Arts

Rebecca Cohn theatre to get new sound and light system

Half the funding is coming from Ottawa, half from $1.50 ticket fee

The Dalhousie Arts Centre where the Rebecca Cohn is housed.   Silas Brown

The Rebecca Cohn is about to get an $800,000 upgrade, setting the stage for more ambitious shows.

The Dalhousie University theatre is replacing its sound and lighting system. The current equipment is between 15 and 35 years old and has affected the theatre’s ability to book artists, said Shirley Third-Genus, executive director of the Dalhousie Arts Centre.

“Theatres, such as ours, get into a place where it’s almost impossible, no matter how much the audience wants to see these shows, to actually present the quality that the guest artists will require,” she said.

Improvements will also be made to the marquee and the proscenium, which is in front of the stage where lights and sound equipment are hung.

Symphony Nova Scotia, which calls the theatre home, is “thrilled” the Cohn secured funding for the upgrades.

“We’re always looking to have the highest production value possible,” said CEO Christopher Wilkinson. “There’s an expectation that when people go to a concert, especially a rock type concert, that there’s going to be moving lights and that kind of thing and really good sound.”

Wilkinson said in the past, the symphony has rented equipment because the Cohn didn’t have it.

Rich Aucoin, a Halifax musician who played with Symphony Nova Scotia in 2015, said while sound is important, it’s often the other technical aspects of the theatre that people comment on.

“It’ll be the lights that people, I think, will notice the most when those get updated,” he said.

Aucoin noted that artists, particularly less established ones, will benefit from these upgrades because they, like Symphony Nova Scotia, won’t have to rent extra equipment.

“Who will benefit the most are the people who are just on the cusp of being able to play the Cohn, and don’t want to splurge for that extra production that the bigger acts get,” Aucoin said.

The money for the project is coming from the federal government’s Cultural Spaces Fund and the Rebecca Cohn’s Capital Improvement Fund, which comes from a $1.50 charge on each ticket the theatre sells.

Cultural landmark

The Rebecca Cohn held its first show in 1971. Since then it’s been one of Halifax’s premier performance spaces, hosting thousands of artists over the last 47 years.

“Everybody knows the Rebecca Cohn,” said Third-Genus. “This truly is one of those theatres that is a flagship.”

Dalhousie posted a tender on Jan. 8 that will close on Feb. 5. Work on the audio and lighting project is expected to be completed before March 31.

Third-Genus said theatre events will continue during that time.