Factory Theatre

FACTORY THEATRE is what one could call ‘a lovely old dame of a building’…A little Gothic Revival, a little Queen Anne….The building has a varied and storied past with some fine remnants of her original grace still intact. I had a deep professional / personal relationship with the building and also with the Factory Theatre company that bought the building in 1996, though a version of the company had been tenants in the building for numerous years prior. At that time of purchase, the facility was in very bad repair and long lacking any serious TLC, with the immediate measures to glue it back together relying primarily on paint, and brigades of volunteer help.

Shortly after the1996 purchase, found the Factory Theatre to be a critical and creative success though the building itself continued to be in need of repairs. Such is the life of most not-for-profit cultural institutions in Canada. In 2008 Artistic Director Ken Gass and General Manager Colleen Smith managed to amass a combination of grants and sponsorships to provide for some improvements to the public spaces, namely the Main Stage Lounge and the Administration Offices. In both spaces, these improvements focused on the replacement of musty, dusty old carpeting with new maple hardwood, wall surface repairs and painting, lighting and furnishings.

Even when it was a mash up of old and tired furniture, dark and scarred woodwork, hodgepodge lamps and posters taped to the walls, the Factory Theatre Lounge was a warm and popular space for readings, meetings, and pre/post show socializing. There was some concern on everyone’s part that this welcoming and casual atmosphere be maintained, and given that I personally feel very comfortable working with eclectic, mixed-period approaches it might have seemed the obvious route to go.

The management wanted to freshen things up however, and perhaps because I was very familiar with the space and how it functioned, we were able to jointly re-imagine the idea of what  ‘welcome’ is and opened up the space with an airy and contemporary palette. Additional elements included freshly dry mounted  and simply arranged posters drawn from the long history of Factory seasons, comfortable and stylish furniture and a pressed-tin facing on the bar to reference the Victorian pedigree of the building.

The responses to the reinvention of the Factory Main Theatre Lounge were wonderful with many remarks suggesting it helped provide the company with a new level of professional credibility that boosted the sterling reputation the company already had for the creative work it put on the stage.

Space planning and organization were key objectives within the Administration Offices, achieved by serious weeding out of decades-old piles of stuff, from stacks of crumpled programs to broken chairs and wobbly desks. Consideration of the needs and workings of the theatre staff helped to define what the new space would be in addition to the surface improvements made with flooring, lighting and paint. As in all functioning offices I have no doubt the order seen in the photos has dissipated, yet by providing a more attractive environment with systems of organization in place it is hopefully still a far cry from the ad hoc disarray that existed prior.