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Paris Performers’ Theatre remains dedicated to the arts

Arts and EntertainmentParis Performers’ Theatre remains dedicated to the arts

For over 30 years, Paris Performers’ Theatre (PPT) has opened its doors to the residents of County of Brant and given them the space to enrich their minds, contemplate perspectives and enjoy its shows.

The theatre has built its reputation on producing educational programs and quality shows. Like any other company, PPT has been tested by its fair share of ups and downs, but nothing quite compares to the theatre’s past year.

On Thursday, September 28, 2023, Martin Smith, former President of the Paris Performers’ Theatre Board of Directors, announced online that PPT had cancelled its 2023-2024 season.

“Paris Performers’ Theatre has had to make the difficult decision to cancel our season due to financial constraints,” said Martin. “We have come to the conclusion we cannot, in good conscience, offer our season without first paying some outstanding bills and our replenishing coffers.  Our board has recently gone through some changes and our paramount goal is to make sure Paris Performers’ Theatre is viable and that we can continue to offer great theatre.”

While things may have seemingly been looking bleak for PPT, those involved in the theatre weren’t simply willing to give up.

 A GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $5,000 was created to help save the theatre, and within just one week, PPT supporters managed to raise $5,440.

On Monday, October 23, 2023, the then members of the PPT company, the then board, the Western Ontario Drama League and the wider community, gathered for the theatre’s annual general meeting.

During the meeting, new board members (including a new president), were nominated and elected to join those who had already decided to stay on, and together they solidified their focus going forward including rebalancing their finances and administration, and engaging the community through fundraising and entertaining.

Director Duncan Graham looks on as cast members rehearse a conflict scene with each other during a PPT’s show rehearsal on Thursday, February 9, 2023.

Rubyyy Jones, the newly elected president of the Paris Performers’ Theatre Board of Directors, said they were thrilled to be a part in helping to get the theatre back to creating “bright and bold productions.”

“I really wanted this because I am very passionate about PPT. This is where I got my start as a performer. I am a performer, that’s all I’ve done my whole life and, PPT was a big part of that journey,” said Jones. “It was really sad to me that when I moved back to Paris, some people didn’t even know we had a theatre company. Now, to be honest, once I dug into the situation and started to understand what was happening a bit more, I realized that this wasn’t the PPT we all knew. It very much became an island of around 20-ish people who are on the board and doing everything in every aspect. I know that can happen with other theatres, but it’s totally unsustainable.”

While things were starting to look up for PPT and the 2024/2025 season had started to be finalized, it quickly became clear that PPT wasn’t in the clear just yet.

On Monday, January 15, 2024, Jones announced online that the company was losing its performance space, and that they had to be out by February 13.

“On January 3, 2024, we received the unfortunate news that, after 24 years, Paris Performers’ Theatre will no longer have a home at the Paris Fairgrounds. For those not in the know: not only were we performing there several times a year, but we had a space which stored sets, costumes, etc., which was where we held our auditions, workshops and rehearsals too,” said Jones post. “We’re grateful to the Paris Agricultural Society for the ways they have supported us over the last few decades, for making it possible to entertain and educate our community in theatre arts, and for helping to create generations of theatrical and artistic people from Paris and Brant. Paris Fairgrounds has said we have an open invitation to return with productions in future and we hope to take them up on that offer sometime soon.”

Michal and the Pillowman interact towards the end of PPT’s performance of The Pillowman on Friday, February 17, 2023.

Shortly after, Jones and the team quickly began the tedious task of sorting through their various props, costumes, lighting equipment and more, to see what they could keep and what they could sell (including their stage) all while looking for a new storage space.

Rather than going to a commercial storage unit, Jones was looking to find storage that existed within the community, and managed to strike a deal with St. Paul’s United Church in Paris.

“We have four rooms, so we have an office, we have a costume room with props, we have a production room and one other,” said Jones. “It’s great because we have this beautiful, dry, warm, tidy and organized space that I’m thrilled about. It’s all been literally so stressful, but honestly, with each problem we’ve solved, I feel really optimistic and really excited.”

As far as where PPT will host its shows going forward, Jones said that they are in talks with St. Paul’s about potentially hosting both rehearsal and production in its space, but that they are open to possibly performing all over the County as well.

Jones said that this is part of the reason PPT has been so passionate about the continued conversations about the new Bawcutt Centre Library in Paris, which is set to have a performance space.

Going forward, PPT is planning to continue hosting several more fundraising events to help solidify future spaces and are looking forward to bringing back classic PPT shows, as well as a mix of new performances.

For those looking to get involved or simply know more, PPT will be holding an Open House at St. Paul’s United Church in March.

 “Everyone who would like to know more about Paris performers and what we’re doing, what we’ve done, what’s going on and how they can get involved, can find out that day,” said Jones.

“They’ll see the space, they can meet people on the board, they can hear plans, and they can find out how they can get involved.”

Jones wants to ensure people know that despite the ups and down, PPT isn’t going under.

“We haven’t gone anywhere, we’re doing what we’ve always done, which is to get to a place where we can create fantastic theatre. We are not struggling, we are shifting. We are not done, we are taking a moment to refocus and get our ducks in a row,” Jones said. “I’m really looking forward to our open house in March where we can really just meet the people, tell them what’s up and engage them even further because Paris is just growing so much and there’s lots of people who haven’t had a chance to get to know us.”

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