Letter: So grateful for Sagebrush Theatre


I have read letters to the editor in KTW from people who are demanding a new performing-arts centre in Kamloops.

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It is neither helpful nor accurate to disparage Sagebrush Theatre when making the argument that the city needs a brilliant new arts centre.

I write to offer both historical facts and the perspective of a retired actor/director of some 40 years.

My home is in this city and my work with Western Canada Theatre began as a student (later WCT founding actor) under the training and direction of Tom Kerr.

Kamloops has long demonstrated support for the performing arts.

In 68 years, there have been numerous attempts to build a standalone performing-arts centre.

The only attempt to go to public referendum was in 2015, when it failed.

Sagebrush Theatre at Ninth Avenue and Munro Street in South Kamloops exists because of a complex dance between participating funding bodies and lengthy fundraising in the community.

The community supported a telethon and purchased car raffle tickets to raise funds for theatre seats.

The federal government grant of one-third the cost was predicated on the provincial government and City of Kamloops each contributing their share.

The condition precedent of the B.C. Ministry of Culture was that the money was only available for a “renovation.”

The Kam High auditorium was demolished, but for the shell — hence the participation with School District 73.

The City of Kamloops’ contribution was dependent on community use, with Western Canada Theatre and SD73 becoming priority users.

The theatre, designed by architect Doug Huggins, opened in 1978.

In 2003, by way of a City of Kamloops grant to WCT, which was later repaid, new seats were installed. In 2003, the City completed the lobby and backstage expansions.

Then, as now, there were voices who criticized the choices of the day.

There were complaints, a la Goldilocks — it’s too big, it’s too small, it should be on the university grounds, where’s my guarantee for usage of the space?.

Forty-one years later, Sagebrush Theatre is a building that has contributed much to the arts, the employment of artists and the city’s economy.

Only recently has it required the kind of major repair to shutter it for a time.

The reality is that a performing-arts centre, which can meet the needs of all potential users (if that is possible), will require collaboration between people with an extraordinary vision, clarity of purpose and the ability to market positive ideas to the public.

I listen for the voices who dare to put forward a bold idea for a performing-arts centre and whose momentum will create a strong desire for a building that will take us into the next decades.

I remain grateful for the venue we have in Sagebrush Theatre and I look forward to supporting a great idea for a new performing-arts centre, which will take us into the future.

Lanni McInnes Shupe


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