Youth to use Darke Hall – (Regina Leader Post), September 15, 2015

Darke Halll Media Event

Brad Mahon, head of the Conservatory of Performing Arts, at a news conference announcing “exciting” plans for Darke Hall in Regina on Sept. 15, 2015.
Photograph by: BRYAN SCHLOSSER , Regina Leader-Post

Rob Ursan still remembers being a 14-year-old walking onto the stage of Regina’s Darke Hall for his first solo piano recital.

“At that age, walking on a stage all by yourself and knowing everyone is looking at you is a truly brilliant experience,” he said.

Now the artistic director of Do It With Class Young People’s Theatre, Ursan is looking forward to a new generation of creating similar memories.

On Tuesday, it was announced Do It With Class and the South Saskatchewan Youth Orchestra is now calling Darke Hall home.

“It’s going to be wonderful for the young people, a great learning experience,” said Ursan.

Darke Hall, located on the west end of the University of Regina’s College Avenue campus, is in the midst of a revival.

That was spurred further last week, when $3 million was approved by the University to refurbish the building’s exterior shell. That work is expected to start this fall.

U of R president Vianne Timmons has made revitalizing the College Avenue Campus a priority, but since the project was announced in 2011, finding cash has been a problem.

Timmons is hoping the community can raise $10 million for the project: right now, the university is about $3 million shy of reaching that number.

Elmer Brenner is a member of the donor campaign committee. He says finding businesses to put up cash for the revitalization project has been a struggle.

“It’s been slow, but it’s coming along,” he said.

Brenner is looking forward to the hall’s new tenants bringing a new audience to it.

“So many people don’t even know where Darke Hall is,” he said. “Anything you can do to raise interest in it is worthwhile.”

Brad Mahon, head of the Conservatory for Performing Arts, said Darke Hall, which opened in 1929, has its limitations right now. The front of house is small at best and non-existent at worse, and the building isn’t easily accessible to those using wheelchairs.

“The building doesn’t work for everybody yet,” said Mahon.

He’s hoping that will change and plans to consult with the youth groups set to use the hall on how to improve it.

“Part of it is to make the hall a viable public-use hall again,” he said.

Limitations aside, the building does have a certain charm not found elsewhere in Regina.

“This venue is very different than the vast majority of other venues, in that you don’t have to have huge amounts of amplification,” said Ursan. “It’s going to be a wonderful thing for young people to find their theatrical voice rather than relying on technical amplification all of the time.”

Do It With Class will have a production of Alice in Wonderland in October, which will kick off its 22nd season at Darke Hall.

Darke Hall has been such an incredibly important venue within the arts community for my entire life. That it’s getting more and more attention now is perfect,” he said.

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