Phillips Studio boasts $250,000 in upgrades - May 18, 2017
BY DENNY SCOTT
While much of the focus of the renovations occurring in the village of Blyth are on Blyth Memorial Hall, the Phillips Studio on Dinsley Street has also received some needed upgrades.
The building, which houses both a performance space and the majority of the Blyth Festival’s technical workshops for stage and prop creation and storage, received $250,000 through the Blyth Arts and Cultural Initiative 14/19 Inc.’s fundraising efforts.
Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt said the site has seen some major improvements as a result of the funding.
“The changes are centrered around the performance space mostly,” he said in an interview with The Citizen. “There are some basic, but important, upgrades that were made.”
Garratt said the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system was replaced and there was a thorough resurfacing of the walls of the space.
“We acquired a professional riser system,” he said. “We also have 100 new chairs to use with it.”
The site was also the focus of a “huge electrical overhaul” according to Garratt that allows for professional dimmer racks, an increased number of circuits for lights and professional lights as well, which is a change of pace for the structure.
“The studio has always been the little sister of the theatre, receiving hand-me-downs,” he said. “Now it has its own lights and lighting system.”
The audio-visual capabilities of the space have also been dramatically improved, Garratt said.
“We now have the ability to have video in productions,” he said. “We used to use speakers hooked up to a media player for sound in the facility, but now there is a proper sound console and speaker systems.”
Garratt also said the space will have hearing assistance technologies, making it more accessible.
“That was one of the nice things about the space is that, since it’s all on the ground floor, it’s accessible,” he said. “Having these technologies will add to that accessibility.”
The site was also the focus of an architectural assessment, Garratt said, and with that in hand, the Festival can consider some of the changes the site will need in the future.
“It will need to be redeveloped at some point,” Garratt said. “We would like to insulate the structure, upgrade the building and include a barrier-free washroom.”
The assessment opens other possibilities as well, Garratt said, pointing to housing issues.
He said the site already offers significant advantages as a workshop.
“When we have new technicians here they are blown away by the shops we have,” he said. “There aren’t facilities like this where you can fit an entire set to work with and paint it at the same time.”
The culmination of the renovations and assessment is a big win for the space, Garratt said, as the changes will allow the Festival to utilize the space more effectively this season.
This year, the Festival will be hosting three shows in the updated space.
The Downs, a one-woman show focused on farm life in 1950s New Brunswick, will be performed by Sheryl Scott, who also wrote the play, from Aug. 9-13. The show is a production of the Primordial Soup Theatre Company.
The annual Young Company show, which allows the youth of Huron to collaborate on, prepare and run a theatrical production, will take to The Phillips Studio space Aug. 24-26.
Mulgrave Road Theatre will present Watching Glory Die, another one-woman show starring Stephanie MacDonald, Sept. 12-16. The show is written by award-winning Canadian playwright Judith Thompson.