A Vancouver Island-based theatre company is lifting the curtain in Victoria with plans to open an eco-conscious “artists’ hub” in the downtown core.
The Other Guise Theatre Company from Ladysmith has purchased 716 Johnson St., the former Tomley’s Market, for $2.4 million with plans to renovate the building into a black-box theatre and cabaret cafe with dance and rehearsal studios above.
There will also be an alleyway patio venue, according to Other Guise, which says an anonymous $300,000 donation is helping turn the project into reality with work being led by artistic and executive director Matthew Payne.
“We’ll need to conduct some serious upgrades,” said Payne, who wants the space outfitted with industrial moment frames. “This will allow us the ability to remove the posts and pillars currently dotting the main floor. We’ll start with a clean slate.”
Other Guise was established in 2001 and has produced more than a dozen productions since then, focusing on musical theatre created by Island artists.
It says it’s the first theatre company to own a space in downtown Victoria, where it will host “lively music events, intimate theatrical performances, and art shows,” reads a news release.
“As the venue continues to develop, Other Guise plans to one day pioneer the greenest theatre in Canada, using conscientious waste management, power-saving techniques, and partnership with local sustainability consultants.”
The top floor is currently occupied by Raino Dance, which will remain the primary user of the space though it will be opened up to more local artists, says Other Guise.
“Artists need a home,” said company manager Mary Desprez.
She finds the Island lacks accessible, reliable spaces for artists to gather, work, rehearse and perform, and the acquisition will “create a safe space for artists to do all these things, becoming a permanent fixture to enliven downtown Victoria.”
Other Guise aims to raise $1 million toward the renovation and to pay off the mortgage and says it’s already a third of the way there thanks to support from the BC Arts Council and City of Victoria Infrastructure grants.
The company is seeking $300,000 in public donations via a capital campaign launching Tuesday, June 27 — the same day it’s hosting an open house at 716 Johnson St. from 5 to 7 p.m. with live music, snacks and drinks.