Metro is theatre people in action. Live theatre includes pure audience participation. The roar of the crowd, sharing, cheering or moaning is what separates it from just watching life. The story elevated to a shared enjoyment community. Presentation twists, audience reactions, changes that impact, doing that leads to growth. At METRO, we revel in the growth of performance as actors, audience participation and story trajectory collide.
METRO’s BOARD OF DIRECTORS 2022-2023
The November 2022 annual general meeting elected the current Board of Directors. Metro’s path out of the COVID era their newest challenge. Mounting the next full season of shows is the ongoing challenge. Making the magic happen continues to depend on Metro’s hard working volunteers, board, and small paid staff.
Alison Schamberger – President Don Briard – Recording Secretary Alison Jopson – Director at Large Allison Kendal – Director at Large Catherine Morrison – Director at Large Daryl Hutchings – Director at Large Hayden Clewes – Director at Large Rob Moser – Director at Large Roger Monk – Director at Large Shel Piercy – Director at Large Shelley Hunt – Director at Large
Metro Theatre – How We Got Here
Metro grew from an idea conceived August 1961, during a regional drama festival lull. Ruth Cunningham, Eleanor Heath and Jack Richards talked about a new kind of home for theatre. A better equipped Vancouver home. A place for theatre people, able to present their best work. Where learning from each other and improving by doing, was the norm.
In 1962, Metro began acquiring and renovating of a derelict movie house. It was the Marpole Theatre, in use since the 1930’s. Eleven companies, including White Rock Players, Vagabond Players, North Vancouver Community Players and West Vancouver Theatre Guild combined to present Metro’s inaugural season. Vancouver’s business community added ballast to their disciplines of theatre expertise. The list of supporters during this birth of Metro is long. Chief among them was Donald C. Cromie. Cromie was the principal Benefactor and Honorary Life President of the Society. He had just sold The Sun newspaper, so was the right man at the right time to help bring all these interests together.
September of 1964 saw the the first performance. “Dark of the Moon” produced by the White Rock Players opened with a Black Tie Gala. James Barber, the Sun theatre critic, reviewed it… “a good play, well executed and one that sets a standard for Metro that is worthy of their investment.”
Other theatre companies began growing their facilities closer to there home. They focused on productions closer to their realities. Metro became more of a production company, with a well equipped facility and experienced theatre people at its core. Actors such as Robert Clothier and Anthony Holland lent their experience while young performers like Brent Carver and Ruth Nichol honed their craft. Metro was a training ground for young technicians. Rob Moser, employed full time in the movie industry and Les Erskine, now our very own GM and TD, for example.
In 1977 the B.C. Cultural Fund changed course quickly. It moved all funding to ‘professional theatre’. Professional theatre as exemplified by Queen Elizabeth Playhouse or all union work spaces. Metro’s focus on retired and experienced theatre people did not meet their mark. Ignored were the tens of thousands of experience hours. Ignored were the commitment to growing excellence and community of retired theatrical people. Summer 1977, brought doubt to Metro mounting the next season. President, David Reynolds and the board, did find a path back. Johnny Duncan, then president of Dunbar Musical Society, stuck his neck out. He offered to mount a season at virtually no cost to Metro. Staunch volunteers, like Gerry Amos, Margaret Cullinan, Eleanor Heath, Sean Ullmann and Peggy Delisle got 5 shows delivered. New people also came forward. Metro’s community added in Jerry and Leslie White, Lillian McKittrick, Pat Waldron, Tom Shorthouse, Gordon Fairclough, Rosemary Heselton, Gwen Crowe, Hazel Cambrin, as well as Roy and Laura Burslem. Production success continued and things looked brighter. Johnny Duncan became president, a capacity he continued to serve in for the next 7 years.
The Oak Street Scene Shop came from the efforts of Gordon Fairclough and John Crittenden. A place to do the heavy lifting of rehearsals and create sets. In 1985, this dynamic duo also started the British-style Christmas pantomime. Babes in the Magic Wood, a co-production with Delta Players was our first. What an auspicious beginning that was! 1998 saw Johnny take over panto writing and directing. In 2014 Catherine Morrison accept the panto torch.
Life has surprises and Metro has been no stranger to them. The turn of the century revealed Metro land no longer had free title. All had assumed it would have growing value when purchased. The Federal Government had declared the land a National Heritage Site in 1932 however. A fact obscured by civic and provincial indifference. In the 1990’s the property value went to zero. The city transferred all value to the building and maintained property taxes. Any compensation for now overpaid prior land taxes remains an issue. The property became unsaleable , undevelopable and unmortgagable .
Lucky for Metro that Les Erskine came along. Working with the board, directors, actors, volunteers… all the theatre people that turn shows into performances he rationalized production costs. Now the box office computerization allows easy online ticket sales. Metro’s upgraded sound and lighting has expected impact. Les got ”dark” periods filled with rentals. Everything from pre-school graduations to movie shoots coordinate into the year. Metro’s dedicated staff and loyal patrons generous donations made season productions possible.
Metro’s many sterling volunteers have contributed over 1.2 MILLION hours. Season productions that keep our public entertained speak loudly to volunteer effectiveness. Much joy has come from all the performances. Much is yet to come.