Workers with Ellis Don Construction hoist one of two remaining, steel roof beams — signed by donors and supporters of the Stratford Festival’s Spirit of the Tent campaign — into place within the roof structure of the festival’s new Tom Patterson Theatre Wednesday morning. Galen Simmons/The Beacon Herald/Postmedia Network
Seated in the last vestiges of the former Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford Festival staff, supporters and donors watched as their names – scrawled across two steel beams – were hoisted into the air and into Stratford and Canadian history.On Wednesday, the Stratford Festival hosted a “topping-off” ceremony inside what will become the new Tom Patterson Theatre’s auditorium in celebration of the completion of the building’s superstructure – and the hard work and support that has gotten the project this far.Though the building is only just a shell of what architect Siamak Hariri has envisioned, securing the final two steel roof beams marked the point in construction where the theatre will begin transitioning from a dream on paper to the creative arts hub that it’s meant to be.
Lead architect Siamak Hariri and Stratford Festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino led media on a tour of the half-completed Tom Patterson Theatre Wednesday morning before the theatre’s topping off ceremony. Galen Simmons/The Beacon Herald/Postmedia Network
“I’ve been in this business for a number of years and it never ceases to amaze me, the moment where you step back at this particular time when the last piece of structure goes up and you sort of think about what it means to come to this moment,” Hariri said.The architect behind the new theatre’s design was one of several people who spoke at Wednesday’s ceremony. In addition to the festival’s executive duo, artistic director Antoni Cimolino and executive director Anita Gaffney, London West MP Kate Young, Ontario Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton and Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson each spoke to the significance of the work being done and the utmost importance of the support offered by those sitting in the old theatre’s seats.
Ontario Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton, Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson, London West MP Kate Young, and Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece each had the opportunity to sign one of the new Tom Patterson Theatre’s last two remaining steel roof beams before they were lifted into place. Galen Simmons/The Beacon Herald/Postmedia Network
“We’ve had great partners along the way, either on the theatre board, within the business community of this country, donors from across North America, and you see the success start to unfold,” Mathieson said. “And that is really the Stratford story. We have continued to reinvent ourselves and find ways to move our propriety, and our government, and our community forward in ways that excite all of us.“… Today we celebrate the topping ceremony; in a year, we celebrate the opening of a production within this facility, and within many years we can’t ever imagine the success of Stratford without the journey that brought us here today in the Tom Patterson Theatre.”With a goal of $100 million, the Stratford Festival’s Spirit of the Tent fundraising campaign has raised more than $80 million, including $20 million each from the federal and provincial governments, toward the construction of the new theatre. Already more than a year into construction, the new Tom Patterson Theatre is expected to open in the spring of 2020.Complete with added comforts like additional washrooms, comfortable seating and improved air-conditioning – amenities the old Tom Patterson Theatre lacked – the new theatre will not only be a stage for world-class theatre, but also a centre of excellence and innovation for the performing arts in Canada, officials said.The theatre is expected to draw an additional 52,000 patrons to Stratford each year, creating more than 200 new jobs, and contribute roughly $14.5 million to the local economy annually.
Stratford Festival executive director Anita Gaffney, Tom Patterson Theatre architect Siamak Hariri, and artistic director Antoni Cimolino were among the last to sign one of two steel roof beams before they were ceremoniously hoisted into place. Galen Simmons/The Beacon Herald/Postmedia Network
“The arts help us understand each other,” Cimolino said. “… You’ve supported our artists. In the world today, there are many things you could invest in – many of them not good. This is a force for good. If we don’t invest, neglect takes place, so while I want to pinch myself and say, ‘How did we every deserve this?’ The fact is, you are telling the future who we are and who we might be.“So thank you for investing in the arts.”email@example.com