What were once high hopes for the beleaguered Toronto Centre for the Arts appear to have faded after Dancap Productions, one of the venue’s high profile draws, announced plans to bow out of Toronto’s theatre scene.
In early May, theatre mogul Aubrey Dan said his company will not offer a subscription season in 2013, leaving the North York theatre with an empty space on its playbill.
For the past four years, Dancap has regularly leased space at the theatre, mounting elaborate Broadway-style shows on the venue’s 1,727-seat main stage.
“There will be financial implications, naturally, and that is what the Toronto Centre is working on,” said councillor Gary Crawford, who sits on the theatre’s board.
“Now that Dancap is not there they are aggressively looking at how do we fill that space and how do we fill that income.”
In a written statement posted on Dancap’s website, Dan cited an absence of quality musical shows as reason for not presenting a 2013 subscription season, and that he will be re-evaluating the company’s involvement in the theatre business. He was not available for comment by press time.
The future looked bright in May 2007 when Dan cut a $720,000 leasing arrangement with the city for its inaugural season. Dancap’s arrival on scene was expected to breathe new life into the Toronto Centre for the Arts after years of stagnation under the operation of the now-defunct Livent Inc.
In 2008, Dancap began a two-year run of Jersey Boys, the longest running musical in the venue’s history. The smash hit drew more than one million theatregoers to North York.
But even with the success of Jersey Boys, the Toronto Centre for the Arts has failed to gain lasting attention as a landmark in Toronto. It continues to lose money, as do the other two city-operated theatres, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts and the Sony Centre for Performing Arts.
For this reason, the city is pondering the prospect of selling off the assets.
Last year, Mayor Rob Ford struck a theatre taskforce for the purpose of assessing how the city manages its theatres.
Headed by Crawford, the taskforce has recommended issuing a Request for Expressions of Interest to gauge support for the potential sale, long-term lease, or management partnership of the theatres.
The request process is expected to begin shortly, Crawford said.
Though the loss of Dancap is concerning, Crawford said there is room for new opportunities at the theatre. It still has a place in North York, he stressed, especially given the rapid development taking place in its vicinity.
“The last thing you want to see is for us to lose that because I think there is still potential for down the road,” he said.
While the future remains uncertain, Crawford says Toronto Centre for the Arts certainly won’t go dark next year. The George Weston Recital Hall and the studio theatre are consistently at capacity with longstanding community theatre groups regularly renting space for performances.
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