Move to Sussex

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee
Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee

One impediment to profit, so I thought, was the size of the coffee house. The stage and backstage took a lot of space, and we could only accommodate 60 to 65 people. With a larger venue, things, I thought, would be different. It would also have been different for our performers since we really did not have a space for either a dressing room or a backstage room. For a play it was worse as the stage and backstage took a lot of space. In the front, we had a small kitchen and an even smaller room for storage (when we had plays, we stuffed tables there). So to accommodate performers we kept a space for them in the back near the door. It was not private, and while artists like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, or Ian and Sylvia, did not mind chitchatting with fans, others were more reserved. Ian and SylviaFor those who wanted refuge between sets, it was the kitchen. Obviously the room was too small, and the fees for a solo artist had increased.

For theatre, it was worse. We also needed extra space not only for the stage but for the off-stage actors who needed space either on the side or back of the stage. This would really cut in on seating space and of course reduce revenues at the door. For the plays I had retrieved discarded black drapes which were called “limbo” at the CBC. Many were torn or no longer had a matching section. We stitched them together with black thread, and I don’t think anybody noticed the mismatch. We had by now acquired a few regular stage lights and one rheostat capable of dimming the lights. The low ceiling was a nightmare for the lighting director, who had to sit among the audience to control the lights. The brush with the law concerning a noise complaint was also a constant concern. We kept the back door closed, but was the previous complainant ready to strike again?

NCC Architect John LeaningIt was time to look for another venue. I started researching possible sites, preferably in a commercial area in the centre town area. But no site looked promising. I then called John Leaning, Chief Architect with the National Capital Commission, whom I had met when I wrote The Fulcrum article on the proposed twenty-five-year plan for the new campus. A week later John called to say that he might have a place for Le Hibou.

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