BY CRAIG GILBERT
Theatre Cambrian?s 20th Anniversary season will be the last one it spends at Cambrian College.
Cambrian president Sylvia Barnard has informed the troupe they will not be welcome at the college?s 197-seat amphitheatre classroom after this year?s productions of Chicago (fall), Stephen King?s Misery (winter) and Oliver! (spring).
Barnard wants Room 2226 to be used for academic purposes, ending what Theatre Cambrian founder Jamie Bourget and current president Mark Mannisto describe as a 20-year-old, friendly understanding.
?There was an unwritten understanding that while there was a Cambrian College, Theatre Cambrian would have a home,? said Bourget. ?I have obviously misunderstood that agreement. Times change.?
Mannisto received a letter by mail indicating Theatre Cambrian would have to look for a new home just weeks after they announced their production lineup for 2004-05.
They are very grateful for the 20 years they have been allowed at the school, but are ?hurt and astonished? by the sudden change in policy.
?We didn?t see this one coming,? said Bourget. ?The most daunting aspect of the crisis is that we simply don?t have the people to devote to strategizing for the future. We all have full-time jobs and we?re already focused on the upcoming productions. Time is at a premium.?
Without a proper home, a theatre group falls apart, said Bourget. He has seen other theatre groups fall apart because they just didn?t have the time or manpower to truck equipment and props from storage to stage.
?It would be sad for Sudbury to have that happen to Theatre Cambrian,? he said
The decision to turf the troupe was a matter of priorities, according to Barnard.
?We need a space where, from time to time, we can bring a (large number) of students together for a guest speaker or a presentation,? she said. ?As the demand goes up academically, that has to be our core business.?
With over 10 per cent growth in enrolment since Barnard took over in 2002, the need for the only space in the college with the amphitheatre?s capacity has been ever-increasing.
?So with this happening more and more, we can?t have them tying it up for long periods of time.? she said.
The troupe was born after a 1984 handshake between then-president Glen Crombie and Bourget, who wanted to start up a unique community theatre group.
The college has provided no financial assistance, aside from the free space, to the troupe since the $2,000 startup grant Crombie signed over in 1984.
That?s a fact Mannisto and other theatre supporters have had trouble convincing other people of.
The group has had to reproduce a letter from the college?s controller stating they are not under-written by the school every time they apply for the city?s arts grants.
And even then, the grant they receive is smaller than what it should be, a result of the misconception the theatre group is a branch of Cambrian, says Bourget.
?The Sudbury Theatre Centre gets a huge boost from the Sudbury Arts Council every year, and they have their own building. We?ve received $1,500 in each of the last three years. We appreciate it, but the amount is not reflective of our financial needs.?
Other groups in town got as much as $67,000 this year, and a few received over $40,000. A complete list of arts grants city council approved for 2004 is available at Tom Davies Square.
Theatre Cambrian pays $7,000 in rent at the Cambrian Foundation for storage space for equipment and props, and its only revenue source is ticket sales.
?That?s half the cost of a production,? said Bourget. ?So when we start the year, we?re already in the hole.?
Currently, Mannisto and Bourget are treading water trying to find a new home. There isn?t one that can accommodate their rehearsal and production schedule or one with enough capacity to put on a proper show.
Some cheaper storage space would be appreciated, though, adds Bourget.
A reunion of past Theatre Cambrian folks has been scheduled for Saturday Nov. 6 at 100 Georges.
Mannisto hopes that party will prove to be a successful fundraiser for the group, as well as a productive networking session.