For years now, Showboat Theatre has been staging plays in Port Colborne, but the troupe has never quite felt like the city was its home. Despite being a major part of the local arts scene, they always felt like tourists.
But not anymore. Thanks to some major changes at the Roselawn Centre, including tens of thousands of dollars worth of upgrades, the theatre company can now truly call the place its own.
“Our sets used to be built in Orangeville, and then we’d have to ship them down the highway, but now we have this wonderful workshop where we can build everything right here,” said Derek Ritschel, artistic director for Showboat Theatre. “So now we’re buying local materials to build, we have more control over the design, and we’re employing local talent.”
Sets are now built right in the workshop of the Roselawn Centre, and are put together by Colin Mahon, who graduated right across the street from Port Colborne High School.
“Back in high school when I needed my 40 hours of community service, I volunteered here and was the kid who worked the spotlight,” recalled Mahon. After graduation he did some carpentry jobs, worked on building a few homes, but then saw an ad for a handyman job back at his old stomping ground. “It feels good to be back here.”
Having a place to design and build their own sets isn’t the only upgrade at the Roselawn Centre, as there’s also been more than $35,000 in upgrades to the lighting and sound systems that power the back end of the plays. The upgrades mean Roselawn will soon be hosting live bands on weekends in between stage plays.
The upgrades, said Ritschel, will allow for a more immersive and comfortable experience for the audience.
“The city has been really amazing to work with,” said Ritschel of working with city hall to transform the Roselawn Centre into a more focused space for the arts. “They’ve been a great partner on this.”
Outside of the actual plays, Ritschel said it’s also nice to have a proper lobby area for the plays.
“There was no room before so if it was raining, you had to wait in line outside and that’s no fun,” said Ritschel. With a proper lobby area, people can now queue up indoors, where the walls will also be adorned with a rotating exhibit of artwork from local artists.
Showboat Theatre’s first play of the season, Norm Foster’s “Old Love” will break in the new stage on Nov. 5 with performances running through Nov. 14.