SaltWire E-Edition

Mermaid Theatre ‘worth preserving’

Fundraiser launched to help save historic Windsor venue


One of the province’s beloved theatres is in “dire” need of repair after multiple storms wreaked havoc on the building’s roof.

Danny Everson, the executive director of Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia, said officals went public with their plight in hopes of raising the funds necessary to save the historic venue.

“With all the storms that we’ve had this year, especially the last two, it has a done a number on our roof,” said Everson.

“The situation is more dire than we thought. We thought we had a couple more years.

We do not, thanks to the lovely storms that we have had.”

Everson said the need to address the roof is immediate, and early estimates indicate it will be a six-figure repair.

For a non-profit organization, that financial cost is steep.


Mermaid Theatre of Nova

Scotia was founded in Wolfville in 1972 by Evelyn Garbary, Tom Miller, and Sara Lee Lewis, who “made it the company’s mission to make the arts accessible to children in outlying communities around Atlantic Canada,” the fundraising 50-50 description reads. The group moved its headquarters to downtown Windsor in 1987 and took over Imperial Theatre in 2003.

Since its humble beginnings, the theatre has continually grown and evolved and has received international recognition for its touring productions. Mermaid performs throughout eastern Canada, as well as across North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Everson said the theatre’s headquarters in Windsor is in urgent need of repairs.

It not only houses the Mermaid Imperial Performing Arts Centre (MIPAC) auditorium, but production studios, rehearsal quarters, animation studios, administrative offices, and film and television recording space.

The movie theatre was built in 1914 and was damaged by fire 1931. It was refurbished, and over the subsequent decades, until the early 2000s, was the place to go to watch a film in Windsor.

The auditorium seats 400 people; with 300 guests on the main floor and 100 seated in the balcony. Through MIPAC, a number of concerts, films and performances are shown each year.


Everson said there is water damage throughout the facility due to the failing roof, and they’re doing what they can to mitigate the situation. He said when the roof is repaired, the contractor will need to fix any compromised rafters or beams.

“The issue is it needs a new roof and time is not on our side. Obviously with the upcoming hurricanes, we’re all very concerned,” he said.

Aside from the roof, the theatre had a water main break during recent downtown flooding. That repair resulted in the parking lot being torn up.

“With all the electrical issues that we’ve had (due to the storms), with the power going in and out, our lights and sound (system) are currently not functioning right now,” said Everson. “It’s not just the roof. Obviously, we’re promoting it as the roof, but there are many problems that the weather and everything else has caused for Mermaid to try to figure out and mitigate the situation as best as we can.”

But until the roof is fixed, it’s difficult to tackle other storm-related damage.

“We would say in theatre (it’s) a comedy of errors but it’s not — nobody is laughing now,” he said.


Everson said the theatre initially

launched a 50-50 online raffle fundraiser so they could upgrade and modernize the marquee. That draw, which concludes Oct. 2, now has a dual purpose. It will help pay for the roof repairs. The winner will share the jackpot with Mermaid.

“We thought that would be a win-win, both for Mermaid and the community.”

He said community support is what’s needed to help them tackle the substantial damage, helping them keep the theatre alive for future generations.

“We’re trying to be in good spirits. The marquee right now says ‘save the theatre’ and that’s exactly what it means,” he said.

Everson said they’ve already started receiving phone calls and emails asking how people can help save the beloved locale.

“At the end of day, whether its Mermaid’s children programming or our adult programming, this place changes lives. I think it’s worth saving — I know it’s worth saving,” said Everson. “The community, I know, has our back. I think it’s just about getting the message out there.”


For Hants County musician Terra Spencer, the venue holds a special place in her heart. She not only watched her first movie in a theatre there — it was E.T. the ExtraTerrestrial

performed — but she’s on stage a handful of times.

“I’ve had a strong affinity for that place for a long time,” said Spencer.

“It’s not just a concert hall.


It’s also home to this touring puppet theatre,” she said, noting that when she travels, she likes to highlight “this real gem of a place” in Windsor.

As for what it’s like taking the stage, which she’s poised to do again in December, Spencer said the auditorium offers an intimate setting,

audience where the performer and member have a chance to truly connect.

“I write storytelling songs and the shows I play are kind of like a conversation between me and each person in the audience. So having a listening space where you can really get the story across and have that quiet space with each other is key to the shows that I play,” Spencer said.

She said it’s a welcoming environment — from the staff waiting to greet the artist and guests to the people who purchase tickets to see the shows.

“It’s really pretty staggering the people who have been on that stage and the number of shows and the calibre of artists that Mermaid has brought in and continues to bring in,” she said.

“To be able to have that here in our home is pretty special and worth hanging onto, worth preserving.”

She’s optimistic the community will step up to help Mermaid in their time of need, noting Nova Scotians are known for their generosity and willingness to help others.

“There isn’t another space like that right around. I think everybody can relate to the crazy weather we’ve had and just how vulnerable our places are — our homes and places that we love. I think people will feel and recognize that we have something special at Mermaid,” said Spencer.

“I think that once they’re made aware of it, I have faith that people will step up.”





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