Yearning for a night out on the town?
One that – at long last – includes a live performance?
Then mark Nov. 22 on the calendar because Canada’s Celtic ambassadors, The Barra MacNeils, are slated to be on stage that night at The Bailey Theatre in downtown Trail.
With this treasured community venue mostly shutdown over the past 18+ months due to the pandemic, it’s been an emotional roller coaster for staff at the Bailey.
After all, bringing music, theatre, and dance to downtown Trail is what brings joy to the Bailey staff. And in turn, their zeal brings joy to so many living in Trail and all the surrounding cities, towns and areas.
So, how are they all feeling now that there is a tiny light at the end of the long, dark COVID-19 tunnel?
“I will probably cry at the first show knowing that we can do this again,” shares Nadine Tremblay, executive director of the Trail and District Arts Council.
“It has completely devastated my soul to not have the theatre filled with laughter, chatting and the buzz of excitement from seeing live music, theatre and dance,” she said.
“I’m sure I will feel completely overwhelmed because bringing performance art to the community is my raison d’être. Until COVID hit, I don’t think I understood just how important the work we do is.”
During the shutdown, Tremblay says locals have stayed the course by donating ticket money to the organization when shows were cancelled and/or making donations outright.
Some have showed up to support the drive-in movies behind the Trail mall, and others have participated in livestream content. Along the way, she says patrons have offered kind words of encouragement.
“For all of this we are grateful,” Tremblay said.
“And people are constantly telling me how much they have missed it, so I can’t wait to welcome patrons back and see their smiling faces in person.”
Although Tremblay, marketing point-person Vicky Jones and box office manager Ann Damude, haven’t been able to regularly welcome performers or visitors face-to-face for a year, the trio have used the time to stay occupied behind the scenes.
After four years of planning, which involved writing dozens of lengthy grant applications, an expansive and necessary project started in August.
The building was built in the 1920s, and the theatre was last upgraded in the 1980s. Closed doors in the time of pandemic presented an opportune time for a functional makeover.
With $1,200,000 in hand, mostly secured through successful grant submissions, a new theatre rigging – the structure that lights and set pieces hang on over the stage – is being installed to bring the venue up to code.
The current rigging and drapery are mounted on wooden battens that are warped and bent with age. The nylon rope rigging is unsafe, and the whole structure is outdated and flammable.
“We don’t use the theatre and its equipment to its full potential because it’s simply too risky to overload the structure,” Tremblay explained. “These upgrades have been a long time coming and are needed to remain safely in operation and stay open for business.”
Besides the new rigging, by the end of November, the theatre will also have several more modern components in place.
A new hanging truss will allow for equipment and scenery installations. The stage ceiling will be properly fire sealed, the new lighting system will safely brighten the space, and stage drapery will be updated to fireproof velour curtains.
As well, a fall arrest system will be added to the front of the house catwalk to protect workers while adjusting lighting fixtures. In addition, the orchestra pit cover and apron risers will be replaced to create an even floor and eliminate the tripping hazard in front of the stage.
All of the electrical outlets above the stage will be rewired and brought up to code, and finally, hanging points for circus acts will be installed to accommodate aerial performers.
“For patrons, it won’t look that different,” Tremblay notes. “But patrons and staff can expect a safer and more comfortable experience, as well as some beautiful and more dynamic lighting design, circus acts who will utilize the new hanging points, and a more diverse group of users, renters and artists that we couldn’t welcome into our space until these upgrades were made.”
This $1.2M project was made possible by the Government of Canada, BC Arts Council, the Province of B.C., Columbia Basin Trust, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, Areas A and B, and of course, the Trail and District Arts Council.
To see what’s coming up at The Bailey and also at The Rossland Miners Hall – beginning with “Josephine” Oct. 22 – visit: thebailey.ca.