Audrey Eastwood hung up umbrellas from the ceiling and filled them with fairy lights at her wedding so they would look like chandeliers. Her mom went to Value Village and got a china plate for every guest; she made her own wedding cake.
Eastwood’s wedding wasn’t in a church. It took place at the Bus Stop Theatre on Gottingen Street, where she’s the venue manager.
“It’s such an amazing space, because you can transform it to look like whatever you want,” she says. Eastwood was also proposed to in the theatre; her now-husband knelt in a spotlight on centre stage.
“It was just a super amazing experience to get married in this building that means so much to me.”
Eastwood moved to Halifax with the goal of working at the Bus Stop. Now, the Bus Stop is in trouble: after nine years of holding onto the building, the owners, Walk-eh Enterprise Limited, have put it up for sale. They can no longer afford to keep it running.
“And so of course, everybody is very concerned about the future of the Bus Stop Theatre,” says Sebastien Labelle, the theatre’s executive director.
On top of buying the building, employees of the Bus Stop are also trying to build a second performance space in the empty lot behind the building.
They’ve started fundraising, and currently, they’re in the midst of approaching all three levels of government to secure funding.
What they’ve heard so far is that officials like the project but might not be able to come up with the funding this year.
“And of course, the first step in our project is the purchase of the properties, because if we don’t manage that, then everything else is moot,” he says.
Filling a gap
The Bus Stop is one of the only professional theatre spaces left in Halifax, after the shutting down of local theatres The Living Room and The Waiting Room. Neptune is the only other major professional theatre, and their productions are big-budget. The Bus Stop is more of a space for local creators, who can try on new ideas for size.
Labelle says that other professional theatres in Halifax haven’t always made it because, simply put, “producing theatre is expensive.” When you add on the expensive venues that have to be rented for the show to go on, it’s often more than artists can afford.
“And so that’s why it’s really important to have spaces like the Bus Stop Theatre that are affordable; that can allow small independent theatre companies to establish themselves and flourish,” he says.
The Bus Stop is about to get busy again going into April and the space is entirely booked for the month of May. The lack of other theatre spaces has led to even more bookings at the Bus Stop, and the theatre is often being booked a year-and-a-half in advance.
But being busy doesn’t mean being profitable — as Labelle says, theatre is expensive.
A space for artists
Labelle can’t name his favourite memory from his time at the Bus Stop — not because there aren’t good memories, but because so many exciting things have happened there.
“It’s really incredible to me when different communities’ cross paths here,” he says, adding that festivals like the Fringe Festival are examples of that. The drag queen group, Queens of the Glamazon, will also now be performing at the Bus Stop, so that their performances will be more accessible.
“It really is an important community, as well as cultural space.”
Whatever kind of performance you’re looking for, you can probably find it at the Bus Stop: it houses everything from contemporary dance to improv to musical theatre.
Saving the space
Labelle and Eastwood both hope the Bus Stop can be saved.
“This space is why I’m in Halifax, and I think it’s the reason a lot of people are in Halifax,” Eastwood says. She says the audiences that come and see the shows are a core part of Halifax’s theatre community.
The Bus Stop, says Labelle, is a space where Halifax artists can premiere their work before taking it across the world.
He says the Bus Stop shutting down would be “really devastating” because it plays a huge role in Halifax’s arts scene. It could also potentially make North-Enders, who are already dealing with redevelopment, feel even more alienated.
As for Eastwood, it’s the Bus Stop that keeps her here.
“It’s a space where you can create and not have to worry about what you’re doing,” says Eastwood.
“I think I would leave if it wasn’t here.”