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Fredericton Playhouse reports busy year with increases in attendance and activity levels

by on October 4, 2016

The Fredericton Playhouse, Fredericton’s first choice for live performance, recorded another successful season in 2015-16, with increased activity levels, as well as high levels of fundraising and participation in community outreach programs.

Playhouse Executive Director Tim Yerxa delivered the non-profit organization’s results in its annual report to Fredericton City Council on Monday. The report shows the Playhouse has had a busy year with 176 days in use, up nine per cent from the previous year. This usage included 130 performances of 97 different offerings. Attendance for ticketed events increased 11 per cent over the previous season to 52,433.

More than 11,000 households attended the Playhouse last year, with 50 per cent of attendees residing in the City of Fredericton; the remainder hails largely from surrounding communities.

Highlights from the 2015-16 season included a successful Friends of the Fredericton Playhouse fundraising campaign, which raised $52,000 to support community programs. The Backstage Bash, the Playhouse’s signature fundraising event, was also a success, raising $16,000 for the organization.

The Playhouse was also proud of the high levels of participation in its Arts are for Everyone program, which seeks to reduce barriers in participating in the performing arts by working in partnership with local agencies, including the Fredericton Food Centre and the Multicultural Association of Fredericton. In total, 439 individuals were able to attend shows or activities through the program.

“We’re pleased to report that we had a successful year,” Yerxa said. “We continue to see increases in our audience, with nearly a quarter of Fredericton residents attending the Playhouse this past year.” Yerxa said that 23 per cent of city households held a ticket to a Playhouse event last year, up from 21 per cent in the previous year. “And that doesn’t take into account the various free events, graduations and corporate activities we hosted,” he added.

Although the Fredericton Playhouse operates independently from the City of Fredericton, its mandate to manage and develop the City’s live performance venue is achieved through an operating partnership with the municipality. In his presentation, Yerxa explained that the City’s contribution towards the 52-year-old facility accounts for only 33 per cent of the organization’s budget. “The remainder of our funding comes directly through earned revenues and contributions from individuals and grants,” he said.

The organization reported the results of several surveys, including one commissioned by the Playhouse that indicated that 81 per cent of Fredericton residents believe that the Playhouse is important to the city’s quality of life.

Wayne Burley, President of the Playhouse board, noted that working toward the development of a new regional performing arts centre to replace the existing Playhouse remains a top priority. While the facility is being properly maintained and operating safely, the building is at the end of its useful life. In the 2015-16 season, the Fredericton Playhouse Inc. completed an economic impact study, demonstrating the positive effect of a new performing arts centre on Fredericton’s economy, and took steps toward procuring funding from all levels of government for the major infrastructure project, which has been identified as a regional priority by Regional Service Commission 11.

“In the year ahead we intend to move forward with even more concrete plans for a new performing arts centre, including site acquisition, funding confirmation and more engagement with the public on design and fundraising,” Burley said. “We look forward to working with the City of Fredericton and other partners on this exciting project.”

A survey of Playhouse patrons showed that while respondents are looking forward to a larger, more comfortable and accessible venue with expanded programming, they are concerned about the new performing arts centre’s location, and want to ensure it will be built with a high quality of design to meet the community’s needs and aspirations.

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