There’s no business like show business

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I read on the web recently that Aultsville Theatre has put out a “casting” call for additional volunteer board of director members.

It sure brought back memories.

In reading the article, board President Pam Maloney points out that they haven’t lost any members but would like to expand the board membership beyond the eight they already have.

She’s right.

When you’re into a volunteer service, even if it’s a “labour of love,” there is always the chance of burnout of the members if it falls on them to do too much work on behalf of the organization—in this case, Aultsville Theatre.

The alternative of just forgetting about operating the theatre is simply not acceptable. I can remember many years ago, when St. Lawrence College was getting ready to mothball its showpiece theatre hall because of budget. Some very dedicated people stepped in and decided that this theatre should be not only preserved, but open for business and indeed, renovated and improved.

It was shortly after this, that I was accepted into the group that was doing its damndest to keep the theatre from closing outright.

I can recall a potential deal being worked out, called the Memorandum of Understanding, between the city of Cornwall, St. Lawrence College and this small band of people. At the time, there were two trains of thought.

Close the place and the other was by all means keep it open, but at no expense to the taxpayer even though the city was playing a part in its operation (and still does to this day with some councillor representation on the board).

To make a long story short, that first board and many thereafter learned how to crawl before they could walk and walk before they could run. The result was what I consider one of the best stages in small city/town Eastern Ontario and pretty well anywhere in the province.

Sure the place was a little “tired” when we first started but slowly but surely, renovations of seating areas and technical areas were carried out and something magical happened.

Acts started booking the theatre; the community started using the facility again and even the college itself started taking notice and took advantage of the facility as well.

There was a time when I, like Ms. Maloney, was president of the board and I never lost that wonder of how the rest of the board (about 12 of us at that time) made a lot of work, a light assignment. We all pitched in and it was fun to see the place flourish and to see the looks on people’s faces as they attended one event after another.

There is one time I recall, a particularly messy, snowy day that an event was being staged at the theatre. It was a weekend afternoon and I believe we were featuring the Abbamania program. Abba then wasn’t anywhere near what Abba is today to many people so we weren’t sure how we were going to fare. We knew the tickets had been sold but we didn’t know how many people would show up for the show considering the weather.

We didn’t have to worry.

It didn’t take long to see that it was going to be a full house and to heck with the weather. Everyone kicked into gear and took responsibility for their assignments. As president of the board, I remember being given a mop and a pail and told to make sure the floors in the entrance way and foyer area, were kept clean of snow, mud and gunk. I never had so much fun in my life. Everybody got a good laugh over it and I only bring it up, not to show how wonderful I was, but to explain how much fun you can have serving on the board and working the theatre.

It appears that opportunity awaits you now, according to the story I saw.

The board meets once a month because as much fun as Aultsville Theatre is, there is the “business” of theatre as well. If you have expertise in a certain area that you think will benefit the theatre, then offer it. If you feel you don’t have any particular expertise, who cares! Offer your support and your willingness to help out where you can.

I have a lot of great memories connected to Aultsville Theatre through the board and through a very special project that I headed, along with a team of great people who did all the work. Yes, there were some people in the community that tried to undermine the work of that project, but to no avail (story for another time). The year long project, I believe, moved Aultsville Theatre a little further down the road with a blossoming website and a very successful Film Festival which continues to this very day. Those that wanted to tear it down for everyone, didn’t have a chance of winning. Still get a chuckle out of that to this day.

So today we still have Aultsville Theatre and we still have a dedicated board of directors that would like you to be a part of it. Give it a shot and see what happens. “There’s no business like show business!”

I’m John Divinski.

Organizations: Lawrence College, Aultsville Theatre

Geographic location: Cornwall, Eastern Ontario

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