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Two-year lease means hall upgrades for CCPA

Performance school anticipates wider community use
Canadian College of Performing Arts staff hope upgrades to the performance space

The Canadian College of Performing Arts hopes an upgraded space will draw more users during its off season.

The Oak Bay school scored a $40,000 grant to upgrade its performance hall on Elgin Road, from new draperies to better access as it enters its 19th season.

“We have renegotiated our lease with the diocese of the Anglican Church and St. Mary’s which allowed us exclusive use of the space. We’ve been able to make it into a comfortable space,” said Ron Schuster, president, CCPA. “It should look like a wonderful new theatre space which we will share with the community.”

It culminates in a roughly 110-seat hall, offering flexibility for users when school is out of session.

For example, during last January’s Company C performance Into the Woods, they built two-storey structures of vignette spaces and  borrowed the Belfry’s revolving stage, seating the audience in risers on opposing sides. The idea was to immerse the audience, by performing “in a round.”

“The space is flexible to do those kinds of things,” Schuster said. “It gives us more options for ourselves and our programs as well as other organizations in the community.”

CCPA, owned and operated by the Canadian Heritage Arts Society, negotiated at least two more years on the site.

They have looked to expand, either in Oak Bay or beyond, in recent years.

“We are in negotiations to potentially build on that location but we’re exploring other options as well,” Schuster said.

The performance hall is widely used by both its students and the public. Upgrades will improve the theatre experience with more comfortable seats and accessible washrooms. The CCPA will also replace its theatre drapes, enhancing light and ventilation, and its dance floor, improving dancer safety.

The site has previously been used as a Victoria Fringe Festival venue as well as a prior Celtic Festival and recently housed hundreds of volunteers as they crafted nearly 150 Christmas hampers for the Salvation Army.

CCPA students use the space during rehearsals and classes as well as offering six to eight productions there a year.

The school hosted its Festival of New Works there late last year and is in preparation for its coming production, The Triangle Factory Fire.

“Hopefully having this extra theatre space will bring in other groups and kinds of activities,” Schuster said.