After the sun goes down in Tofino every Monday, the lights come up in the Clayoquot Sound Theatre.
The theatre is in an aging and rather nondescript facility in central Tofino, on the bottom floor of an old school. “You can barely notice it walking down Campbell Street, says its own website. “But once inside, its magic (and ghosts) gives you the same chills as if you had entered a big city theatre. All artists that have graced its stage over the years have come to the same conclusion: it is a very special and unique venue.”
Many locals agree that there’s nothing nondescript about the role the theatre plays in Tofino’s community.
“Back in the day, this theatre was a vibrant social hub,” wrote theatre manager Sophie L’Homme. “Shows were sold out every night and the ticket prices were kept low so everyone in the community could have access to live theatre.” she wrote.
The theatre was built in 1983 by volunteers. Now, at nearly 40 years old, it “needs to undergo some vital renovations to keep entertaining the community and keep its legacy alive,” says its website.
L’Homme and the other volunteer board members are now asking locals and visitors alike to help restore it to its former glory.
The plan includes better lighting, more and better seating, new windows overlooking the harbour, a sprung floor for dancing and recitals, accessibility, and improved exits.
“I want local kids to be inspired by more than surfing,” said L’Homme in her appeal. “We need more art culture in Tofino, and the planned Theatre updates will be great for youth programs.”
The theatre’s most frequent event, the weekly movie night, is aimed at raising money for the renovation, said volunteer movie manager Sandi Rideout.
Rideout initiated the movie nights in 2005, when “I moved here from Kamloops…and there was nothing to do,” Rideout told West Coast Now.
She joined the volunteer board running the theatre, obtained performance licences and arts grants to cover that cost, and started booking films. Excepting holidays, special events, and the pandemic pause, she’s been running them weekly ever since.
Despite the rise of streaming, “Movies have survived because it’s a shared experience,” said Rideout. “It’s really fun to watch a movie with other people who are having the same feelings you’re having, crying or laughing.”
Monday Night Movies also offer something else that not everyone enjoys just watching at home: concession popcorn.
“It’s fresh, and has wonderful toppings like nutritional yeast or seaweed powder, and the concessionaire puts the butter on himself, by hand, then puts it in a big bowl, not a bag,” says Rideout. It’s fantastic!