What do we need The Aud for?
With the costly proposal of new or renewed seats, that’s a real question. I don’t think we need to make up an answer. The answer must be real, although we can’t see into the future, at least not very far or very accurately.
It’s refreshing to hear that the Aud Theatre Board of Directors under Jean Anne Overand are: 1) deciding to do something about the theatre’s seating; 2) giving the public an opportunity to weigh in; 3) examining many options; 4) cognizant of historic importance; and 5) preparing for the future. See that story here.
Let’s consider the actualities of Virden Aud Theatre, and its role in the community now and into the future.
When I first came to the Empire-Advance in 2009, the five-event Concert Series in the Aud was in full swing. People from Virden and outlying communities made sure to get their season pass, although I suspect its popularity had begun to wane even then. But 25 years ago, “if you didn’t get lined up the morning the season tickets went on sale,” you would miss the best seats or any seat, I’ve been told. (Newspaper advertising for ticket sales was paramount as well, I might add.)
You’ll notice that the concert series isn’t going lately. I’ve been at some such events (precovid) where there were barely 100 people in the audience. The stage act was good, very good, but …
The things that have packed the Aud recently have been the musical, Matilda, for example, with a fair few people coming from afar (some from Winnipeg) based on the show itself and the director’s reputation.
We’ve enjoyed ABBA recently.
Children’s events have continued to draw parents, family and community seniors. These include dance recitals or festival performances, concerts and theatre productions.
Remembrance Day service always fills the theatre seats.
Earlier, in July 2022, Jim Treliving of Dragon’s Den and Tara Abbott drew an eager crowd to the theatre.
In 2023, to look forward to: Manitoba Theatre Centre (Winnipeg) is bringing “Assassinating Thomson” in February, and some other fun events are lined up.
Some have spoken of the ‘feeling’ within the Aud. Yes, there’s a feeling, every time.
One of the best feelings is greeting people you know, appreciating something cool together, having fun as a live audience.
Do the seats add to that feeling? Maybe the creak and ouch? But maybe the sense of foreverness in the historic nature of the furnishings is more important than we know. However, some people have skipped events because the seats are uncomfortable/small.
The Aud is a place where large meetings, seminars, and weddings can be held. I think the seats are going to be important, going forward. Let’s be humble and admit that we have no idea what might come along to put a demand upon The Aud in the future. But if it’s not kept up, continually modernized and maintained, it could someday be for sale for a dollar.
An important upgrade in the last 12 years has been the technology including sound and the ability to project scenes for theatre performances. So the Aud Theatre is a progressive venue.
What about the money for seat upgrades? Well, over the years of reporting, I have been surprised by the fountain of money that appears to fulfill a worthwhile vision. The events and activities that transpire from that kind of investment are always beyond present calculation.
I think we’ve seen an amazing thing with Virden’s library, where a new staff has received a vision they didn’t expect, but they were ready for this idea whose time had come. I’m referring to the story, Community Builders Mixer. They’ve taken off with an idea that I suspect will go places.
I mention this, thinking the Aud seat renewal is also an idea whose time has come and if so, it will spark further vision for the theatre. Somehow, the historic character must be maintained – in my view.
Somehow, as 2022 transitions into 2023, after all we've been through for over two years - curtailing of events and community life - this feels like a new day! The news of plans to renovate the Aud Theatre seating tells me it is a new day!