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Theatre Cambrian thinking of selling its Eyre St. building

Mortgage and operational costs are about $11K per month 
Theatre Cambrian renovated this former church on Eyre Street about a decade ago. But the community theatre company has experienced financial troubles recently, and it's sinking a lot of money into the building's mortgage and operational costs. (Supplied)

In the wake of financial problems that have dogged Theatre Cambrian of late, the organization's leadership said it's looking at possibly selling the Eyre Street building it calls home.

The community theatre company purchased and renovated the former St. Eugene Parish Church about a decade ago.

But between the mortgage and operational costs such as utilities, the building costs Theatre Cambrian about $11,000 a month — and that's before it actually pays to put on any theatre.

Repair costs on the more than 60-year-old building are also substantial. Last weekend, during the extreme cold, several watermain breaks in the building caused headaches for the theatre company.

“We have decided as a board right now we are leaning towards the option of losing the building,” said Theatre Cambrian's vice-president, Derek Young.

If it does sell, Theatre Cambrian could either co-locate with another local theatre company, or it could become a tenant to whoever purchases its current building.

“Clearly, partnerships are extremely important,” said Chris Nash, Theatre Cambrian's president.

“There are several organizations in theatre in the Sudbury area. Derek and I have been exploring the options, and we are continuing to explore those options.

“We don't need to discuss who they are, but we have already met with people in order to look at mutual benefit because we have things to offer, and the potential community partners would benefit from that.

“They have things to offer us. It's all about partnership and mutual positive benefit.”

If Theatre Cambrian were to keep the building, it would have to rent out a lot of its space to make it cost efficient, but then that's getting away from the theatre company's core business, Young said.

Nash and Young are both new to the Theatre Cambrian board. Young, an events promoter who's had some past involvement with the theatre company, decided to join after hearing of Theatre Cambrian's financial troubles.

Those issues even included the organization's bank account being seized by the Canada Revenue Agency.

Nash, a retired psychologist who has served on many boards of directors, was recruited to Theatre Cambrian by Young.

The several others on the board include two past presidents, but Nash said she'd like to recruit more members, especially someone with an interest in fundraising.

“We worked out a plan to pull things together,” she said. “The first step was to start working with the creditors. We came up with a repayment scheme, which will take us a couple of years, maybe three.

“We shall work on monthly payments to each of the creditors in proportion to the total debt owed.”

Young said what's he's working on is improving the patron experience, right down to making sure the snow is shovelled before shows.

Theatre Cambrian also recently brought in a new online ticketing system Young said is more efficient.

“Chris and I have taken the organization kind of right back to the basics,” Young said.

“Tickets are an impulse buy. If you're sitting at your computer at lunchtime, you'll say do I want to go to live theatre tonight, or do I want to go to the movies? If I can't buy my (theatre) ticket, I'm going to the movies.”

Theatre Cambrian's staffing is at rather a basic level right now too after two executive directors have left the organization since November 2016.

“At this point we currently have one office administrator,” Young said. “I've been mentoring him. He's got a lot of great sales experience. He's passionate about the theatre.”

Besides its upcoming productions of “Having a Wonderful Time, Wish You Were Her,” and “Nunsense,” Theatre Cambrian is also organizing a Feb. 11 fundraising awards gala.

Longtime Theatre Cambrian volunteers Dale Pepin and Pat Park will be presented with lifetime memberships. 

“These are two people who have basically made Theatre Cambrian what it is,” Nash said.

Tickets to the gala cost $30 for members and $50 for the general public. However, you can purchase a membership to Theatre Cambrian for just $15, meaning if you're not already a member, you can get into the gala for $45.

For more information about the awards gala or the upcoming shows, visit Theatre Cambrian's website or phone 705-524-7317.

Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

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