The state of the Nancy Appleby Theatre

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Non-profit foundation moves to advocate for local performing arts centre

As the disrepair of the Nancy Appleby Theatre took front stage in councils and committees over the past few weeks, a local non-profit group is making steps toward advocating for the theatre.

Ida Edwards, secretary for the Athabasca Arts Foundation, said the foundation comes from the ashes of the Athabasca County Fringe, and has been around for four years.

“It’s still up to the community to tell their town how they want things done, which either affect our taxes, or we get non-profit groups involved that can go after other funding and grant funding lines that municipalities can’t go after. That’s why we’re doing it,” Edwards said.

The Athabasca County Fringe ran for about 10 years, promoting the attraction of Fringe shows from Edmonton in summer and also promoting local groups to perform.

Edwards said the Athabasca Arts Foundation is about helping theatre users and is also fundraising for a removable floor for the use of dance groups.

“It’s like a gymnastics mat, but it’s a dance floor. It’ll roll out like a mat, stay on stage during dances, then after roll up and store,” she said.

The foundation is about two-thirds of the way to accomplishing their goal, which is between $11,000 and $14,000 in American dollars.

After the Athabasca Country Fringe dissolved, Edwards said the group started thinking about “how do we maintain the theatre.”

“It really does require a strong business plan, not just, ‘Oh this needs to be fixed’. Can we write grants for it? Is there funding we can find? And that’s what our group is starting to look into right now.”

Mary Olson, former director with the Athabasca Players – who were key in seeing the Old Brick School gym turned into the theatre in the 1980s – said she was discouraged to see the state of the theatre.

“I was over there the other day, and I couldn’t believe what a mess it is in now. It was a lovely place when it was first opened. Of course, everything was brand new,” she said. “As long as the Players were around, we put a great deal of money into it every year.”

She said as far as she knows, there isn’t a whole lot of community support for the theatre now, other then municipal maintenance.

“If this foundation that Ida is a part of – if they’re working towards doing things, maybe the people that use the theatre could help them out a bit,” she said.

Before the Athabasca Players disbanded in 2004, Olson said with every Players production, revenue would go back into maintaining the theatre.

“That’s what we chose to do with our money,” she said.

Olson wondered if community groups would consider donating revenue from their productions toward the upkeep of the facility.

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