When Lily Diotte, owner of the Swale Rock Cafe, learned that the Capitol Theatre was in need of a new set of red curtains, she decided to take on a fundraising project herself.
“I thought it was a very good project to fundraise for,” said Diotte. “It’s best to keep the theatre updated and growing.”
The theatre’s current red curtains are older than the Portal Players Dramatic Society, which is in its 30th year of owning the theatre. A major renovation project in 2004 saw the installation of an electrical closing system for the curtains, but the fabric itself was not changed.
The age is starting to show, as the red velvet material is beginning to shred and the curtains don’t close completely.
The cost for replacement is estimated at $15,000 (for the curtains, as well as upgrading the tracking and closing system). The Capitol Theatre has raised $5,000 so far, and a donor has agreed to donate another $5,000. Diotte hopes to raise the remaining $5,000 through her “Raise the Reds” campaign.
She has raised $1,500 so far through local businesses and donors. Businesses such as Gayle’s Fashions and Little Bavaria have already gotten on board, and Diotte is planning a “red carpet” reward for individuals who donate $100 or more—including free tickets to a show next season.
“The theatre’s been here a long time,” said Diotte. “I’d like to see it continue.”
Portal Players board of directors treasurer Elliot Drew said the Players have been slowly saving for the cost of replacement over the last three years, but it is a large task because the theatre is a volunteer-run organization.
“It survives off of its ticket sales,” Drew explained. “It’s hard getting the money we need to operate, let alone trying to fundraise for other projects.”
The Portal Players just finished a successful run of the comedy The Complete Works of Shakespeare. On Sunday, June 3, the Capitol Glee & Wee Glee Singers and the Capitol Sea Notes Chorus will put on a musical production called What a Feeling! Drew hopes to install the new curtains this summer during the off-season.
“We strive to deliver the best we can,” said Drew. “The more people who attend, the higher we can set the bar. We’re sometimes curtailed by the resources we have to put in.”
Diotte is a frequent theatre-goer herself, and wants to see the arts district in Port Alberni expand and grow. Keeping the local theatre up-to-date, she said, is just one part of this.
“Port Alberni has a lot of artistic and creative people who are willing to give up their time,” she said.
“That’s why we call it the community with a heart,” added Drew. “There are so many people who, when called upon, go out of their way to help. Having Lily organize this has been absolutely amazing for us,” he added. “It’s a gift.”
The Capitol Theatre will kick off a new season in October with a production of Little Shop of Horrors—hopefully with a new set of red curtains.
“We’re very excited to open those for the first time,” said Drew.
If you are interested in contributing to the Raise the Reds cause, you can donate at Swale Rock Cafe (5328 Argyle St.) or the nearby Koliber Gifts (located around the corner from the Swale Rock). Tax deductible receipts are available for donations of $100 or more. You can also donate at the Capitol Theatre box office (open Monday-Thursday from 3-6 p.m., corner of Argyle Street and Fourth Avenue) or contact Lily Diotte at 250-723-8420 to get involved.