Jean-Claude Mahé, Chair of the Board of Directors of Théâtre Lac-Brome over the last year, does not hide his concern. We are well aware the pandemic has rattled the foundations of major players in the entertainment world. Imagine the impact on a small regional theatre with 160 seats, never really on the radar of federal and provincial funding organizations, which began its latest fiscal year with a deficit exceeding $100,000.

“I won’t hide from you that it was catastrophic for us when we were forced in March to put our season on hold. We were in full renewal mode: new members on our board; our new artistic director, Ellen David, was busy arranging the new season, and the opening gala was set for June. The shutdown brought us to a complete halt. But we thought, why not take advantage of this downtime to do an in-depth review of our operations.”

Adjustments and upgrades

The impact of the shutdown over several months, added to the severe jolts the theatre had absorbed in 2019, made it urgent for management to adjust and upgrade their approach on many levels: communications and public relations, connections with loyal and potential donors, diversification of the tools and sources of financing, and volunteers, to name just a few. The management team, most of whom were reappointed last fall, needs to prepare itself to respond to the expectations of a demanding and increasingly diversified public. “I can vouch that the Theatre team and the board are not idle; they are working hard so everything will be ready to spring to action when we are cleared to go. We are fully aware that our credibility and our survival depend on that.”

Finances: tight management and temporary lifesavers

Absent a paying audience, the theatre’s coffers could rapidly have become depleted. Fortunately, two significant donations from generous patrons, Helgi Soutar and Claire Léger, enabled the theatre to avoid that fate for the time being. “I sincerely hope that their example will inspire other members of the community, so that we can one day build an endowment fund that will ensure the theatre has a solid financial base,” Jean-Claude Mahé observed.

The Town also put its shoulder to the wheel, agreeing to raise the amount of its annual subsidy from $20,000 to $85,000. However the theatre’s future programming should aptly reflect the linguistic duality of the community.

Under the direction of the treasurer Bruno Bourgeois, formerly a senior officer at Banque Nationale, financial management seems to have been significantly tightened up. Sponsors and partners are on the agenda; new applications for grants are well underway at all lev- els of government.

“We are crossing a stormy sea, but I can assure you our entire crew is working hard, physically and professionally, to save the ship,” declared Jean-Claude Mahé, who opts for optimism.

Translation: Tam Davis