before the Doors Open guides arrived! 84 people came on Sunday, for a weekend total of 222. Our stack of subscription forms and photocopies of next season’s lineup (the pretty colour brochures aren’t printed yet) were totally depleted – and that’s a good thing!
A couple of people (architects?) were fascinated by the roof structure in the 3rd floor Studio and the woodwork in the lower lobby. I was stationed in the Studio, and got to tell some [true!] ghost stories to interested visitors. May 26-28 was the Memorial Day long weekend in the U.S., and a young fellow from Cleveland stopped in. We also had a visit from an actress who performed here in The Mumberley Inheritance many years ago. I’m told that a photographer from the National Post took some photos of the Studio, with the original wood beams and brick from the very early 1900’s. I pointed out a couple of hidey-holes to visitors: one inaccessible behind a radiator, and one behind the seating risers that can be reached when the risers are moved. A few years ago, while helping re-configure the seating in the Studio, I took the opportunity to go through the door into what felt like the skeleton of the building. Spooky, kids!
Downstairs in the lobby was a display of photos and newspaper clippings showing Alumnae Theatre through its proud history – the company’s been around since 1918, and in this building at 70 Berkeley Street since 1971. The original brick firehall on this site was built in 1859, and replaced with what is basically the current structure in 1905. The firehall was operational until 1970.
Also on display were photos, programs and newpaper clippings about Alumnae director Pamela Terry (1926-2006), who directed the very first play written by esteemed Canadian poet James Reaney – The Killdeer. In recent years Terry promoted Alumnae Theatre’s participation in cultural festivals such as Doors Open Toronto, and took charge of the company’s participation in Toronto’s first Nuit Blanche in 2006.
Costumes were displayed too – the raggedy robes from January’s The Trojan Women (designed by Peter DeFreitas), and the home-made opera costumes from our April production of Cosi. It gave me such a feeling of nostalgia to see those toilet paper-roll wigs and hula hoop skirts again. Heck, I wanted to wear mine! Costume designer Margaret Spence (also a guide for Doors Open) told me that they saved toilet paper rolls in her household for months to make those wigs!
Theatre manager Catherine Spence noted that “We got to introduce a number of people to the theatre (who did not know we were a theatre) and give out information about our new season.”
That new season opens September 21 with the world premiere of Canadian writer Lisa Moore’s February. Visit http://www.alumnaetheatre.com/1213season.html for details.
In the meantime, the building is still very busy!
For the third year, InspiraTo, a festival of 10-minute plays, takes over the Main Stage at Alumnae from June 1 – 10. InspiraTo’s load-in was on Saturday, so Doors Open visitors that day got a sneak peek at the beginning of the set build and lighting hang. Check their website for showtimes and ticket prices: http://www.inspiratofestival.ca