Brian McCurdy is recognized and celebrated as he leaves the Performing Arts Centre - the torch is passed.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 17, 2015


It was an evening during which half a dozen people spoke glowingly about a man who is a classic introvert and in public settings painfully shy. A crowd of perhaps 100 people wandered around the Family Room of the Performing Arts Centre (now to be called The Centre) and gossiped, got caught up on things and then listened as various people spoke about Brian McCurdy, the retiring Executive Director of The Centre.

McCurdy H&S

An apprehensive Brian McCurdy listens as he is lauded and recognized during a goodbye reception

McCurdy - smiling

A smiling Brian McCurdy – he is going to be missed. while with us he did a superb job.

His replacement, Suzanne Haines was on hand – the people who are at the centre of much of what happens in this city introduced themselves to her.

The Centre’s first Executive director was on hand to watch the passing of the torch. She was given some of the credit and recognition she should have been given before she left the position several years ago.

Mayor Goldring spoke about the difference the Centre has made to the city and the growth that has taken place in the arts. During McCurdy’s time the program grew to include more local talent and a broadening of the program plus a significant increase in the number of performances on the two stages.

McCurdy commented on what is involved in opening a new theatre. “I have opened three new theatres and know that it is not easy. What I was able to build during my time here was due in no small measure to what was done before I got here.”

There was more than one occasion when city council had to speak rather forcefully to a former Chair of the theatre board about the size of the subsidy that was needed. When the $500,000 a year the city was prepared to live with ballooned to $1.2 million – Council came down hard on the theatre board – changes were needed and the then Executive Director left the position.

Wednesday evening was a time to celebrate and those taking part in the pleasant goodbye got a chance to see how McCurdy worked with his staff. The star of the evening was the young man who runs the ticket office. Ty Howie told of a Brian McCurdy most people seldom see – a series of anecdotes and jokes and McCurdy’s difficulty with the GO train schedule gave us a glimpse of the man.

McCurdy - Ex Dirs + Chair

From the left: Theatre Board chair Ilene Elkaim former Executive Director Brenda Heatherington, retiring Executive Director Brian McCurdy and newly appointed Executive Director Suzanne Haines.

The words staff watched for very carefully was when McCurdy said “I have an idea” – they knew changes were coming. Those ideas resulted in the 80 performances put on last season and the 100+ that are expected during the season we are now into.

A man with more than 35 years’ experience in the theatre world had seen it all and brought that depth of talent to the footlights of the Centre’s stages – the results were evident.

McCurdy started his career wanting to play the trombone – that wasn’t where he belonged. Brian Coulter, a colleague of McCurdy’s who recently retired from an arts position in Oakville said McCurdy is the kind of person you “hear of long before you meet him”

Watching McCurdy as all these accolades flooded around him was awkward for him. “It was kind of surreal” he said – “they were talking about me.” It just wasn’t something he was used to or comfortable with.

Ty Howie, the ticket manager, told the audience how McCurdy would continually ratchet up the goals and things just worked out.

The Jazz in the Plaza series was an astounding success – expect that to be expanded next year; making stage and rehearsal space in the Studio Theatre available to community groups was a particular joy for McCurdy. Instead of booking a show and working with agents – he was working directly with the talent and having the time of his life. “That’s why we get up in the morning” he said during his remarks in which he set out just how much had been done.

Suzanne Haines

Newly appointed Executive Director of the Performing Arts Centre: Suzanne Haines

The programming base for the season we are into has been set, there is a solid management team in place. The Board is well rounded with an energetic chair. Combine that with a new Executive Director and a level of satisfaction at city council we can now watch to see how Suzanne Haines builds on what was done before her.

One of the most positive notes was McCurdy telling the audience that a Council member recently said to him: “I don’t get calls anymore.”

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