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Grand Theatre renames main stage in honour of historic donation, unveils 2017-18 playbill

Helen and Andy Spriet have donated an unprecedented $1-million to the Grand Theatre, announced on March 9, 2017.
Helen and Andy Spriet have donated an unprecedented $1-million to the Grand Theatre, announced on March 9, 2017. 980 CFPL

The Grand Theatre has received the single largest individual donation in its history from one of London’s most charitable families.

Helen and Andy Spriet took to the main stage Thursday morning to announce a $1-million donation for London’s historic theatre.

During the news conference, it was announced the main stage will be renamed the Spriet Stage in the family’s honour.

The Grand’s new artistic director Dennis Garnhum also outlined the shows that will be produced for the 2017-2018 season, which will be the largest playbill in the theatre’s history.

Grand Theatre artistic director Dennis Garnhum announces the 2017-18 playbill on March 9, 2017.
Grand Theatre artistic director Dennis Garnhum announces the 2017-18 playbill on March 9, 2017. Natalie Lovie/AM980 London

“Announcing a bunch of plays is one thing, we’re announcing a new world,” Garnhum told AM980.

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“We’re announcing that the city has already told me, before we started to sell tickets to the new world, they want to support us. Andy and Helen Spriet, naming our stage, all these incredible things tell me that I can do this. We couldn’t announce that season, if we didn’t have all that support come to us already.”

The 2017-18 season will feature 11 plays on two stages, 95 actors, a world premiere, five concerts, a North American premiere, three new partnerships and co-productions, and a school tour.

The school tour is part of a new initiative titled 100 Schools, which will see performers bring theatre to the students.

“My idea is we bring the show to a school and what happens is that kid goes home that night, parents say ‘hey, Bob, what did you do this morning?’ and they say ‘the Grand Theatre came to my school’ and then a conversation happens,” said Garnhum.

“If that can happen, that will make me very excited.”

Among the upcoming plays are Once, based on the award-winning film; A Christmas Carol, based on the classic Charles Dickens’ novel; and The Daisy Theatre, an unscripted variety show for grown-ups involving over 40 marionettes.