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Name of OSS theatre provokes discussion
What’s in a name?
When William Shakespeare asked that question in Romeo and Juliet, the thespian writer was likely thinking about theatres other than the one at Osoyoos Secondary School.
Yet the name of the auditorium that most Osoyoosites know as the “Mini Theatre” has been a subject of discussion lately.
Advertising by the Osoyoos and District Arts Council refers to it as the “Osoyoos Secondary School – Mini Theatre.”
That’s also the name used by ticket sales websites such as Ticketmaster and Ticketweb.
Some websites refer to it simply as “The Osoyoos Mini Theatre.”
That name, however, doesn’t sit well with trustees on the board of School District 53 who insist that “Mini Theatre” was never an official name and that the theatre should be correctly referred to as “Osoyoos Secondary Theatre.”
Patrick Turner, president of South Okanagan Amateur Players (SOAP), is also not happy with the name “Mini Theatre” and wrote to the school board in June urging that the name of the theatre be reviewed.
“Osoyoos Mini-Theatre can be rather condescending as it does not reflect the facility whatsoever,” he wrote in a letter that was tabled at the Oct. 23, 2013 board meeting. “Perhaps a committee can be struck to look into appropriate names.”
The official name, however, doesn’t satisfy Sue Whittaker, chair of Osoyoos and District Arts Council, who wrote to the board in December requesting that the word “Community” be included in the name.
She pointed out to the board that when the theatre was built in the late 1970s, municipal taxpayers in Osoyoos and Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) Area A contributed $210,000 towards construction cost through the process of supplementary letters patent.
“Because of the taxation put in place and the determination of the community of Osoyoos to see the theatre completed in a manner we could all be proud of, the Arts Council looks forward to the word ‘Community’ being included in new signage for the building,” Whittaker wrote.
School board chair Marieze Tarr said the board has agreed to install new signage at the school making it easier for visitors to find the theatre, but the question of the name will have to wait for a future discussion.
Currently the board is busy with the new South Okanagan Secondary School (SOSS) building in Oliver, added Osoyoos trustee June Harrington.
Tarr points out that although $210,000 in municipal taxes went into the theatre more than 30 years ago, ongoing operating costs such as maintenance have been covered by the school district ever since.
Turner and Whittaker met with the school district’s Finance and Facilities Committee on January 8 and voiced their separate concerns.
Whittaker said the arts council supports Turner’s request for signage on Hwy. 97 pointing to the theatre.
Trustees, however, said they don’t have authority to install such signage and the request must go through the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Turner said SOAP has not requested “Community” be added to the theatre’s name. His group only wants the term “mini” removed from the name.
Whittaker said the term “mini” was used to distinguish the theatre from larger auditoriums in places such as Penticton.
Tarr said she’s been told the term “mini” is based on seating capacity. The theatre at OSS has a capacity of 264 seats plus two wheelchair spaces.
Turner said he thinks some major improvements are needed at the theatre and he would like to see funding from the town, the RDOS and the community. He acknowledged that education funds are tight.
The washrooms in particular need improvement and a study done several years ago identified about $300,000 in work that should be done, Turner said.
Better wheelchair access to the washrooms is needed, and there is insufficient “green room” space, the space for performers who are not on stage, he added.
“Right now if we have a large production, we have to use the area outside the gym entrance as the dressing room, which is a bit awkward because that’s where the public restrooms are,” said Turner.
Groups such as the Osoyoos Concert Society, a piano school, a dance school, a community choir and the Osoyoos Royalty also use the theatre on a regular basis.
Whittaker acknowledged the needs of students are paramount and she wants to see friendly discussions with the school district to find solutions.
But she also wants to see use of the theatre by community groups continue in the way that was intended when it was built.
Without the word “community” in the name, there could be erosion of the community’s access to it as school personnel, such as principals, change over the years and people who weren’t around when it was built, she said, fill positions.
“We’re kind of protecting our turf a little bit, I guess you could say,” Whittaker said. “And rightly so because we all helped pay for it.”