Our Annual Fund – Support the theatre you love

Date posted: December 1, 2017

Sari Alesh and Sophia Irene Coopman in The Children’s Republic. Photo by David Cooper

Dear Belfry Supporter,

My relationship with the Belfry goes back to the very beginning, before it was called the Belfry, when it was the Springridge Cultural Centre – perhaps not the most inspiring name for a theatre company. The building was tired and had been treated poorly, but it had potential. At that time it was a de-consecrated church serving as a youth hostel, but the bones were good and it was crying out for a second chance.

Over the last forty-one years, the theatre has given new life to the building. In return, the building has inspired directors, writers, designers and actors to create some of the most memorable theatre seen in this country.

The early days of the Belfry were characterized by an enthusiasm that was almost completely offset by an absolute absence of money and experience. The financing of the original production of Puttin’ on the Ritz, the Belfry’s first production, is a good illustration. With no money to produce the show, we asked friends for $500, with the promise that each investor would share in the profits. In this sense we were a little like Max Bialystock in Mel Brooks’ The Producers: we could promise anything with complete confidence that there be no profits to share. Amazingly there were – the show was a huge success.

Money is always hard to find and no producer wants to give it back. Fortunately, we were able to convince the Belfry’s first investors to become our first donors.

Although the charm of the Belfry was there from the beginning, it was not the best equipped space in the world. We found seats from an old movie theatre that were well past their ‘best before’ date, and were noisy and uncomfortable. We still had no power for the theatre lights, no dressing rooms and no lobby – things that most theatres would consider essential.

The power problem was solved by our innovative technical director, Danny Costain. Each evening before the show, Danny would “borrow” power from the dentist’s office that occupied the space that is our new lobby. This was an act of generosity that allowed the Belfry to find its first audiences. The dressing room problem was solved by converting our one small office into a dressing room before every performance. At five o’clock, the office backstage was cleared out and a dressing room was set up. Every morning at nine, the process was reversed. When we finally got a small office in the bell tower, it seemed like we had died and gone to heaven. Or we had, at least, ascended.

The ongoing endeavour of nurturing and growing the Belfry has been the work of so many, including the remarkably generous donors who have put their faith and their money into the excitement and value of good theatre. Building on Don Shipley’s original idea, Paddy, James, Miles, Roy, Glynis, Mary and so many others, including the current fabulous team, led by Michael and Ivan, have created a treasure that is envied and emulated across the country. None of this could have been accomplished without the assistance of our friends and patrons.

There have been many challenges in the Belfry’s history. Many times these challenges, almost always financial, could have closed the theatre. But thanks to our loyal supporters, those dangers were avoided.

I was very lucky to be here at the birth of the Belfry, and I am honoured to continue my relationship with this very special building and theatre as President of the Board.

We want to ensure that first class theatre remains part of the culture of Victoria.

I am asking you to contribute to the Belfry at this time, so we may continue to engage the best talent, to build beautiful sets, and to conduct the extensive outreach work that brings theatre and educational experiences to a wide cross section of our population. We rely on your gift to meet our annual revenue needs. As we continue to fundraise for our recent renovation, creating more space, comfort and functionality, we are very conscious of not doing this at the expense of our core purpose: to create excellence on stage.

I hope you will once again help us to bring first-rate professional theatre to our community, and fulfill our role as a cultural resource.

Our goal is to raise $150,000 from individual donors to support the 2017-2018 Season, and the new plays to be produced in seasons to come. This figure is in addition to completing our $1 Million Capital Campaign. Your donation today can help us reach our goal.

Thank you for your participation over the years. You have helped this theatre serve the community for more than four decades – with its artistic values intact. Your ongoing support will ensure the Belfry continues to be a vital community resource and a respected leader in Canadian theatre.

With sincere thanks,

Richard Brownsey

President, Belfry Board of Directors

P.S. Please remember to contribute online no later than December 31 if you wish to receive a tax receipt for the current tax year. If you prefer to donate by phone (250-385-6815) or in person, please do so by December 23.