MANITOWANING – Members of the Assiginack community are hopeful that the Burns Wharf Theatre Players (BWTP) will find themselves reinstated in their Burns Wharf home by the summer, but that will mean a considerable fundraising effort over the next few months.
Assiginack council granted the Burns Wharf Theatre Rehabilitation Project its support in its fundraising effort through the issuing of receipts for income tax purposes, an about face from the previous council which chose to distance itself from the Players and the aging Burns Wharf building.
The Players are hoping the community will open their hearts, and their wallets, to this important piece of Assiginack tourism and culture.
As has been reported previously in this newspaper, the BWTP has not held a summer production in its Burns Wharf home since 2015 when changes to the province’s building code and Ontario Fire Code meant the curtains closed on the theatre. Since that time, the Players struggled with the previous council to have the municipality on board with seeing the renovations done in what became an election issue in the municipality that saw only one of the former council members returned to his seat at the table.
New Assiginack mayor Dave Ham promised the Players that seeing the Burns Wharf returned to its former glory would be a priority.
A letter, on Municipality of Assiginack letterhead, and signed by BWTP treasurer Elwood Wohlberg notes that the current estimate for the necessary work to see the building up to code is $500,000.
“To demonstrate that support in practice, council is prepared to issue receipts for income tax purposes to anyone who donates $20 or more to the Burns Wharf Theatre Players Rehabilitation Fund,” Mr. Wohlberg writes. “The council continues to search for third party funding sources but fully supports the private donations that are made for a worthwhile project.”
Cheques should be made payable to the Township of Assiginack and mailed to PO Box 238, Manitowaning, Ontario, P0P 1N0 with ‘Burns Wharf Theatre Renovation Fund’ written on the memo line. (A note that all donations mailed in before the end of December will be eligible for claims on this coming spring’s tax return.)
The venerable Jean McLennan and her friend Jane Rohn have largely got the ball rolling on the donation letter and have even encouraged the municipality to mail a copy to all homes in Assiginack, which residents can expect to see soon. Ms. McLennan is also hoping the municipality will send a notice in the February tax bills of those seasonal taxpayers and will be working on elected officials to see that done too.
“I hope we get some money,” she added. “Every dollar we get is a dollar we don’t have. Jane and I are really working on it.”
Ms. McLennan told The Expositor that a strong theatrical presence in the community dates to the 1950s when she and Lottie Chapman would hold one act plays that were even adjudicated by a Sudbury judge. The plays were held in people’s homes and eventually became three act productions that travelled the Island, acting as fundraisers for the Manitowaning United and Anglican churches that were struggling to raise funds at that time.
And so, when the word came that the Burns Wharf Theatre would be closed until further notice, “I just felt sick,” Ms. McLennan explained.
Ms. McLennan is hopeful that, as money begins to roll in, work can begin in stages, similar to renovations that were done at the Assiginack Curling Club and funded by public support.
For more information, comments or suggestions, contact Mr. Wohlberg at 705-859-3808.