The Kings Playhouse is facing an uncertain future.
"We're not sure how the winter is going to go for us," executive director Haley Zavo told Three Rivers' councillors at a recent committee meeting at the playhouse in Georgetown. "And we really need you to address that."
The nature of its relationship with the municipality and revenue losses due to the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) are the issue for the not-for-profit theatre, which is typically busy each summer season hosting vibrant shows and programming.
Many non-profit organizations were able to access federal funding when the pandemic put P.E.I. in lockdown – such as emergency loan and wage-subsidy programs. However, the playhouse operates as a Three Rivers business and municipalities were ineligible for this funding.
As well, the cutoff to have been a registered business was 2019. While the playhouse was able to access provincial funds to pay staff and student workers this summer, administration took a hit and there won't be enough funds to pay for the building this winter, Zavo said.
"And if there's no one here to manage that, it's impossible," she told The Guardian in a follow-up interview. "We're OK right now, but the winter is coming."
She believes arts and culture are good for Three Rivers' growth and community, which the playhouse has long been a source of and was able to do this summer even under the circumstances, she said.
"I really do think we were able to make some good lemonade with the lemons we were served."
AT A GLANCE:
Despite COVID-19, Kings Playhouse was able to do the following this season:
- Run four summer camps
- Hold high tea events on Sunday afternoons
- The art gallery was open and it had two special exhibitions
- Hold a few presentations and shows in its theatre
- Hold some shows in the A.A. MacDonald Memorial Gardens in Georgetown, and one at the Montague Marina and Waterfront.
Zavo said the Montague waterfront show had more than 150 people in attendance, and almost 1,000 people visited the playhouse this summer.
"We found ways to be creative and innovative."
Following her reports on the matter in March and June, a meeting was had with Three Rivers' mayor and chief administrative officer in July, but Zavo hadn't heard back since. She would at least like to have a timeline because she believes the municipality should be more concerned than its expressed so far.
Mayor Edward MacAulay said the municipality's relationship with the playhouse may have to be re-assessed in order to move forward. He knows the situation isn't good and Three Rivers' staff have been looking for answers.
"To be honest, I'm not sure what those answers are," he said. "(But) the bottom line is it's going to require action."
Coun. Cody Jenkins suggested council re-allocate funding from one line of its budget to the playhouse, which might be put forward at a future committee meeting. Three Rivers' 2020-21 operational budget has $55,800 allocated toward the playhouse, but it's clearly not meeting the demands due to COVID-19, he said.
"These businesses really need us to step up."
Daniel Brown is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government. Twitter.com/dnlbrown95