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Woolwich pledges $25,000 to support Drayton Entertainment’s theatres in St. Jacobs

Out 100 per cent of its revenues in the past year, Drayton Entertainment is getting some funding support from the municipalities where it operates theatres, including $25,000 from Woolwich Township.

The money approved Tuesday night by council will help maintain the organization’s facilities in the township, the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse and St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre.

Council’s support followed a presentation by Alex Mustakas, Drayton’s artistic director, who noted the organization has never asked for operating money for its venues. Established in 1991 at the Drayton Festival Theatre, the charitable group expanded first to St. Jacobs in 1997 and now runs seven venues.

“Since our inception, we’ve received zero operating funds from any level of government or arts council. In contrast, most professional theatres and performing arts facilities do receive some type of annual operating support,” said Mustakas, noting these are extraordinary times.

“We are also lucky compared to many of our industry peers in that we had the good fortune and vision to set up a stabilization fund 30 years ago to navigate a crisis like this – no one predicted a pandemic, but we did set money aside every year.

“We would not have survived this if we hadn’t set up that fund.”

Municipal funding will help pay for utility bills and basic maintenance as the theatres sit empty, as has been the case for more than a year now.

Mustakas said he expects the buildings to be idle for most of this year, too, with pandemic restrictions perhaps being lifted in time for a Christmas show.

“I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Drayton Entertainment has been pledged $192,500 from the City of Cambridge, $30,000 in one-time emergency funding from Mapleton Township, and $25,000 from the Municipality of South Huron in support of the Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend. As well, $30,000 has been pledged to help cover the operation costs of King’s Wharf Theatre in Penetanguishene.

In Woolwich’s case, $25,000 will be drawn from the township’s share of The Municipal Accommodation Tax.

“That would be an appropriate use of the fund,” said chief administrative officer David Brenneman.

“When you have a facility like this, there are spinoff economic development benefits – certainly hotel stays happen because of Drayton, certainly restaurants are frequented on opening nights and play nights.”

Mayor Sandy Shantz said the organization’s contribution to the township makes the emergency support warranted.

“Drayton Theatre has provided a great venue for the arts, and years of entertainment,” she said, noting the thousands of people the group draws into the area.

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