Victoria Playhouse Petrolia. Blackburn Media File PhotoVictoria Playhouse Petrolia. Blackburn Media File Photo

Victoria Playhouse Petrolia launches capital campaign

A $9.2 million capital renovation and expansion campaign is being launched for Victoria Playhouse Petrolia (VPP).

The Town of Petrolia has asked the County of Lambton for a $1 million grant, paid over five years, representing 10.8 per cent of the total capital required.

Director of Marketing, Arts and Communications Laurissa Ellsworth told Lambton County Council Wednesday morning that the VPP's exterior is 131 years old, and the interior is 28.

"We're starting to see signs of that age," said Ellsworth. "10 years ago we did not have to be here to speak to you, because we did not have the capacity challenges that we have today. We're the only professional theatre in Lambton County that produces our own work. We see more than 90 bus groups, or groups that travel in cars, every year."

Ellsworth said the VPP is number one in seats sold to capacity in comparison to other major theatres, including Stratford, Shaw and the Drayton Festival.

VPP Artistic Director David Rogers said it's a beautiful place, but it is in dire need of accessibility improvements.

"Every time I go into the lobby and I see the crowds, they say, 'When are you getting the washrooms? We still have to go down to the basement.,'" said Rogers. "I don't know if you've been to the Victoria Playhouse, but once you get in, you have to go downstairs to the basement, and then you have to go up to the lobby and then up another floor to the main floor and yet another floor to the balcony. So, to come from the balcony, or even the main floor, it's usually a 15-minute trip down."

Several accessibility improvements are planned, including an additional elevator to the balcony level, more washrooms, enhancements to the lobby, lounge and box office areas, and an expansion to the town hall offices.

Rogers said the VPP welcomes 40,000 patrons each year, generating over $4 million to the local economy.

The Town of Petrolia has committed $1 million, to be paid over four years, to the campaign.

Provincial and federal government funding, corporate, private and foundation donations are also being sought.

In the meantime, the Kiwanis Club of Forest is requesting $75,000 to fund the remainder of the Kiwanis Kineto Theatre Vision 2020 Project.

The project includes a new lobby, concession, coffee bar, ticket booth area, accessible washrooms and a new community space.

Over $620,000 of the $900,000 capital campaign has been raised so far.

The theatre grant requests will be considered during Lambton County Council budget deliberations on March 4.

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