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Nelson Civic Theatre unveils slick new screen

Retractable screen will give venue opportunity to expand offerings
Civic technical director Christy Pretty is seen here with her dogs and her husband Neil, as well executive director Eleanor Stacey. The community theatre recently replaced the drapes and the screen. Photo: Will Johnson

It’s got a fancy new look. The Nelson Civic Theatre recently installed a retractable screen, painted their stage deck and hung new drapery as part of their continued efforts to revitalize the historic city-owned venue.

And now they want people to come check it out.

“It feels amazing to have this screen in. It opens up the whole stage, because before we couldn’t really move the old screen out of the way, and basically this gives us access to the entire stage,” said Civic technical director Christy Pretty, who has been spearheading the project.

“This gives us so many more options for what we can do with this space.”

And executive director Eleanor Stacey sees this as a “pie-in-the-sky” dream come true, one that wouldn’t have been possible without a number of hefty donations and grants, as well as fundraising done during Whitewater Ski Resort’s Community Day.

The price tag: $30,000.

And though these tweaks may seem small or unnoticeable to some, Pretty feels it’s the first step in fully utilizing the space and developing it from “a big black box” to a innovative venue that can be used for everything from videoconferencing, live streaming concerts and throwing events.

“One thing that stands out to me is the beautiful hemphouse rigging, which is really old and has been retired in most theatres, so it’s really original in that way — it brings up history, nostalgia.”

The rigging utilizes ropes and sandbags, and is the oldest style of rigging used in theatres. Pretty learned about it in school, but this has been her first opportunity to work with it. And though it may be antiquated, it’s actually quite effective.

The other great thing? With one button they can roll up their new screen and use the space for something else.

“For cinema, it’s going to be much cleaner,” said Pretty.

“The new screen is going to make it so the image is much clearer, the lamp life of our projector will last longer, and it’s going to be crisper with better sight lines. The whole theatre will be able to see the whole screen at all times.”

And this is just the beginning, according to Stacey.

“Christy’s doing this with a vision that prepares us for a future we may not know yet, because technology’s changing, so what’s important is we make good decisions now that hold up when new technology comes in.”

Their goal is to be unique — the Civic is one of the only theatres in western Canada with hemphouse rigging, and one of the few non-profit community theatres still around — and Stacey said they’re intensely grateful for the support they’ve received from the Nelson community to help them get this far.

“Like all of the other tremendous fundraising that’s been done to make this space open again, and cool, and to have a concession people enjoy coming to — this is the next step that’s been given, and we’re grateful to the people who care about us who encourage us to do better.”