Nfld. & Labrador

Push for new Cow Head theatre finally gets rolling with launch of capital campaign

There is some political power behind the goal of getting a new home for the Gros Morne Theatre Festival.

'Set the Stage' will raise money for new home for Gros Morne Theatre Festival

Jeff Pitcher, artistic director of Theatre Newfoundland Labrador, said the new facility is more than just a building, but represents respect for the artists of the province. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Construction was supposed to have started five months ago, but the push for a new home for the Gros Morne Theatre Festival is officially underway with the launch of a new capital campaign.

Set the Stage is the name of Theatre Newfoundland Labrador's fundraising effort for a new performing arts theatre in Cow Head.

Theatre NL artistic director Jeff Pitcher said the project is more than just a new building.

"A house is more than a house. It's a home," he said. "It's about respect. Respect for the working artists of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have been here for a long, long time."

Attending the Set the Stage capital campaign launch at The Rooms in St. John's on Wednesday were (l-r) MP Seamus O'Regan, former premier Brian Tobin, Theatre Newfoundland Labrador artistic director Jeff Pitcher, MP Gudie Hutchings and Premier Dwight Ball. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Campaign chair Brian Tobin said Theatre NL is part of the fabric of provincial culture.

"For almost four decades, 40 years, they've set the stage for magical experiences," the former premier said.

"As much as our stories, our music, our dance, our artists, etc., are all celebrated as unique, what is really unique about the province is that our culture is grounded in a spirt of generosity and optimism that runs, quite frankly, very deep."

Make hay while the sun shines

The expansion hopes to cash in on the hopeful audience members who are being turned away every summer because of a lack of seats — the planned new theatre will increase capacity from 190 to 272 seats.

Last November, the provincial and federal governments announced contributions of $500,000 and $3.7 million, respectively, toward the new building.

That announcement included representatives from each level of government — including MP Seamus O'Regan, MP Gudie Hutchings and Premier Dwight Ball — with pledges from both levels of government that they "will do more" for the campaign which has a target of $8-9 million.

There has been $450,000 raised from the private sector already, with the campaign hoping for a total of $2.5 million in private money by the time it wraps up.

With bridge financing from the province, the foundation has already been started for the new theatre which is expected to be ready for next season.

The campaign launch was held at The Rooms museum in St. John's.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador