Theatre Trent Launches COVID-19 Venue Relief Fund

Charlie Petch, performing their show Mel Malarkey Gets the Bum's Rush at The Theatre On King photographed by Andy Carroll

Theatre Trent, a student levy group that is dedicated to supporting theatrical endeavours throughout the Trent community, has launched the Theatre Trent Venue Relief Fund with the goal of providing essential financial relief to local performance venues. The organization kickstarted the fund with a donation of $6 000 in an effort to assist The Theatre On King (TTOK) and The Market Hall Performing Arts Centre – the two venues that are most often home to Theatre Trent-sponsored productions.

This donation comes at a time when local performance venues are especially vulnerable to financial hardship. There is no set time at which crowds will be allowed to gather indoors for shows at either of these venues. As Sarah McNeilly, artist, Trent M.A. candidate, and founder of the Task Force, writes, “Although businesses are slowly being permitted to re-open, live performance venues will remain shuttered for quite some time. These venues need our support now to help ensure that they can persist until they are allowed to re-open.”

Ryan Kerr, the Artistic Director for TTOK, is grateful for the community’s support. In a press release from Theatre Trent, Kerr writes, “TTOK runs on community energy and goodwill… We’ve been getting donations since this crisis began, and the support means the world to us. It’s the difference between our existence on the other side of this crisis, or not.”

Poster from American Idiot performed Market Hall courtesy of Theatre Trent.

As the Executive Director of Public Energy, Bill Kimball knows the significance that a fund like this can have. Commenting on the potential loss of theatre venues in Peterborough, Kimball states: “The impact on the local community would be catastrophic. Not only would our artists and audiences lose out – the local economy would take a big hit as well. Arts and culture bring in $58.9 billion annually to the Canadian economy!”

Kate Story, Chair of The Theatre on King Board and member of the Theatre Trent Executive, agrees, inviting Peterboroughians to “Imagine a Peterborough without live theatre, dance, music! It’s not a pretty picture.”

She goes on to note how important it is to “make sure that performing artists – and audiences – will have rehearsal and performance spaces to return to when we are permitted to do so.”

Recently Story appeared at a City Council Budget Meeting, asking Council to refrain from cutting local arts funding, and suggesting that they raise taxes to make up for COVID-19 related financial losses across the city. She argued that “art builds individual and community wellbeing,” and “there will be a severe mental health impact if the arts are slashed,”

“We need city funding more than ever, just as the community needs us, your artists.”

Sarah McNeilly sees it as an investment in the future, that makes a lot of “economic and community sense. Theatre Trent unanimously passed a motion that will designate half of their budget to the fund, with the other half reserved for when they are able to sponsor productions again.

In the past 5 years, Theatre Trent has “supported over 275 productions, including three major month-long multi-arts festivals, amounting to over 1100 separate performances, reaching upwards of 45 000 audience members.” As McNeilly notes, the levy is small but mighty, also providing “support for practicum courses, and opportunities for Trent University students to connect with alumni and the wider community.”

But they know they can’t do this work alone. They’ve partnered with Trent University faculty and members of the Electric City Culture Council (EC3) Board of Directors, to create the Theatre Trent Venue Relief Fund. They’re also hoping that you, the Peterborough-Nogojiwanong community, will help, too. They are asking our community to match and/or exceed the $6000 donation to ensure “our local theatre venues can weather this unprecedented storm.”

Theatre Trent is asking donors to direct their support directly to the Market Hall and The Theatre On King. You can support the Market Hall by becoming a member, here. You can donate to TTOK, by clicking here, and choosing “The Theatre On King” from the drop-down menu.

About Nick Taylor 51 Articles
Nick Taylor is a queer settler living and learning in Nogojiwanong/Peterborough. He is a recent Trent alum, holding a BAH in International Development and Philosophy with a specialization in Ethics. His journalistic interests include politics, student affairs, gentrification and urbanism, and arts and culture. They write from the left of centre. (he/him/they/them)