The building that once housed Iron Mountain Music and Sayso's open-mic nights could soon become a venue for performing arts in the Nicola Valley again.
Don McLeod and Mil Juricic made a presentation on behalf of the Nicola Valley Community Arts Council requesting $8,000 from the City of Merritt's city initiative fund at the Jan. 10 council meeting. The money would be used to cover the cost of mounting local theatre productions as well as shows by touring theatre companies.
McLeod, a physician who owns the Iron Mountain Music building on Granite Avenue, said patients told him they had arranged trips to see touring shows in Princeton last summer. Similarly, local and visiting productions could entice residents of communities in the region to come to the Nicola Valley while broadening entertainment options in Merritt, he said.
“There used to be a lot of live entertainment in town. We have shows almost ready to go now.”
Many theatre companies are eager to perform but cannot find places to do so, McLeod added. He said his building would welcome shows.
“They were supported by the local arts council in Princeton. They're certainly trying to do live theatre but they're searching for venues.”
Juricic, who taught a drama class at Nicola Valley Institute of Technology last fall, said he recruited a one-woman show from Hawaii, Under the Mango Tree, from the Vancouver Fringe Festival to do a show at the NVIT lecture theatre in October.
“We almost filled that theatre two nights in a row.” He said audiences numbered about 120 people a night.
In addition to teaching drama, Juricic was also a director of the Sayso Expression Society, which held monthly open-mic nights at the Iron Mountain Music building. He was elected president of the Merritt Live Theatre Society, which operates as a member association of the arts council, earlier this month.
According to a letter from arts council president Chris Dooley to city council, her group would commit to a minimum of two performances of at least six shows throughout the year if it receives funding.
“A Kelowna troupe and a Penticton group are keen on bringing their shows to Merritt on weekdays and weekends,” she wrote.
Juricic said the group hopes to receive funding in time to put on a local production, Last Rites, this spring. Last Rites was originally scheduled for last spring but was postponed due to a major cast member's illness.
“With a little bit of money and goodwill, we can probably pull this off. If you think it's worthwhile, let's play.”
Council expressed support for the idea but asked for a detailed business plan outlining how it would spend the funds.
“I think this program fits in very well with our cultural mapping. We have the talent. I feel it deserves our support,” said Coun. Harry Kroeker.
“I think Merritt is ready for this,” agreed Coun. Clara Norgaard.
McLeod and Juricic agreed to prepare a business plan in time for the council to consider the request during the City of Merritt's upcoming budget discussions.