CULTIVATING CREATIVITY: Building a Theatre in the Wings

By Quinte Arts Council

When veteran stage actor Rick Zimmerman moved to Belleville from the County a few years ago, he was hoping to find a permanent home for the non-profit theatre company he had founded along with friends Peter Paylor and Lisa Morris.

A storefront performance space seemed like a perfect fit for Belleville’s revitalized downtown core, a space to support local talent along with the local economy. Finding empty space wasn’t a problem, but finding the right space was. The trio was close to giving up hope when they were approached by a downtown landlord who had heard about their vision through executive director Marijo Cuerrier from the Downtown Belleville Improvement Area.

“It’s hard to remember now,” says Zimmerman, “if it was our vision or if it was Paul’s.”

Paul is Paul Dinkel, of restaurants Paulo’s and Dinkel’s, who owns the building at 30 Bridge St. East, the one with the rainbow wings.

“Paul was already ahead of us when it came to understanding the value of a space like this towards bringing life back into the core. He’s a visionary who’s done this before.”

Soon plans were drawn up and the city issued a permit. Work got started on the “Theatre in The Wings,” a storefront performance space for small theatre productions and live music with an occupancy of 50 people.

Then COVID-19 hit and occupancy was out of the question. It looked like their hopes were dashed.

“It’s was hard to even plan,” says Zimmerman.

But the virus didn’t stop Paul Dinkel. It didn’t even slow him down. Once construction was allowed to continue, he went ahead with the plan. The theatre is now almost finished.

“When the time is right, the space will be open – whether it’s for an audience of 10 people or 15 or 20,” says Zimmerman who is now hoping for an October opening. “People are missing the magic of live performance, be it theatre or music or dance. It’s that particular sense of wonderment that only comes from sharing a space in community, coming together as audience and laughing and crying and applauding – and standing at the end if it moves us.”

In the meantime, Zimmerman has been hosting weekly Zoom chats with members of the theatre community.

“This region has no shortage of talented actors and directors and writers and musicians, and they’re bringing great ideas to the table,” he says.

Anyone interested in getting involved with the new “Theatre in The Wings” should get in touch with Rick or Peter or Lisa at riverandmaintheatre@gmail.com or they can call Rick at (613) 827-8130.