By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
It was not just the excitement of finally being able to have their annual barbecue that made Northumberland Players so jubilant Wednesday – it was the ribbon cutting for their new expanded space on Campbell Street known as the Hub.
Located in a former Cobourg ambulance station, part of this space has been occupied for some years by their Costume House. A $50,000 Ontario Trillium Grant allowed them to expand and outfit the adjacent unit to make a home for their props and workshops as well.
As board member Victor Svenningsen explained on one of many tours conducted, this allowed them to gather costumes, tools, flats and other properties out of the trailers, barns and attics where they had been stored – as well as an opportunity to cull out items that had grown moldy or damaged, and to organize the pieces being kept.
NP charter member Lynne Templer explained how they organize their thousands of costumes, as well as the tens of thousands of purses, shoes, hats and other accessories too numerous to name – as seen in labels on bins that say Tiaras, Spats, Assorted Bow Ties, Cat Costumes and even Slutty Little Dresses.
They also get donations, like the vintage costumes, furs and styrofoam heads donated to them from the 2017 movie shoot of Shape of Water (stored for now in the former female paramedics’ shower – the male showers are packed with shelving for storage as well). And they make the odd purchase when the opportunity arises, like their recent haul of 45 wigs for $110.
The costumes come in handy for their own productions, as well as for theatre companies from far afield and even for television shoots that take place in Cobourg or nearby. They can also be rented out for special occasions, and even high-school students are catching on that they have tuxedos and gowns to rent (one board member noted that some of the girls these days are drawn to the vintage gowns).
“We started keeping our costumes 45 years ago,” Templer said. Now that fabric is so expensive, they definitely bless the day that decision was made – not only for the savings but also for the revenue stream.
Costumes occupy the east half of their expanded premises, with props to the west. Vintage luggage and cameras, bins of fake fruit and vegetables, furniture of all kinds – all of it also available to rent.
Many NP members added their own celebratory touch to the occasion by modelling some of those costumes, with the result that gauchos, flappers, belles, pilgrims and even Father Christmas were mingling among the attendees.
Barbecue committee head Grant Coward gave Svenningsen credit for the name, his having begun calling the premises the hub of activity.
With their 46th season as the premier theatre company in Cobourg and Northumberland County, he said, “we today celebrate opening this grand space. Finally, all of our property is in one amazing space with painting, props, set storage and costumes.”
While Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini could not be present because Queen’s Park is in session, Trillium Local Grant Review Team member Ben Currelly congratulated the group on the compelling case they made for the grant.
Coward acknowledged the presence of Councillor Vicki Mink representing Port Hope and, from Cobourg, Mayor John Henderson, Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin and Councillors Nicole Beatty and Brian Darling.
“When I heard about this celebration at the Hub, I was beyond excited,” Henderson declared.
Mentioning the 2022-2023 season brochure he had in his pocket, he continued, “I want to offer our thanks from the public, from the community. I thank you for the multitude of ways you entertain us.”
“This is an amazing night, and I am really, really proud,” NP President and Artistic Director Jack Boyagian said.
“This has been like giving birth to a beautiful baby, because we have been trying to do this for so many years.”
He recalled the frustration of not being able to stand a flat on end because they were working in an eight-foot-high space and most flats are at least 10 feet long.
“Places where we couldn’t even paint, places where we people had to truck pieces of equipment to the shop in the middle of winter, going to a barn to pick up half our set and move it somewhere else – our volunteers have put up with all that because they love theatre and they are passionate about what they do,” Boyagian said.
“We finally have a home to join people together – that’s what’s really valuable. It’s more than the $50,000. It’s about bringing the community to one place.
“A place where people can come and exercise their creativity with Northumberland Players – it makes me really proud.”
Boyagian recalled the challenges COVID brought. Their summer camp that first year saw 70 kids in masks turn out. This year they had 145 kids and no masks.
Last summer saw them try something completely new – carefully planned outdoor pop-up productions. And in their dinner theatre last fall, they cast pre-existing couples in lead roles to minimize exposure for everyone.
“I’m very grateful we seem to be back in action,” he said.
The Northumberland Players 2022-2023 season includes:
The Honky Tonk Angels – a dinner theatre at the Best Western Plus Cobourg Inn and Convention Centre Oct. 21-Nov. 6
You Will Remember Me – at the Firehall Theatre Nov. 11-27
Hilda’s Yard – a dinner theatre at the Best Western Plus Cobourg Inn and Convention Centre Jan. 20-Feb. 5
Into The Woods – at the Cameco Capitol Arts Centre in Port Hope Feb. 24-March 5
Salt Water Moon – at the Firehall Theatre March 17-April 2
A Night in Provence – a dinner theatre at the Best Western Plus Cobourg Inn and Convention Centre April 21-May 7
The Cemetery Club – at the Firehall Theatre May 22-June 6
As well, there are two musical events at the Victoria Hall Concert Hall:
Sept. 10 – The Tanya Wills Quartet with Autumn Reflections (an evening of jazz and blues)
Dec. 3-5 – A Wonderful Christmas Time with songs and carols of the season
And for the whole family, Northumberland Players Youth Theatre present A Charlie Brown Christmas at the Victoria Hall Concert Hall Dec. 8-11
As for the Costume House at 450 Campbell St. Unit 4, it’s open Mondays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and by appointment (call 905-372-5856).