For the past two decades, Burnaby's performing arts scene has had a home at the Michael J. Fox Theatre.
The 613-seat venue has seen it all over the years.
"Pretty much everything from little kindergarten shows to body building championships," said director of operations, Jim Dobbs.
This year, the theatre is celebrating its 20th anniversary and hosting some unique events, including an entire season of Cantonese opera.
The theatre is also host to the school district's Young People's Concerts, a three-part series for intermediate grades that put on a variety show with 6,000 students performing in one week.
The theatre hosts more than 400 shows a year - which means more than three shows per day on some days - as well as being used as a meeting space for business or community groups.
"The Burnaby Board of Trade loves us, for example, because we're bringing people into Burnaby all the time," said Dobbs. "We'll get people in from Abbotsford and the Tri-Cities, New Westminster and the North Shore, Richmond, Delta."
First opened as part of the newly-constructed Burnaby South Secondary School in 1993, the Michael J. Fox Theatre was established by the Burnaby school district as The Theatre at Burnaby South.
Four schools in the district had been collapsed into one to open the new school, and with the four combined budgets, there was enough in the school district's coffers to fund the new theatre, said Dobbs, who has been a member of the board from the beginning.
"We were basically able to get a Cadillac instead of a Ford," he said. "We were able to make an upgrade from an auditorium into a full-on professional theatre."
The theatre was designed with input from the B.C. Provincial School For the Deaf, which has its campus at the school.
Sightlines from every seat are equally good because, for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, having a good view of the stage is imperative, Dobbs noted.
One of the theatre's main objectives is to support local artists.
The slogan or motto for the theatre is, "Fostering excellence. Building community."
Unlike "presenting" theatres, which search out performers to book for their stage, the Michael J. Fox Theatre is a "roadhouse" theatre, which means it is available for bookings by any group in the local, regional or even international arts community.
Though it has always been a well-used resource, it was not until the theatre changed its name that it began to see the numbers of bookings it still sees today.
"Mike is a super guy," said Dobbs. "He obviously has some Burnaby history as well. His mother still lives here, and he still drops by periodically to visit."
Michael J. Fox has visited the theatre a couple of times since it took on his name, and he started a scholarship for local arts students in the mid-'90s, which the society has continued on an annual basis to support those who want to pursue fine arts at the post-secondary level.
This year, the board is looking forward to welcoming the public and the performers in what will be a memorable year on the stage, said Dobbs.
"The 20th year is going to be a bit of a celebration year, so we'll be liaising with many of our clients and presenters to help them make their events just a little bit extra special this year - what we call signature events," he said.
For a full listing of upcoming events at the theatre, visit the website, www. michaeljfoxtheatre.ca.
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