When I drive down King street and I admire our ever changing downtown core, there is one facade that has left me curious for quite some time: The Lyric Theatre at 434 King St W.
The Lyric was a versatile multidisciplinary performance space with great local history, captained by the highly qualified and quietly charismatic owner/operator/educator/artist Patrick Brennan. It was a well-loved space by both local and visiting artists. I must admit I'm biased, as I had the opportunity to work both on and off stage at the Lyric and loved the space.
However, it became obvious that the beautiful old building was going to need some serious TLC and on July 19, 2013 the Lyric closed her doors for repairs. Originally intended to be a short closure of weeks or months, she has now been hibernating for more than 3 years.
Nonetheless I can't forget the Lyric. Every time I pass by I wonder “what is happening in there?” I think about the Tivoli Theatre and the Century Theatre and I cross my fingers and I make a little wish: “please let those boarded up windows be a chrysalis not a coffin”.
Well, spring is coming and the Lyric is about to wake from her long hibernation. I had the opportunity to touch base with Brennan and he had exactly the news I was wishing for. Apparently lots of changes have taken place behind those boards and even more exciting changes are yet to come.
Brennan tells me that after The Lyric closed her doors and the extent of needed repairs was determined, there was pressure from the city to either repair or demolish. Luckily, disaster was averted and Brennan was able to find a funder for $500,000 worth of repairs and improvements. So far, The Lyric has received no public funding.
I must admit by this point in our conversation I got pretty excited—Brennan had even more good news. Changes a patron or artist can expect to find in this restored space include: a new roof over the whole building, masonry repairs, interior gutted and repaired throughout, a new second floor studio space, redesigned bar/lobby space, a 3500 square foot dance floor, and new lighting and sound systems. If that extensive list isn't enough to get you excited, the icing on the cake is that the beautiful marquee will be restored to look like the 1920's original from the theatre's days as a cinema. Brennan expects all work to be complete late spring 2017.
The theatre will still have the flexibility of seating and performance area that allows it to be a black box one night and a stand-up venue the next. Brennan defines it as an “interdisciplinary experimental space with projection and new lighting and sound”. I could feel his continued passion for the space as he further characterized it. “Imagine dancing to your favourite band one week, then seeing a physical theatre production the following week, then signing up for a training workshop with a leading international company in the winter. Oh, and maybe you would join that really big yoga class, too.”
I just might do all those things. A new roof, a new dance floor, but the same passion for the arts and education that I remember. That is a theatre wish come true.