By Roxanne Thornton
Recently there has been a lot of buzz about Guelph being one of the best little cities of the future – fourth even in “lifestyle.” But what constitutes lifestyle? Like the Guelph Storm and the Hillside Festival, Guelph Little Theatre is an integral part of the Royal City. GLT has been providing this community with affordable, outstanding amateur theatre productions for over 80 years; quite an achievement when you realize that it is manned entirely by volunteers and relies totally upon the support of Guelph and Wellington County patrons to stay alive and well.
It has not been an easy road and obviously our citizens have felt it important enough to help GLT out in times of need. In 1967, the group was able to purchase the old Salvation Army Citadel on Dublin Street, not only through fundraising activities but also through the generosity of members of the community. On November 16, 1993, ten days to show, their beautiful stone theatre burnt to the ground. But amid the adversity, they again found they were not alone. Space to rehearse, venues to perform in, and funds to start over came through the generous donations of community friends, members and supporters. And when they found a building in 1996, again the challenge was met to refurbish the old factory at a cost of $750,000. The Guelph community did “Share their Dream.” Through fundraising efforts, constant support, and hall rentals GLT has been able to improve their production value even more. They have earned a reputation for producing shows of the highest calibre, and have won several awards at both WODL and Theatre Ontario over the years, yet their house is rarely full. Why? It can’t solely be because they cannot be streamed on Netflix!
The lure of the lights from professional Toronto stages have also cast a spell upon the local audiences who may have once come to see the amateur theatrics but who may now believe that professional is best. Not true, in tight economic times like ours, community theatre is even more valuable, and is worth our effort to try to save. There is nothing more exciting that the relationship one finds with those characters on the stage, as the lights go down and the music begins. Their comic antics help us to forget the troubles we have outside that magical venue and we often laugh with them as the tale twists and turns every which way. We cannot get that same sense of involvement by attending a movie, but for the same price, we are swept up into a very different world of live theatre at a fraction of the professional theatre cost.
So don’t let this precious resource die. It is important to the fabric of our community. The younger generations hurry helter skelter about their complicated lives. It’s hard to find time to stop and smell the roses, or to get involved with volunteer work. As a result, there are fewer bums in seats, and fewer workers behind and on the stage. What can we do? How can we ensure that our children and grandchildren have the chance to experience what we once took for granted? Where has the laughter gone? It does not have to be this way. Get involved. See a show, bring a friend or family member or, better yet, come on out and join the group. Share your expertise with us all. Show everyone that Guelph Little Theatre is one of the reasons our city scored fourth in “lifestyle” in North America.
Next season GLT has an amazing line up of a Gilbert and Sullivan musical, a Christmas family panto, a Canadian comedy, a new Peter Colley thriller, and a wonderful John Guare dramatic comedy. Tickets for these will go on sale soon. But if that is too far in the future, come out and see GLT’s late May/ June main stage show, The Drowsy Chaperone, a wonderful musical that you are sure to enjoy. For tickets or further information please contact the Box office at 519-821-0270 or online at www.guelphlittletheatre.com. Hope to see you soon.