The bad news is, Taylor Swift will not be appearing at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre (BPAC) anytime soon.
The good news is, there are almost 300 other options to enjoy music, drama, comedy, workshops and educational forums at BPAC this upcoming season. There will be 60-70 performances presented by BPAC itself with the rest coming from, or as a result of, demand from the community.
“Our mandate is to program a professional, multi-disciplinary season,” explained Tammy Fox, executive director at BPAC. "It’s like a puzzle. I have only so many spots to fill. We want to do some dance, comedy, all genres of music, family shows, a robust education series (that’s already got a waiting list).
"We also have a long list of promoters who book shows across the country, tribute bands (for example) that almost always sell-out. We offer (to anyone who rents the building) professional space, equipment, and professional staff to help elevate their programming.”
For some, it may come as a shock that BPAC has been in operation for over a dozen years. A city the size of Burlington with tourism and cultural jewels such as the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Art Gallery of Burlington, Museums of Burlington and more, a major community centre for the performing arts was certainly warranted long before its opening in 2011.
BPAC was built to serve the needs of the community; something Fox says remains part of its mandate.
“We very much are a community hub when it comes to performance. We have the Burlington Symphony Orchestra, the Southern Ontario Lyric Opera, Burlington New Millennium Orchestra, Burlington Student Theatre, the Footnotes, Teen Tour Band all using our space regularly," she said. "This is a space for the community.”
Fox also highlighted the Live & Local series that pairs a well-known artist with an emerging local artist.
The community studio theatre, a 165-seat "black-box" theatre has hosted countless community groups at affordable prices, notes Fox. There is a Legacy Space, a safe, welcoming place dedicated to providing education and spreading awareness about Indigenous history and our journey of reconciliation.
As further community outreach, BPAC has hosted free concerts, including the recent Jazz on the Plaza shows, has established a Hall of Fame, and believes that every child deserves access to meaningful cultural and artistic experiences through its Golden Ticket program.
In 2019, BPAC was recognized as Best Community Hub for its ongoing participation for Ontario’s Culture Days (taking place this year on Sept. 23).
BPAC also recently launched a new networking series ‘Pay it Forward’ a monthly after-work networking series, bringing together the business community and local not-for-profit organizations in the Family Lobby.
The lobby also hosts the annual ‘Festival of Trees’ a silent auction of trees sponsored and decorated by local businesses.
With her extensive background as a theatre student, talent agent, promoter and manager of other theatres, Fox has one more item on her wish list: finding a way to bring a major musical production to town.
“My mind never stops. I’m always thinking of new initiatives,” she said. “I’m always hearing that the community would like to see more theatre and well known musicals.”
The challenge with hosting a week-long run is that it conflicts with the extensive schedule of single-night performances. One exception this season is The Land Acknowledgement or As You Like It by Cliff Cardinal (following two sold out runs at Mirvish Theatre).
Fox is also in discussion with the theatre program at Sheridan College.
“My experience is that there’s a tremendous amount of support from the business community in terms of sponsorship, patrons supporting us with donations but largely the community supporting us through attendance.” she said. “Our 2022-23 season, which was our first coming out of COVID, had more sold-out performances than ever before.”
There are too many performances this season to pick out one or two highlights. The season brochure is now available, and the schedule is online at burlingtonpac.ca.
“It’s a very eclectic season.” said Fox. “I’m proud of all the choices that we’ve made.”
And with that, Fox turned her attention to start planning for the 2024/25 season.