New theatre on Burnaby campus opens for events

new theatre

Recently renovated theatre to be home of lectures rather than thespians

By Alexis Lewton-Smith
Photo By Vaikunthe Banerjee

A new year generally coincides with new things, and in the wake of the holidays people gain resolutions, gifts, and even a clean slate. SFU’s Burnaby campus also gained something new this year: a renovated theatre. The renovations are the only ones that have been done since the theatre was built in 1965, and in a complete overhaul, new seats fill the theatre, new flooring lines the stage, and a new audiovisual system has been installed.

Basically, the theatre has had an extreme makeover, and it shows. Prior to its repair, the theatre housed the theatrical productions for SFU’s contemporary arts program, but since the program’s relocation to the Woodward’s campus, the theatre has sat empty. Lynda Hewitt, SFU event coordinator, said that the theatre was in pretty bad shape before the renovation, but now has new potential: “It looked awful and horrifically tired. This is an optimum space and it was just sitting empty . . . the renovations allow for more diversity in events.”

The new theatre aims to host a variety of events, such as banquets, speakers, lectures, and student affairs. So far, few events have taken place, but the ideal space is only beginning to show its usefulness. “We are slowly trying out different events. [In December] we had the student orchestra do their Christmas concert here. We have tried a few of the easy ones out — kind of a soft opening to see what works and what doesn’t work,” said Lynda. The theatre will also allow for the campus to be involved with events that include a large number of attendees: “We are trying to create the atmosphere where we are not constantly saying no to people [because we don’t have the space],” she says.

But where does this leave the dramatic arts-hungry individuals who spend most of their time up on the hill? Could this also be a new dawn for theatrical productions up on the mountain? Well, not exactly. While the theatre has a new look, it won’t necessarily house elaborate productions because it doesn’t have the required lighting. In addition, the artists of SFU no longer reside on the Burnaby Campus — they now showcase their work in the bustling downtown core at SFU Woodwards. However, the Goldcorp Centre for the Performing Arts is a stunning and immaculate space, and the newly renovated theatre just doesn’t compare.

The Burnaby campus theatre will, however, try to do as much as possible, and perhaps feature some overflow performances: “We are looking for student events, or people coming from off the hill — Shadbolt [Centre for the Arts] and those kinds of things. We are looking for a variety of events, as it has the visual capabilities for a lecture theatre and a bit more” Lynda says. While it is unfortunate that SFU’s Burnaby Campus may not have elaborate productions, it will have interesting speakers, some performances, and many events of various kinds. The theatre also aims to have a liquor license, so the possibility of grabbing a drink at the theatre may help relieve any perceived shortcomings.

If you are still craving a little more in terms of the performing arts, there are many options in and around Vancouver. The Vancouver Theatre Guide is a great place to look, as are the event listings for SFU’s contemporary arts program. After all, it’s only a short bus or Skytrain ride to the SFU Woodward’s campus, and our artists could always use the support.