Key City Theatre may remain dark for the time being but they are making the most of these socially distant times with phase two of upgrades to the building now underway.
A press release from Key City explains that phase one began in 2018 and saw the roof structure upgraded, while this fall the theatre will gain a new chiller, LED lighting, an overhaul of the electrical system and major safety upgrades including a new fire curtain on the stage.
“The Phase two upgrades began earlier than planned when the lockdown happened in early Spring, and we managed to get the 28-year-old stage surface replaced back in early April,” said Managing Director Galen Olstead, who has been spearheading the upgrades since he arrived at the theatre in 2014. “With the help of our funding partners we are aiming to breathe new life into the building and bring at least another 40 good years to the venue.”
Key City says the unfortunate circumstances of the pandemic have been beneficial in one regard, freeing the time needed to complete construction at the theatre.
A total of over $3.5 million will have been invested into the upgrades, including both phase one and two.
Landon Elliott, President of the Key City Theatre Society board of directors, says Key City Theatre is important to the community and brings people together.
“The Key City Theatre, to me, has always represented community and connectedness. The idea that you can see a neighbour, a friend, a new acquaintance and come together to be part of something for a moment,” he said. “Where the collective gasp of an audience created by an exceptional act gets burnt into a collective memory that we can all hold together. These moments, these collective memories, define our day, week, or even our year.
“This isn’t just a venue to see your favourite artist. It is the cornerstone of our community. The place where people from all walks of life gather to share moments that can challenge the way we think and act, can bring us together, and can make us feel like we are at home. This year when we all have spent so much time apart, where warm smiles and handshakes have been replaced with screens and plexiglass, we can feel the loss of community more than ever. It is the longing and need for community that will sustain us. It is what drives our organization as we strive to keep these moments alive.”
Elliott adds that while the Cranbrook community navigates through the challenging landscape created by the pandemic, he sees many positives that can come from the temporary shutdown of performing arts.
“In the short term, this has been a challenge, our over 600 seat theatre has been reduced to a maximum 50 seat capacity. Despite this, demand for arts and community is strong. Currently, we are running offsite events with a 100% sellout rate and anticipate all of our events in 2020 to be sold out. If you are wanting to see live theatre you can increase your chances at one of the elusive 50 seats by getting in front of the line with a Big Ticket Plus Membership. This not only is a great way to support our organization, but also gives you an opportunity to get your hands on those tickets days before the public,” Elliott said.
He went on to say that he believes the pandemic will make the community stronger in the long run, and has given Key City the opportunity to re-evaluate how they operate.
“Our artists will be welcomed into a theatre with a new stage, state-of-the-art lights and sound, and a professional tech staff who have spent their downtime training on all of this modern technology,” he said. “The theatre experience will be one you have never seen before in our community.”
The pandemic has also allowed people to get in touch with their creative and artistic sides, Elliott says.
“I believe that the energy and desire for the arts has been building, and when restrictions are raised, we will see record breaking audience demand. In addition, many of our local community members have taken the time during COVID to relearn and fall back in love with their artistic sides,” said Elliott. “I believe we will see new groups form, and new talents discovered.”
Key City Theatre does have a season planned post-renovations, and although it won’t look like their typical season it will bring some opportunities for people to enjoy live entertainment.
On September 30, Key City Theatre presents a sold out Chantal Kreviazuk concert at the Royal Alexandra Hall at the Cranbrook history Centre. There are also a few exciting announcements coming in the days and weeks ahead.
“The shows are going to be more intimate, up close and personal and we are excited to be working with local venues to find new and interesting places to present artists while the work is being done at the theatre,” Olstead said. “Performing arts will always find a way. There are obstacles to be overcome, but we are all determined to meet this moment creatively.”