‘That’s the ROYAL Manitoba Theatre Centre to you…’

Queen’s royal designation puts the MTC in elite company

RMTC producer Laurie Lam hopes the company’s royal designation will attract more audience members to shows. Dylan Hewlett

The Manitoba Theatre Centre is adding another letter to its acronym.

On Oct. 26, the theatre was given a royal designation by her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II. In her 57-year reign, the Queen has only given out 45 designations – the first one went to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet – making the designation an incredibly prestigious honour for the MTC.

Or, more accurately, the RMTC.

Shockingly, a royal designation does not involve the use of a sceptre or a fancy tea party. The Queen chooses from a selection of applicants who compete for the title and decides which one deserves the designation.

RMTC, the oldest English-speaking regional theatre in Canada, applied last year hoping that their stable reputation and illustrious history would get them the prestigious title.

Laurie Lam, producer at the RMTC and University of Winnipeg alumnus, said the RMTC is still in the process of figuring out how to appropriately use this great honour, but that those at the theatre are very humbled by the designation.

We see the royal designation as not only an honour to the theatre, but a tribute to the art form as a whole.

Laurie Lam, producer, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

“We see the royal designation as not only an honour to the theatre, but a tribute to the art form as a whole,” Lam said. “(The Queen) can place her trust in us for the long-term.”

She attributes the designation to the RMTC’s stable management team, who has been in place for over 20 years, the artistic excellence and the essential role that the RMTC plays in the theatre community.

The RMTC is one of the only theatres in Canada that tours outside its own province and ticket prices for plays cover only half the expenses (the other half is covered by fundraising and grants), making theatre more accessible and affordable to the community.

Theatre-goers will not see a difference in ticket prices or in the genres of plays presented, but Lam hopes that the royal designation will attract more audience members to the shows as well as performers to the theatre.

“It’s our goal to have as many people in the auditorium as on stage,” she said.

Lam sums up her passionate belief in Winnipeg’s strong theatre community with an anecdote from a few years ago:

“On a Sunday afternoon, it was minus 40 degrees, the snow crunched like Styrofoam and your breath was in huge clouds around your head,” she began. “I was walking downtown and not another soul was around, except for one man. I asked him if he happened to be going to (RMTC’s annual master playwright festival) and he was, so we walked together.

“The theatre was completely packed when we got there and it was like ‘Wow, Winnipeg is the greatest city on earth!’”

Published in Volume 65, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 11, 2010)

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