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Curtain comes down on a long career

There will be more than a few tears shed as St. Albert cultural services is about to lose one of its key people. The Arden Theatre’s programming presenter Brenda Heatherington is moving to Ontario as of April 30.

There will be more than a few tears shed as St. Albert cultural services is about to lose one of its key people.

The Arden Theatre’s programming presenter Brenda Heatherington is moving to Ontario as of April 30. She has been appointed the first executive director of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, an $11-million project slated to open in October, 2011.

“This is the most extraordinary opportunity an arts leader can have — to take a theatre from the concept stage to its opening and further,” said a clearly excited Heatherington.

For many the move was a huge surprise. To patrons, she was the face of the Arden Theatre. Behind the scenes she scouted talent, programmed seasons, set policy and shepherded a team of dedicated volunteers, tech support and administrative staff. However, on concert night, Heatherington always stepped into the limelight, warmly welcoming audiences before introducing the featured act.

“People would come up to me and chat in the lobby. It’s a great thing to have a relationship with the audience and it’s the one thing I will miss.”

No one issue prompted Heatherington to accept the new position. It was more an alignment of the stars, she explained.

“A head-hunter came to me looking for the right fit to be the face of a new theatre.” In her 18 years with the Arden, first as box office manager and later as theatre manager, Heatherington built its reputation as a sophisticated venue importing a variety of acts from the Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats and Harlem Gospel Choir to country singer Michelle Wright and the late jazz great Jeff Healey.

In the last couple of years the City of St. Albert introduced a few changes that made her job less challenging. Also on the personal side, Heatherington’s fiancĂ©, Derek Scott, is based out of Toronto, and living geographically closer had more appeal.

But by far and away, bringing a new theatre to fruition was the greatest attraction. “I have to make sure the theatre is up and running. I will hire a new team. I’ll be planning for the opening. And I’ll be meeting 60 community arts groups and they’re all looking forward to theatre access.”

Still in the steel and concrete stage, the state-of-the-art Burlington Performing Arts Centre features a 730-seat main stage theatre, a 225-seat studio theatre, atrium space, an event patio and a six-storey fly tower.

Under Heatherington’s tenure, the Arden Theatre built such a formidable reputation across Canada that many top artists ask to perform here. The Arden has even won two prestigious Canadian Arts Presenting Association (CAPACOA) awards in 2005 and in 2009.

Receiving these honours is more than mere window dressing for a presenting house. It means a network of artists, agents, facility managers and marketers nation-wide will pick up one of her phone calls at a moment’s notice.

“She is a very valued member of the team and we will miss that key point — making contacts and developing a balanced season between music, theatre and dance and balancing sell-out shows with developing artists,” said director of cultural services Gail Barrington-Moss.

As for the legacy Heatherington leaves, well, “I never looked at it that way,” she said. “You do your job. You do it to the best of your ability. I’m happy I was able to connect with a broad range of people, and I’ve been moved and touched by audiences sharing their thoughts. I just brought people together who enjoyed the arts.”


Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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