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Roof leak puts damper on Persephone Theatre summer season

Roof leak repairs call on community for support of Persephone Theatre as 50th anniversary celebrations approach.

SASKATOON — It was recently announced that Saskatoon’s Persephone Theatre will be closed for the summer to repair a beleaguered roof leak. Restricted access to Persephone Theatre will begin June 24 and go until August of 2024, while the roof is being replaced. This will mean no access to the main stage until the roof repairs are complete in August.

Persephone Theatre maintains, “While access is limited, the building will remain open, and activities such as Persephone Theatre School will continue as scheduled.”

The storied 50-year history of Persephone Theatre began when the theatre company was founded in 1974, and named after the Greek Goddess, Persephone. Since the very first season, Persephone Theatre has been a part of many Saskatoon locations including Mendel Art Gallery and the University of Saskatchewan’s Greystone Theatre.

Breanne Harmon, Executive Director for Persephone Theatre, said, “Persephone Theatre took its permanent home in the Remai Arts Centre at River Landing 17 years ago, with the building opening in 2007, with the roof being the same age. The materials originally used for the roof were common materials for the time, and frequently used for flat roofs in the province. The material, commonly known as SBS is rigid, and unfortunately expands in the summer, and shrinks, or contracts in the winter.”

Harmon goes on to say, “With Saskatchewan’s extreme weather, the roof materials have experienced seventeen years of continual expansion and contraction, causing severe gaps and tears to the roof, leading to water getting trapped under the membrane, and water to leak, pool and flood into the building. It was determined by roofing experts that the material used was an incompatibility material for the building and climate, and was considered to be a roof assembly failure. “

Harmon tells SaskToday.ca, “The roof at the Remai Arts Centre at Persephone Theatre has been experiencing leaking for over a decade. There are three sections of the roof, all with severe damage, the most extensive damage being to the fly tower – the roof section directly above the stage and audience in the Rawlco Radio Hall Main Stage. The fly tower roof sits more than 60 feet above the stage, and over the past three years especially, continued flooding has occurred through this portion of the roof. “

Harmon says that in the summer of 2023, Persephone underwent extensive roof testing, led by architects of AODBT Architecture + Interior design, and it was determined that due to the amount of damage to the roof, a full roof replacement was required. As the fly tower is the most damaged area, it was determined this portion of the roof needed replacement within one year. The roof received significant temporary patching to get through the winter and spring.

“As a charitable not-for-profit organization, we rely on community rentals who fill our space each summer. With the Main Stage being unavailable for the summer, this will have a direct impact on our bottom line. It will also affect the community groups who rely on our stages every summer,” adds Harmon

A generous gift was received from long-time supporters, Malcom and Marilyn Leggett, who have made a $300,00 commitment over three years that has kick started the capital campaign. Persephone Theatre has also received $80,000 in funding support from the City of Saskatoon’s Cultural Capital Grant program.

Harmon acknowledges, “Persephone is continuing to seek financial support from provincial and federal levels, corporate fundraisers, as well as individual donations. For more information, or to make a donation please contact Development Officer Jory McKay, [email protected] .”

The Persephone Theatre group says the community has been very supportive in its pursuit to replace the roof. The Remai Arts Centre is a community hub, utilized by not only Persephone Theatre, but by the arts community as a whole. In 2023 alone, Persephone Theatre provided more than $50,000 worth of in-kind or donated space to community arts groups for productions, rehearsals or workshops.

Harmon says, “Persephone Theatre is grateful for the support from the community, and all donations are gratefully accepted. No matter the size, all donations will have a positive and lasting impact on the organization. Persephone Theatre holds a strong cultural place in Saskatoon, and will be celebrating its 50th Milestone Season, with the first production Native Gardens by Karen Zacharias, opening September 25th under the brand new fly tower roof at the Remai Arts Centre.”