Opening Night Scholarship

Few scholarships benefit as many people as does the Opening Night Scholarship. This annual award rewards the student who receives it in obvious ways, but it also supports theatre at the University of Victoria, and acknowledges its many sponsors in a unique and entertaining fashion.

The Opening Night Scholarship was born in 1985, as part of an effort to revive interest in departmental shows presented on the stage of U.Vic's newly-relocated Phoenix Theatre. It was one of several strategies conceived by four students (Sandra Ashton, Astrid Beugeling, Grant Hartwick and Brenda Longland) and two of their instructors (Bindon Kinghorn and Wendy McPetrie), designed to draw patrons into the new theatre facility. Also introduced at the time was a season subscription series, dinner theatre, and outdoor barbecue theatre at the Faculty Club.

The idea behind the Opening Night Scholarship was to invite Phoenix supporters who normally attended opening nights to donate to a scholarship fund in lieu of purchasing a ticket. They were then rewarded with seating at the first performance of each production, followed by a reception in their honour. But the real fun started when the Phoenix Theatre constructed an elaborate theatre model with 200 empty seats and placed it in the front foyer. Whenever a donation was received, a cutout figure representing the donor, complete with name-tag, was seated in the miniature theatre. Theatre-goers watched as the tiny theatre filled up with beatniks and beach bums, hoodlums and high society, and the scholarship fund grew. The model attracted a lot of attention as donors came to see how they were depicted, and a number of interesting seating arrangements were discovered as people moved the cutout figures around the theatre.

It took only a few years for the scholarship fund to become firmly established, whilst attendance at the Phoenix Theatre grew to the point that it is now difficult at times to get a seat!

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