Take a bow Park Theatre Café deserves a round of applause
IN two weeks, I will be presenting the fifth annual J. P. Hoe Hoe Hoe Holiday Show at the Park Theatre Café. This will be the 20th time I have stepped on its stage and I couldn’t feel more at home.
In a nutshell, the Park combines charm, intimacy, and professionalism and adds so much to this city. It’s more than a coffee shop, it’s more than a venue, it’s more than a community meeting place. I’m not going to wax poetic, but the Park has filled an important gap that has been missing for some time and, more importantly, has energized the local arts scene.
Located on South Osborne Street surrounded by trendy restaurants and lounges, the 225-seat theatre should take a portion of the credit for the revitalization in the Fort Rouge neighbourhood. Among aging boutiques and apartments that occupy the old buildings that line the iconic street, The Park came to life and began to draw folks off their couches and out of their living rooms.
Erick and Melanie Casselman ( the owners) saw potential in something ignored. The same potential others have talked about regarding similar theatres but that has never been realized. The same potential some people feel about our fair city but then are resolved to do nothing. The Park, though, has succeeded.
I found the Park when it first opened as a movie theatre. I was preparing to record a live album and I wanted a unique venue. The old movie theatre/ corner store was hardly the ideal choice for a live show: no sound system, no lights, no tech, no experience with concerts. Thanks to many good friends and the Park’s adventurous attitude, the recordings proved to be an exhilarating experience and fruitful endeavour. That was five years ago. Since then, the Park has received numerous facelifts and upgrades, including the addition of a house sound man extraordinaire, Elliot, and a steady stable of enthusiastic employees. New soundboards, lights, and a two-storey backstage complement the changes. They’ve exited the modest movie-rental experiment and are expanding to the online ticket-selling business. Things have changed. Music and performance are now the staple at the Park. Practically every night you can sample a national touring act, a buzzing local artist or an independent theatre troupe. Things are good.
So many times I’ve heard “ the cream rises to the top,” but in my experience, it’s less common than we all think. The Park, though, has done everything it could to encourage everyone’s success. Putting on a show at the Park is no longer work. It’s planning a show with friends while finding the balance between art and commerce; a balance shrinking in our world.
The Park doesn’t deserve a round of applause because they’ve been kind to me and my musical family. Instead, they deserve a round of applause because they put their money where their mouth is. They saw potential and they followed through. They filled a cultural gap and then some.
Take notice, Winnipeg. Let’s harness our potential. Let’s prove the naysayers across the country wrong. We do have something special here, but risks need to be taken so rewards become abundant. Just look at the Park.
Thank you, Park Theatre, you’ve done good.
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