Three hundred purple and blue chairs line the floors of the Isabelle Reader Theatre.
Faded, stained and torn, they can no longer be cleaned, many no longer spring back up when empty and one seat has even fallen off the hinges completely, replaced by a makeshift plastic chair. The 300-seat theatre at Spencer middle school is clearly in need of a facelift.
“The chairs are in a sad state of disrepair, but when we looked at bids, the cost of repairing them all at once was just too great,” said musical theatre director Sandy Webster-Worthy. “But lots of people have connections at that theatre and the (Repair a Chair program) gives an opportunity to have tangible evidence of that connection.”
The program sells off each individual chair for $225, which is the cost to remove, reupholster, apply an engraved commemorative plaque and reinstall it. Webster-Worthy hopes the public steps up to purchase a piece of community, a piece her son, actor Calum Worthy, has already purchased.
“He was there from the time he was four until the time he graduated and he still flies up to emcee the shows here if the schedule permits for him,” she said of her son, a Disney-connected actor with numerous screen theatre credits. “It’s an example of someone who has a very successful film and television career and got their start there. It’s significant that he doesn’t forget.”
Webster-Worthy hopes to see a lot more use of the 37-year-old theatre from groups that include Four Seasons Theatre, PACE Musical Theatre and numerous other dance, music and school programs for years to come.
“Structurally, it is a very good little theatre. (It’s) well designed, has a good lighting system and good sound system and good sight lines. The skeleton is there, it’s just old and tired,” she said. “It really is worth looking at bringing it a little more up to date … It’s a good space and I think new seats will make a difference.”
One hundred seats were reupholstered 10 years ago, but 200 others are badly in need of repair. Alvira Plett, who works in administration for the middle school, also hopes the community will get involved in the project.
“Anyone looking for a commemoration for themselves or a loved one can help repair a chair for the (theatre)” she said. “That stays on there for life and makes the theatre look better.”
The theatre is a source of pride for many children and families who grew up performing there and attending shows, said Plett. The goal is to complete the project by April.
“It gives people a sense of the history of the building, generally a lot of people have a lot of good memories in that theatre,” Webster-Worthy said. “The response (to the campaign)has been tremendous, because people have that connection. It is not just a strict physical space, it is organic and breathing and brings the community together.”