Cur­tain to rise on new the­atre

Florence Simmons Per­for­mance Hall pre­pares to opens its doors at Prince of Wales Cam­pus of Hol­land Col­lege in Char­lot­te­town

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY SALLY COLE THE GUARDIAN

Af­ter months of wait­ing and an­tic­i­pa­tion, the cur­tain is ready to rise on the new the­atre at Hol­land Col­lege.

The Florence Simmons Per­for­mance Hall will have its grand open­ing later this month.

And Michael O’Grady can’t wait for the stage lights to go on.

“The jour­ney has been trans­for­ma­tive. There have been a lot of chal­lenges along the way but now we’re very close to be­ing fin­ished. And we’re all thrilled with the out­come,” says O’Grady, vi­cepres­i­dent of in­no­va­tion en­ter­prise and strate­gic de­vel­op­ment at Hol­land Col­lege, open­ing the door to the spa­cious room with the red vel­vet cur­tained win­dows, ac­cented with gold braid.

“There’s definitely a wow fac­tor when you come in be­cause, for most of us, the vis­ual mem­o­ries we have of this space is of the old gym­na­sium, which was pretty worn out when con­struc­tion be­gan. So now there’s a the­atre in here, but it has a very nat­u­ral feel. It’s a per­fect fit for the space.”

The per­form­ing space fea­tures a 303-seat the­atre with the lat­est in light­ing and sound tech­nol­ogy as well as a large stage.

“The stage was ex­tended to per­haps dou­ble its size to ac­com­mo­date larger groups, in­clud­ing per­for­mances by the Hol­land Col­lege Welsh­men Com­mu­nity Band and our the­atre and dance stu­dents,” says O’Grady, adding the school of per­form­ing arts is a part­ner­ship be­tween Hol­land Col­lege and the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre of the Arts.

The ren­o­va­tion has been sym­pa­thetic to the build­ing’s at­tributes.

“We were very for­tu­nate to find the space in, more or less, its orig­i­nal con­di­tion, which is 1932-33. And we’ve been true to that in our ren­o­va­tion, main­tain­ing the art deco style,” says O’Grady.

For­merly used by Hol­land Col­lege ath­letes, it was filled with gym equip­ment.

Now it will re­turn to its orig­i­nal use.

“The space will be used for all kinds of per­for­mances — mu­sic, drama and dance as well lec­ture space and gen­eral com­mu­nity use.”

In­side the en­trance, past the orig­i­nal glass doors with brass push bars, there’s a lounge. Like the the­atre, it will be dec­o­rated in art deco style, com­plete with a 1930s clock and podium as well as film reels and other mem­o­ra­bilia.

“This was the heart of the Prince of Wales cam­pus. It is now the heart of the Prince of Wales cam­pus of Hol­land Col­lege and, I think, the heart of this down­town com­mu­nity.”

BRIAN MCIN­NIS/THE GUARDIAN

The Florence Simmons Per­for­mance Hall hosted its first con­cert, a show­case by stu­dents in the School of Per­form­ing Arts, just be­fore Christ­mas. Here, Livia Dun­combe, a voice stu­dent at the school, and mem­bers of the Rock and Coun­try Ensem­ble No. 1 per­form Ca­role King’s “So Far Away” dur­ing the con­cert.

SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN

Michael O’Grady shows the spa­cious new stage in the Florence Simmons Per­for­mance Hall. For more be­fore and af­ter pho­tos, visit www.the­guardian.pe.ca

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