Hand-Painted Scenic Elements for the Sanderson Centre
Recently, Frost has had the opportunity to work with the Sanderson Centre of the Performing Arts in Brantford, ON. While the facility is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 outbreak, now was the perfect time to install new features to the space. We have helped the theatre install hardware and a new set of pieces, a teaser and tormentors set.
Initially opened as the Temple Theater in 1919, the space was designed by Scottish architect Thomas W. Lamb. It was initially used as a vaudeville stage and silent movie house. As film overtook live performance in the general public, the theatre was purchased by Famous Players in 1929 and reopened in the early 1930’s as the Capitol. In 1986 the City of Brantford purchased the building to preserve it. A group of volunteers created a very successful fundraising campaign to restore the theatre. It was renamed the Sanderson Centre for Performing Arts in memory of the Sanderson family, who were great contributors to the restoration. It is now used as a theatre and performing arts space, as well as for live events in downtown Brantford.
After communicating with the theatre for an idea to create a teaser and tormentors set to blend in with the historical style of the auditorium, Rick Boychuk, working with Jack A Frost LTD, contacted Wendy Waszut-Barrett, the founder and President of Historic Scenic Services. She has been working as a scenic artist and historian for the past 30 years and specializes in replication, appraisal and restoration of scenic art created between the 1880’s and 1920’s with a focus on masonic theatres. There are few artists that still work with traditional methods, so she was uniquely suited to helping create a set of pieces that fit with the style and era of the original theatre. Based in Minnesota, Waszut-Barrett was unable to visit the Sanderson Centre in person but thanks to great communication between herself and theatre manager Glenn Brown, she was able to overcome this obstacle and create a unique set to be installed. Beginning with a series of Zoom meetings, an initial plan was created as to what the theatre was looking to achieve with their new set. After doing extensive research on the history of the space, Waszut-Barrett was able to send over initial line drawings and afterwards colour samples reflecting themes that exist in the art and architecture surrounding the stage’s proscenium.
The pieces were created to be versatile to the space. Instead of one full curtain, it consists of tormentors on either side and a teaser along the top on the furthest possible downstage battens. Designed to create a smaller and more intimate space for the theatre, the tormentors can be brought in on tracks from either side. Each tormentor is painted to have three sections and depending on the needs of the stage, it can be brought in or out to create a more intimate space. The teaser is designed in three sections as well to match with the tormentors and create a focal point on the stage that still blends in to the style of the theatre. This style of set is typical to what was used in theatres built in this age. A more muted colour palette was also chosen to remain historically accurate. Incorporating existing design elements of the auditorium, the pieces were styled to harken back to the theatre’s vaudevillian roots.
Originally the pieces were scheduled to be painted over the span of four weeks but due to COVID-19 restraints Waszut-Barrett ended up needing to paint all three pieces in just two weeks. She had rented a space to paint the pieces under the condition that she would be the only person there, due to safety concerns with the pandemic. This meant she could not have an assistant to help, despite the large size of the pieces. Although a difficult endeavor with some very long and tiring days, she found the process to be incredibly creatively fulfilling. She is very happy with how it all turned out, saying that this is some of her favourite floral work to date.
Once the set arrived in Brantford, a team of 6 from Frost and local IATSE 128 was required to install the pieces and track hardware over the course of 5 hours. The whole process, from initial conversations to the finished setup, was an excellent experience for the Sanderson Centre and provided a beautiful, accurate set for their stage. Glenn Brown, Theatre Manager had this to say about the process of working with Wendy and Jack Frost to make this vision a reality:
“The whole life cycle of this project from concept, to funding proposal, from research, design, and installation was fully supported by the team at Jack Frost. Even without the ability to travel to the venue, Wendy was able to capture the historical aspects and features of the space to create a design that feels like it would be at home on our vaudeville stage on opening night, 1919. I can’t say enough about the way that Wendy works with the client through her design process to arrive at something that was both what I had initially imagined and something far more fitting than I could have imagined.”
Click Here to see more photos of this project on the Jack A Frost Limited Facebook Page!
Thank you to Victor Svenningson for photographing the install.
- Kimbra Young