For the past six years, each October has witnessed a small performing arts center bursting into life with the Shakespeare in Paradise Theatre Festival. For much of this time, that reawakening was welcomed as the major, though short-lived, activity at the Dundas Centre for Performing Arts.
That changed significantly last year, when Ringplay Productions, the center’s management company, committed to revitalizing the space. It made good on that promise with fresh and classic performance works as well as the opening of a black box theater. With hopes of continuing on this trajectory, modernizing the center and bringing it up to standard as a world-class performing arts center, Ringplay and the Dundas are now asking for the public’s support.
The site was originally established as the Nassau Improvement Association – a training center for domestic aides – under the guidance of Lady Dundas. In the 60’s, Meta Davis-Cumberbatch saw a more charismatic purpose for the locale and declared it a performing arts center.
Throughout the 80s and for most of the 90s, the Dundas was known for its spirited repertory season, which ran from January to May each year. The center produced regular shows and served as a venue for popular community events, like summer schools and fairs. Its liveliness waned following former Dundas Artistic Director Philip Burrows’ departure in 1997.
In the years between then and 2014, activity at the Dundas remained sluggish and sporadic. Last year, Ringplay Productions made a commitment to restoring the space’s former energy and giving it new life by improving and expanding its facilities and utilizing the large outdoor space. One of the first steps was creating a black box theatre for theatre in the round, where Ringplay held Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” to widespread acclaim.
With much of the facility’s equipment now antiquated (most of it remaining the same from the 70s and 80s) and the original stage – built by Donald Cartwright in 1965 – in need of repair and upgrades, The Dundas will be hosting a benefit performance on Sunday, September 13.
The fundraiser will be led by the Dundas Capital Fund – a management team separate from Ringplay whose purpose is to secure and manage funds for the development and maintenance of the performing arts center.
“Ringplay assumed management of The Dundas in March of 2014. Immediately the black box theatre was created and many necessary repairs done,” explained Nello Lambert, of Ringplay. “However, the scope of work needed and vision for the center called for magnanimous effort – thus the creation of a board that would raise funds and oversee the development of The Dundas. As of today, we expect that the first phase of the vision will cost an estimated $2 million.”
The surprisingly sizeable property will – it is hoped – eventually feature an amphitheatre and three performance venues, two of which exist already. In the main theatre, funds will go toward a new stage floor and orchestra pit. It’s also hoped that additional seating; a new lighting and sound system and revamped box office will be part of the deal. Sprucing up landscaping and the outdoor patio are in the works along with a new roof and refurbished bathrooms for the black box theatre.
The event will feature a preview performance of “The Landlord” at 4 p.m., followed by a dessert and wine reception, with live music by Deuce.
“The Landlord” is part of the repertoire for this year’s Shakespeare in Paradise and comprises the classic Bahamian play component of the festival. The work was originally directed by Sam Boodle in the 70s and was last performed at the Dundas in 1995. This year, it stars Dion Johnson as Willie Paul and Leslie Ellis-Tynes as Olga Newbold.
Tickets for the event are $100 each and can be purchased at the Dundas. To find out more about the fundraiser or reserve tickets, call 393-3728 or 394-7179.