One era came to an end at the Williams Lake Studio Theatre’s annual general meeting on Friday, Sept. 11 while another began.
Longtime WLST president Mary-Jo Hilyer, who has chaired the executive board for seven years now, gracefully lost her title to Stacey Poirier who will be replacing her as president moving forward. Several other WLST society members also took on new roles as elections by the membership continued throughout the evening.
All told just over 40 people were in attendance for the 2019 AGM in good spirits. After a brief summary of last year’s meeting, members were given highlights to read from throughout the last year including successes, challenges and announcements of people stepping down.
Hilyer, who chaired the meeting, stressed the importance of the WLST as not just a theatre but also as a family for those who take part in the plays each year. Much like a family, she said, there are always ups and downs as was especially the case this year as, amongst other hardships, the theatre lost longtime actor and community figure Colin Sanford. In recognition of that theatre family, a slideshow of the last three years was shown of both past plays and the antics WLST members get up to together in everyday life.
Following this, the budget for the WLST was presented by Hilyer’s daughter Alix Leary. While overall most of the 2018/19 season was profitable, questions were raised about the planned use of funds throughout the 2019/20 season. After some debate, a motion was made to accept the first half of this budget and revisit the rest of it at a following meeting.
It was determined that several assets would be bought including; plug-ends to make extension cords costing $90, two 100-foot speaker cables for $200, one 15-foot DMX three-prong speaker cable for $30, a high quality 5,000 lumens projector for $2,000, a Qlab video upgrade for $500 and a bank of electrical plugs in the dimmer pack room for $500 would be purchased for a subtotal of $3,200. Two more LED colour source light fixtures for $2,000 each and a lower quality projector were also added to bring the total subtotal to $7,700.
After the budget, elections began and Hilyer was challenged by Poirier for the presidency. A longtime member of the theatre community herself, Poirier shared a vision of reaching out into the wider community and increasing the engagement of other non-profits within the theatre. She also wanted to make supporting and encouraging 19 to 35-year-olds to join the theatre a top priority.
Hilyer said that she agreed with many of Poirier’s points and would like to push for them herself. She stressed the importance of consistency within the theatre and ensuring the stable foundation the WLST has built over the last several years remains intact.
She advocated for having more new members join the executive board alongside old members and effect change together slowly.
“Since I’ve been the president this theatre has grown immensely, absolutely immensely. I’m not standing up here saying it’s all because of me I’m saying it’s that this theatre is built on family and that this family has grown and this family has stayed consistent,” Hilyer said.
When Poirier won Hilyer congratulated her and became emotional after Kirsten Lyons, the former secretary later voted to vice-president, presented with her a lifetime membership for the WLST. Hilyer thanked everyone for all the years of good times and said she intends to stay involved with the board as their first past president in several years.
Afterwards, several more speeches were given and elections held to select the rest of the new executive board, with several new theatre members putting their names forward for consideration.
Joining Poirier and Lyons this year on the executive board will be Sharon Beck in the role of treasurer, Becky Strickland as secretary and Curt Sprickerhoff, Christa Obergfell, and Jeff Rankin as directors.
Speaking after the meeting Poirier said she was humbled to be taking on this leadership opportunity at the theatre she’s been a member of for 17 years. Theatre has been a part of her life in some way since she was six years old and this has allowed her to see its potential to change and enrich the lives of human beings.
“What I have seen personally, especially with this group of people, it that it’s more above and beyond community, it’s family,” Poirier said, echoing Hilyer’s sentiment. “That’s very important to me to keep that going and nourish that and grow it.”
Over the next year, Poirier intends to focus on networking within the wider Williams Lake community, specifically with the different non-profit groups in town. This will include Downtown Williams Lake, the Pregnancy Outreach Centre, the Boys and Girls Club of Williams Lake and District and more. She feels that the WLST can benefit from working with them and that likewise, they will benefit from working with the theatre.
Poirier also intends to ask SD27, who graciously lease the theatre space to the WLST, to allow her to remediate and sanitize the basement under the stage, which is currently very cramped and in need of a face-lift. She hopes that by doing this they’ll be able to utilize the space better and store props and costumes more efficiently. Access to the rest of the old Glendale Elementary School building is also something she hopes to examine in the future when she is better informed on the specifics.
“Going forward I would like us to explore a direction more (focused on) bringing people in that are wanting to learn something new,” Poirier said.
Seeing the number of people at the meeting was encouraging for Poirier, who feels that overall society is currently trending towards individuals being more likely to get involved in something bigger than themselves.
“I’m thankful we have the opportunity in a community such as ours that there is something like this (theatre) here for anybody who is willing to take the step in the door and try,” Poirier said.