Centennial moving forward into 2016

By Gordon Lambie
Centennial moving forward into 2016

Centennial Theatre in Lennoxville launched the season that almost wasn’t on Wednesday night, preparing for a 49th year in operation with the theme of “moving forward.”

“The program is called moving forward, and that is what we are doing thanks to the support of numerous partners,” said theatre director Luce Couture at the start of the evening’s programming. “I’m very thankful to all of our partners, they’re the reason we’re here tonight. I also don’t want to forget the public who participated in our crowdfunding campaign. It’s thanks to them too that we’re able to present this program.”

The 2015-16 season at Centennial will be smaller than in years past, but features a lot of familiar faces. Whereas last year’s lineup featured 31 shows in total, there will only be 24 over the coming season, with three of those being the theatre’s school and children’s’ programming.

The reduction, according to Couture, is in order to give the theatre the time to work on its vision and plan for the coming years.

“ It’s to give us the chance to find the funding,” the theatre director said, “That’s the most important thing we have to do this year is secure the next years.”

Though the theatre was able to secure the funding needed to go ahead with a program for 2015-16, Couture pointed out that the work of saving the theatre’s future is far from over. Though she wouldn’t comment on the nature of the project in the works, she said that there is a conversation underway with a number of local and provincial partners to try to help secure the resources needed to celebrate its semi-centennial season in 2016-17 and for all the years to come after.

“It’s quite important that we work towards this goal,” Couture said, explaining that the project in motion seeks to grow support through a mandate to look at other ways of financing the theatre.

The theatre director said that she faced unusual challenges in arranging the artists for this coming year because of the theatre’s financial situation. With bookings needing to be made in advance, it was not always possible for Centennial to secure the shows it would otherwise have liked due to the lack of guaranteed funding.

“I didn’t get the first choice because I had to wait,” Couture said. “You’re going to see this year artists like Jill Barber is going to the Granada because of that, Harry Manx also. It hurts to see that, but I told Alain at the Granada it was okay.”

Despite having to work from agreements with artists that the season might not end up happening, however, Centennial was able to continue its mission of bringing acts to the townships stage that cover a range of musical styles and highlight the dance work being done in Quebec and around the world. Wednesday evening’s opening blended live music and video introductions with a series of drawings that benefitted the 70 or so community members and representatives in attendance.

The theatre’s program for the coming year invites the community to buy tickets to the shows in order to prove to the various government agencies offering emergency funding to Centennial that there is a community that is committed to the venue’s survival, but Couture also highlighted that the theatre has a new partnership with Crohns and Colitis Canada wherein one dollar from every ticket sold will go to support the work of that organization.

Pianists Matt Herskowitz and John Roney closed out the evening with a piano performance that was at once musically impressive and theatrical, sharing one piano between the two of them. The artists described themselves as being at “the crossroads of serious classical music and really fun jazz,” stating that the improvisational elements of jazz music mean that they never perform the same way twice.

“It’s smart music, meaning that it respects both traditions, but at the same time it’s creating something completely new,” Herskowitz said. “It’s very exciting and very fun.”

The pair, who go by the name of Piano Chameleons, will be back at Centennial on the 10th of February, continuing the theatre’s long tradition of supporting and promoting up-and-coming artists.

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