Thanks to $2.7 million in funding from a number of different sources, a dream is coming true for YES Theatre.
Shovels are expected to go in the ground next month for the Refettorio, an 180-seat theatre being built in the vacant lot next to the former Roy’s Furniture store on Durham Street.
The space will be used as a key venue for the YES Theatre Summer Festival.
YES Theatre founder Alessandro Costantini said the construction phase of the project is scheduled to finish by October, and there will be a soft opening of the space in the fall, with a major opening planned next spring.
“I am very, very thrilled to be standing here,” he said. “It's quite an emotional day after this little dream became a reality.”
Contributors to the project include the federal government ($750,000 from Cultural Spaces and $448,420 from FedNor), the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation ($750,000), the City of Greater Sudbury ($50,000 from Greater Sudbury Development Corporation, $50,000 from the Tourism Development Fund, and $144,000 from the Community Improvement Plan), the Downtown BIA ($25,000), Glencore ($30,000) and Desjardins ($100,000).
A press conference celebrating the project was held outside the future location of the Refettorio Wednesday afternoon.
The event was attended by both area MPs, Viviane Lapointe and Marc Serré, Mayor Brian Bigger and several Greater Sudbury city councillors, as well as other funders and many members of the local arts community.
Sudbury MP Viviane Lapointe said it’s important to invest in projects that bring the community together, especially after the isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To be able to invest in an important project like YES Theatre, and to be able to invest in the downtown is something that our government recognized is an important thing to do,” she said.
Mayor Bigger described the Refettorio project as “so forward-looking, so exceptional, so creative, that you can't help but think and reflect on how creative and innovative people from Sudbury are changing the world.”
Costantini said for these funders to look at YES Theatre’s work and support the Refettorio project with “not just a tiny pocket of money, but a very significant amount,” it’s a confirmation of the theatre company’s vision.
The word “Refettorio” comes from the Latin word Reficere, meaning to “remake and restore.” YES Theatre’s website said it would work with local organizations, producers, artists, architects, and community leaders to restore and renovate this underused space, transforming it into a state of the art outdoor theatre.
Costantini explained that the idea for the Refettorio came about in the early days of the pandemic, when YES Theatre thought it might be able to reconfigure the current space for a pop-up performance.
“And then as we started looking into the specifics and logistics of that, it became very clear that that wasn't possible, certainly not for the amount of money that we normally would spend to get a facility,” Costantini said.
“So we began the immense journey to see what needed to be done to make it a permanent space.”
In terms of the YES Theatre Summer Festival, Costantini said the idea is to use the “trifecta” of the Refettorio, the Sudbury Theatre Centre building (YES Theatre and STC are in the midst of a merger) and the brand new Place des Arts building.
“We're going to be able to host upwards of six to nine productions per summer,” Costantini said. “So it's a really big vision coupled with the ongoing programming at the STC. There's a lot of wonderful theatre coming.”
Beyond being just a performance space, the Refettorio will also host a concession area. It will be available rent-free to artists who need a space to perform, Costantini said.
He said the space will be used from April to November, although talks are also underway with the City of Greater Sudbury to host a Christmas market for the holiday season.
“We're bringing together the worlds of your favourite patio, a hockey arena, and your backyard, right?” Costantini said. “And it just happens to be a place where beautiful art can take place.”
Heidi Ulrichsen is the associate content editor at Sudbury.com. She also covers education and the arts scene.