“It takes a village to run a theatre.”
Those humble words come from Nadine Tremblay, front house manager of the Bailey Theatre since 2008, and executive and artistic director for the Trail and District Arts Council.
More so, Tremblay is also recognized as 2023 Presenter of The Year by the BC Touring Council, whose raison d’être is “Raising Curtains Across British Columbia.”
This prestigious accolade came after countless long days at the theatre, planning then rolling out talent that always includes a roster of performances collectively appealing to all ages and tastes.
The well-earned award thus follows what Trail theatre-goers can attest to firsthand: “raising curtains” is certainly among Tremblay’s talents as under her tenure, she’s upped shows at the Bailey Theatre from a dozen or-so a year to well over 100 riveting performances annually.
“I really want to impart that I cannot do this without the support of my fabulous staff and volunteers who work hard to make our events welcoming, professional and smooth,” Tremblay told the Trail Times. “And lastly the community, who have been really supportive and truly show up again and again.”
An accomplished singer, dancer and actor, Tremblay’s journey started 15 years ago when she was a touring artist with Iron Mountain Theatre.
“Every time I came home to Trail after being in other small towns in western Canada, I was curious why our theatre was not used more as it was big and beautiful and mostly dark,” she recounted.
After five years of managing the theatre’s front of house, in 2013, she made an ambitious move and pitched the arts council to apply for a grant to carry out a feasibility study and business plan for the Trail venue. This undertaking included public consultations, surveys and visits to other small town venues for advice and inspiration.
“This proved that there was a lot of untapped potential at The Bailey Theatre,” Tremblay said. “Back then the Bailey opened the doors an average of 20 shows a year and the regional district was doing the work off the side of their desks which is kind of incredible.”
At the time, she simply wanted to see the theatre get used more.
“I had no idea that this would be my main job and passion.”
The feasibility study birthed a five-year transition plan, wherein the arts council took over full operations of the Bailey Theatre from the regional district in 2018 with Tremblay filling the executive director role.
Cut to 2023, and the regional district still financially supports the arts council to operate the space, and in return, the council provides a regional venue for arts, culture, the community, and touring promoters.
“Today The Bailey is used over 120 times a year and lots of it is our own programming including The Teck Family series, Jazz series, Performing Arts Series and such,” Tremblay added.
“We identified gaps in the region and tried to fill them with what the community wanted to see and experience.”
Another task was a timely re-brand to “The Bailey,” which included eye-catching signage and a switch to an online ticketing system. Prior to this, Tremblay along with now-retired Betty Seinen, would sell up to 700+ seats for one show and transcribe seating designations, by hand, on to a piece of paper. Needless to say, going online has freed up time and energy for other projects.
“We then transformed the recital room into a small performance space, we renovated the lounge and kitchen and purchased all new sound and lighting equipment to be an appealing venue to renters and artists alike, in line with other provincial venues,” Tremblay said.
Last year, the theatre’s old bones were given new life with a $1.2M renovation. Built in the 1930s, it was past time to bring the auditorium’s electrical system, rigging system and ceiling structure up to grade.
“So yup, it’s been busy,” Tremblay said. “And we are also the local arts council so we also support 22 local arts groups financially, and we also do events outside of the Bailey such as Music in the Park and Monday Cinemas at the Royal, Silver City Days entertainment and more.”
In the near future, Tremblay’s long list of responsibilities will be split into two distinct positions, executive director and artistic director. This job delineation is meant to keep the arts council more sustainable.
“Right now, it is too much work for me and what if I win the lottery?” she joked. Referring to the job split, she added, “the plan is to do more community engagement and continue to bring fabulous Canadian and international artists to our small town.”
While it’s been a memorable 15 years, with plenty of ups and downs especially during the dark time of the pandemic, bringing poignant performances to the city remains Tremblay’s passion.
She recalled one show in particular — RedSky’s dance performance of “Trace” — that still brings up a well of emotion because it was a reminder of how vital performing arts is to the happiness and well-being of so many.
“That show opened the theatre up again after the worst of the pandemic and I didn’t realize the importance of what we do here until that moment,” Tremblay shared of the February 2022 show.“It brought tears of joy to my eyes to hear the hubbub in the crowd, the dancers preparing backstage, the staff buzzing around working hard to make it all look effortless.”
Performance art is magic, it brings people together at one moment in time to collectively experience and feel something, she said.
No performance is exactly the same and anything can happen. The artists, whether they are young and emerging or more experienced, dedicate their lives to the craft and the audience opens themselves up to receive it.
“It is a beautiful exchange and to me, it is almost spiritual.”
Tremblay is already looking forward to next season’s lineup, which launches to subscribers first, on May 2.
“I think it is especially strong — ballet Jorgen is coming, The Arts Club, The Wonderheads, Shari Ulrich and more exciting artists.”
Tremblay was named 2023 Presenter of the Year at the BC Touring Council awards ceremony held April 15 in New Westminster.
“Nadine Tremblay has built an outstanding theatre venue with exciting and diverse programming in a rural town. Her programming is rich, diverse, well-considered and confident. She has educated herself on Indigenous issues and has developed strong ties within the Indigenous community and the Sinixt Confederacy,” the council noted in the award announcement.
“She does not shy away from tackling complex issues in her productions and programming, which can be challenging in a small community. Nadine never hesitates to share any knowledge she has gained as a musician, theatre artist, executive, and artistic director.”