Bruce Mason (left) and David Brown sign the mortgage and transfer papers to purchase the old Diamond School House on Christie Road.

Ladysmith theatre society’s dream becomes a reality

Bruce Mason reflects on the history of Ladysmith Little Theatre after signing mortgage papers to purchase the theatre building.

“As Judy Whittaker used to say, ‘we’re a work in progress.’ I don’t think it will ever be completely finished … it’s endless.”

This is what Bruce Mason says of the late Judy Whittaker and the Ladysmith Little Theatre.

Mason, a past president of the Ladysmith Players Society, has a long history with the Ladysmith Little Theatre, and he and current president David Brown recently took part in a milestone moment for the theatre when they signed the mortgage and transfer papers to purchase the Ladysmith Little Theatre building.

Mason, who had been a member of Yellow Point Drama group for several years “felt that Ladysmith really needed its own theatre.” It wasn’t until couple Judy and Terry Whittaker moved to Ladysmith from Alberta that the dream of having a Ladysmith Theatre would become reality.

It was 10 years ago when the old Diamond School House began its transformation. Located at 4985 Christie Rd., the school was built in 1912, and it had been vacant since 1985. Though the building consisted of two rooms (when only one was necessary) and needed a lot of work, it was exactly what the couple were looking for.

“They saw it and immediately signed a contract,” says Mason.

In December 2003, the Whittakers signed a five-year renewable lease with School District 68. After six weeks, a lot of hard work from Whittaker, Mason and other volunteers, Ladysmith had its first live theatre.

They opened the doors for the first time with the play I Want to be in Pictures, starring Tabby Jasper and Brian March. Though the effort and the heart were there, an audience was nowhere in sight.

“I think the biggest audience we had for that run was 11 people — there actually was a performance with three people in the crowd,” recalled Mason. “Less than 50 people saw the show.”

Despite a lackluster opening, the Whittakers were willing to put in the work to establish a theatre in Ladysmith.

“I think we wouldn’t have a theatre if it wasn’t for Terry and Judy Whittaker,” says Mason. “They really were the driving force behind the beginning of it.”

The Whittakers ran the theater for five years.

“They worked like slaves” the whole time, says Mason.

However, it was not just the couple who put time and effort into the project — a large group of volunteers made everything possible and continues to do so today.

Once the Whittakers decided to step away from the theatre, a board was formed to take their place, and the community created has continued to grow ever since. The theatre has seen a drastic increase in audience numbers since their first production 10 years ago.

“Last year when we did a musical, just over 1,000 people saw the play during its 15-show run,” says Mason.

It’s not just an increase in audience size that shows the growth and progress the theatre has made.   The board of directors recently purchased the Little Theatre from School District 68.

“Fortunately, it was a very kind arrangement with the school board,” says Mason. “We don’t have to pay interest and we didn’t have to put any money down, but we still have to pay $150,000.”

The board has five years to pay the mortgage before a new agreement will take effect.

Currently, the theatre group is trying to get its charitable status. Once this is achieved, they will be seeking help from the public to pay off their mortgage.

Just like in the past, the theatre relies heavily upon its membership, which has now reached more than 200 people. If you wish to become a member of the Ladysmith Little Theatre, you can sign up online. It costs $15 and gives you the privilege to take part in any or all aspects of the theatre and lets you attend shows for free if you’ve helped out.

This summer, the theatre is holding two youth theatre workshops, July 2-6 for youth aged seven to 10, and July 8-12 for youth aged 11 to 14. Registration for the week-long camps can be done online.

Just Posted

Jury convicts spear-wielding Duncan man in 2015 Ladysmith RV park murder

Trever George Meers used a handmade spear to stab Rayna Johnson at the Campers Corners RV Park

Cowichan in national spotlight with Hometown Hockey

Rogers Hometown Hockey is a two-day festival that culminates with a national broadcast Sunday

VIDEO: World-renowned urban planner encourages Cowichan Valley to ‘benchmark with the best’

CVRD welcomes Gil Penalosa, founder and chair of 8 80 Cities, as part of Place-Making Speaker Series

North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP member poses as construction worker to catch distracted motorists

North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP are taking action on distract driving this year and… Continue reading

VIU’s Cowichan campus promotes mental health awareness with new bench

Friendship Benchs visible at schools across the country

WATCH: Giant waves smash Ucluelet’s Amphitrite Point

Folks made their way to Ucluelet’s Amphitrite Point Lighthouse on Thursday, Jan.… Continue reading

WestJet appeals lost bid to scrap harassment lawsuit

Airline argues judge was wrong to have dismissed the company’s application to strike the legal action

UPDATE: City of Nanaimo senior manager dismissed

Chief operations officer Brad McRae no longer employed by the city

Can U.S. border guards search your phone? Yes, and here’s how

Secretary of homeland security explains a new policy that let’s border guards check phones

‘Beautiful writer’ Nancy Richler dies of cancer in Vancouver hospital

Montreal-born author spent most of her adult life in B.C. as a fiction writer and novelist

Students frustrated by UBCO response to harassment allegations

Students on the Kelowna campus were unaware of resources and worried about lack of communication

Opinion: Dare to be smarter

Just say no works for more than just substance abuse

‘Sing Me a Song’ about B.C. for a chance at $1,000 contest prize

Entries due by March 30 for lieutenant-governor’s British Columbia-themed competition

Facing reality of death, B.C. man learns real meaning of life

Even while preparing for the end, something inside Keven Drews won’t let him stop living

Most Read