GUYSBOROUGH – The little theatre that began life 40 years ago, renown for taking its storytelling art on the road, has just received a huge boost – a $400,000 provincial grant to expand its performance space in Guysborough.
“Of course, we are pleased to invest,” said Greg Morrow, Minister of Agriculture and MLA for Guysborough-Tracadie, at the announcement in Guysborough on March 28. “I remember coming to the workshops that the Mulgrave Road Theatre (MRT) did in high school, so the good work that you folks have been doing has been going on for a long time.”
In a statement on behalf of Pat Dunn, Minister of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage, he added: “The theatre plays a critical role in Nova Scotia’s rich culture and heritage and contributes to diverse economic growth in our province. It has a long and successful record of producing new Canadian content and reaching audiences across the country.”
According to Artistic Director Emmy Alcorn, the money — the single largest grant it has ever received — will help the theatre expand its RoadHouse Creative Centre, located in the former premises of a Nova Scotia Liquor Commission store it acquired for a nominal price in 2020.
“[We] are so grateful to the Government of Nova Scotia for this as we plan for a major renovation of our facility,” she said in a statement. “The funding will help us leverage significant support from other sources as we move forward.”
The renovations will include a 232-square-metre (2,500-square-foot) multi-use performance space, as well as technical, administrative, and community-use spaces totalling 511 square metres (5,500 square feet). The new facilities will also be designed as net-zero — incorporating accessibility features, passive solar gain and heating, the latest LED lighting technology and energy efficient heating and cooling systems.
Jenny MacDonald, chair of the theatre’s board of directors, said the idea of a permanent, full-service space rooted in the community has been a long time in the making. “There’s been about 20 years of planning put into this,” she told The Journal in an interview.
“What has happened in the past is a lot of [the creative and administrative processes] have had to happen outside of Guysborough. A facility would be rented in another part of the province, which meant that this was where the actors and directors and other people would get their hotels and their meals and, you know, spend their money or our money.
“So, one of our goals was to make sure that all of that economic benefit is staying local, as well as the art and the culture of being around [here]. Mulgrave Road Theatre will continue to be a traveling theatre, under normal circumstances, but we also really want to make sure that we are also here. And this is one of the best ways to do that.”
She added that, as large as the provincial funding is, “This is a significant project. This is the first amount to come in. [The project] will require much more [money] than we have at this point, so it’ll be a number of organizations that we hope will support us.”
Mulgrave Road Theatre — whose name was inspired by a Governor General’s Award-winning collection of poetry by Charles Tory Bruce, a Canadian poet, journalist and fiction writer born in Guysborough — has produced more than 75 new works since it launched in 1976.