MANITOWANING – Marilyn Wohlberg, co-music director for the Burns Wharf Theatre Players (BWTP), could barely contain her excitement at the thought of having a production back in the Players’ namesake theatre.
“I am very, very encouraged,” Ms. Wohlberg told The Expositor following last week’s meeting of Assiginack council that outlined the plans for a new study of the Burns Wharf Theatre. “I know that this council is on the right track and is behind this 100 percent.”
Many of the council members, including Mayor Dave Ham, were elected on a mandate to help save the Burns Wharf Theatre with a promise to seek funding to help get the iconic waterfront building back to its former glory and once again able to host events and BWTP productions. The Players have not had a production in the Burns Wharf building since 2013.
Assiginack CAO Alton Hobbs explained that the last study was seven years old and in need of updated numbers to apply for grants. The company, 3rd Line Studio, has been hired, the same company that did the original study but now with a new name.
Assiginack is seeking an updated cost of the work found in the original study, a proposal for a one-storey theatre in the existing building (currently, the Burns Wharf Theatre is housed on the second floor of the building) and lastly, to meet with the Players to get a “visioning” and a costing of what they hope to see.
The original cost estimate for renovations was $538,911 with the largest expenditure being wheelchair access from the ground level up to the second-storey theatre level.
“This is great news not just for Manitowaning, but for all of Manitoulin,” Ms. Wohlberg added.
Ms. Wohlberg noted the generosity of Debajehmujig Storytellers for allowing the BWTP use of their space and, most recently, Knox United Church for offering its sanctuary as a permanent ‘home’ until they can, hopefully, return to the Burns Wharf.
When the Players first learned they would no longer be able to use the Burns Wharf, Ms. Wohlberg said they “had the wind knocked out of their sails” and for a moment, thought of disbanding the troupe.
“After that we realized that we couldn’t abandon ship and stayed together as a performing group,” she continued. “I’m really happy we stuck together through tough times.”
The BWTP is already well into rehearsals for this spring’s production of ‘Annie.’
‘Annie’ will take to the Knox United Church stage from May 15-17, May 22-24 and May 28-31. Tickets are available by visiting BurnsWharf.net or by calling Mary Sutherland at 705-859-3030.
“We’re excited and pleased with Mayor Ham and every single person on that council,” Ms. Wohlberg added. “It looks like we’re moving forward. I can hardly wait to hear the first hammer blow down there!”