In over 90 years of existence, Winnipeg’s Chinese Dramatic Society can claim many achievements, but there’s one thing it’s never had — a place to call home.
"In 91 years, we have never had a permanent place," society member Maria Lip said.
The society, which boasts about 200 members, has moved around more than 10 times since it began in the early 20th century, Lip said.
Presently, it holds activities and rehearsals at a facility at 205 Alexander Ave., but the 350-square-foot building, with its 22-step flight of stairs to the group’s rehearsal space, has become a burden on older members. It’s also a shared space, and the dramatic society can only use the space once a week.
"We can’t practise Monday to Friday, because others are there," said Joe Chan, a supporter of the dramatic society and employee at Coun. Harvey Smith’s (Daniel McIntyre)office.
Natalia Wong, current president of the society, explains it was the final wish of her late husband, singer and musician (and Lip’s seifu, or master) Goldon Mah, to see the society moved into a place all its own.
"Before he passed away, he said the dramatic society needs to get its own place," Wong said.
After some searching, the society found what it is looking for: a 1,700-square-foot space at 219 Logan Ave. Wheelchair accessible, with main-floor access, it’s a much better option for the group.
"They can have more activities," Chan said.
While the group has about 200 members, only 25 or so come out for practises. Chan said the society hopes a new building will draw more participants, including students.
"With the new location, more students can come," he said.
The society will also be able to add more performances to its calendar. It holds about one a year but hopes to do two or three in the future.
The group has raised $60,000 on its own, and has turned to the city and province for $50,000 each so it can revamp the building into the dramatic society’s new headquarters. The completed facility will boast an approximately 50-seat theatre space, a make-up room, a kitchen and a reception area.
So far, the society has been met with limited success, making the rounds of council’s community committees.
City councillors Ross Eadie (Mynarski), Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas), Brian Mayes (St. Vital), Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) and Justin Swandel (St. Norbert) have all given $5,000 to the project, while Smith put up $10,000.
Chan said the province expects to make a decision on whether or not to fund the project by April.