Local company seeking support for new black box theatre space

Members of Blue Canoe Productions rehearse for a recent musical at their new studio at 1296 Bath Road. The company is hoping to raise money to build a black box theatre at the studio near the Frontenac Mall. Submitted photo.

Kingston’s Blue Canoe Productions is hoping for strong financial support from the community to enable the creation of a new black box theatre studio, providing much-needed performance space for youth and other artists in the city. According to Cam Watson, the company’s Managing Director, the idea for a black box studio came after Blue Canoe established a new permanent home at 1296 Bath Road earlier this year.

“We recently moved into a studio space of 2,500 square feet,” said Watson, “and we’re looking to renovate our space so that we can use it for more performances in the Kingston area, such as music, dance, theatre — whatever people need it for.”

At the helm of a company that has been around for almost 20 years, Watson remarked that a permanent performance venue is a major next-step for an organization dedicated to enriching Kingston’s artistic scene while creating opportunities for local youth.

“Even having our own rehearsal space has been such a big step for us this year, and we’ve been able to provide a lot more opportunities this year… We’ve been able to have more classes and workshops as well. But, [by] having our own black box theatre, we’re excited to be able to offer many more smaller scale projects in between our larger scale projects,” Watson explained.

After connecting with other theatre groups and artists in the city, Watson noted the need for a new performance space in Kingston was evident.

“We’ve talked to many other professionals in the city who’ve expressed the same sort of problems. With a lot of our festivals and things like that, there’s so many different [events] that happen, and when you have multiple productions going on at the same time, it’s tricky to be able to balance everything,” she said.

Watson noted that Blue Canoe is also planning to allow other artists in the community to rent the studio at an affordable rate.

“It’s tricky to find affordable spaces to rent for any sort of performances that are equipped for our needs,” she said of the venues currently available for rent in Kingston, such as the Baby Grand Theatre. “We do have a couple of really great spaces, but Kingston’s community art scene is just growing so quickly, and it’s hard to keep up with the needs.”

Blue Canoe’s new studio has already been used for rehearsals and classes. Submitted photo.

Watson explained that black box theatres are designed to be small, versatile spaces. “For our black box, we’re envisioning about 75 seats for the audience, and they won’t be fixed seats, which means anyone who comes in to rent our space… can really imagine the theatre however they want to. I’ve been to black box theatres with a [traditional] proscenium stage; you could do theatre in the round; you could even have a dinner-style theatre with tables and chairs. It really gives lots of opportunity to be able to play with theatre and performance in a really innovative way.”

While Blue Canoe has already been able to use the space at 1296 Bath Road for rehearsals, storage, and other purposes, more work is needed before the location can welcome audiences for public performances. To pay for things like seating and flooring, the company has established a fundraiser, seeking to raise $35,000 to get the project off the ground.

“This is the first phase of our fundraiser in order to just get us to a certain spot, and then once we reach this goal, we’ll announce the second phase, which will be for [things like] curtains, lighting, and sound,” noted Watson.

According the Managing Director, the first phase of donations will also cover expenses that will enhance the venue’s ability to serve as an effective rehearsal space.

“We’re looking to add mirrored walls… and sprung flooring. Those are two things we’re looking for that will really help, because we’re also looking to rent it out for rehearsal space, as well as our rehearsing for our own programming,” she said.

Watson added that the use of the black box theatre would be complimentary to Blue Canoe’s popular musicals and other large-scale productions: “We’d still love to be able to have our large summer musicals and Domino Theatre or the Baby Grand… but, [a black box] will allow us to offer productions in between, [like] maybe an extra week of the art gallery we do every year, or a local one-act production written by a Kingston youth.”

As for how the campaign has gone thus far, Watson noted that Blue Canoe has received strong local support, but reaching the $35,000 goal will require continued enthusiasm and commitment from the community. Organizers hope to have the funds in place by the end of 2023 to enable them to begin work on the black box theatre in the new year.

As part of the fundraising campaign, organizers have broken down donations into five categories which will cover the following expenses:

  • $25 = 1 square foot of mirrored wall
  • $50 = One audience seat
  • $100 = One inventory shelf and storage bins
  • $250 = 5 square feet of spring floors
  • $500 = One week’s salary for youth artists in their field

Those interested in contributing to the first phase of Blue Canoe’s fundraising drive, or to learn more about the campaign, can do so through a special page on the company’s website. Additional information is also available by emailing Watson at [email protected].

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