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EDITORIAL: Performers make case for larger venue

With sold-out shows becoming the norm this fall, Okotoks has to seriously consider a new performing arts centre.
The Rotary Performing Arts Centre will not have to change its sign after Okotoks town council voted to keep Rotary in the performing art centre’ s name for two years.
The Rotary Performing Arts Centre is housed in a century-old brick church.

The arts community is certainly making a statement. 

In early summer, civic politicians in Okotoks received an update on the Culture, Heritage and Arts Master Plan II, which prompted a wide-ranging discussion among council members on all things arts and culture, including the possibility of a new performing arts centre. 

At the time, Mayor Tanya Thorn said one of the missing pieces when it comes to the Rotary Performing Arts Centre is the audience. "It’s not just about programming the space, it’s about programming the space with something that fills the space," Thorn said. 

The mayor’s take on the situation made abundant sense: there’s no sense investing tax dollars in a shiny new facility if the performances that take place there are unlikely to draw much of a crowd. It would be an unwise expenditure of public money. 

Well, fast forward four months or so and the local arts scene has been making a good case for the construction of a larger venue. The Dewdney Players sold out all 10 performances of The Full Monty at the arts centre, making it the most successful run in the community theatre group’s history. The Rocky Horror Picture Show and a concert by the Ennis Sisters also sold out in recent weeks. 

It’s a small sample size to be sure, but it shows there’s an appetite for high-quality entertainment close to home, a demand that just might be outstripping (yes, that’s a nod to the talented Monty Men!) the capacity of the century-old brick church. 

There’s plenty more to come in the Rotary Performing Arts Centre’s 2022/2023 season, including a Goodger Pink Family Theatre production, stand-up comedy nights and a slew of concerts, so it bears watching how the centre is able to accommodate these events and others going forward. 

As we come out of the pandemic, our collective desire to attend public functions again has intensified, which means we must have adequate facilities to house our performing arts.