Valmiera theater to keep dramatic flame burning in boiler house

Take note – story published 1 year and 6 months ago

During the reconstruction of its landmark building the acclaimed Valmiera Drama Theater has found a new home in a former boiler house, hence its name: "Kurtuve" (Fireplace). 

"Kurtuve" is  a former municipal boiler house. However, with reconstruction works of the theater building in Valmiera currently suspended and likely to take a long time to complete, the theater collective has been forced to find a temporary home to enable it to continue delivering high-quality drama to northern Latvia.

Currently, the premises of the former boiler house are empty, but the director of the Valmiera Drama Theater, Evita Ašeradena, already has a clear idea of what the theater's temporary home will look like: "First of all, this is already a wonderful place in its own right; I think that right now the best things in Europe are happening in industrial buildings... The audience number will be limited to 110. If there were more, then there are other requirements and it could not be done so quickly."

The quick conversion for theatrical use is also supported by the county municipality, and since the idea is to create a legacy space for contemporary art in the future, chairman of the county council Jānis Baiks says Valmiera will benefit in the longer term: "The space will remain as a big, huge space where you can host exhibitions or different kinds of art event. The state also allocated funding for the creation of temporary premises, and the municipality will provide co-financing, because that money is not enough for everything on its own."

The deadlines for adapting the former boiler house to the needs of the theater are quite tight, basically just over a month.

"Everything has to be ready here on December 1, then we come in and set up the stage, and for us, I think the first performances have already been scheduled on December 12," theater director Evita Ašeradena reveals.

Jānis Baiks states: "At the moment, everything is documented in order, there are already contracts for the start of construction, the technical project has been developed, and this week the builders are already coming in here and will start work."

The theater was forced to make its boiler house contingency plan after reconstruction of its permanent home threw up several unpleasant surprises. The Soviet-era construction methods and materials were revealed to be shoddy and dangerous, so that building work was suspended by officials and plans had to be revised. In addition, soaring prices of building materials placed a question mark over the budget. 

The owner of the theater building, the state property company "Valsts nekustamie īpašumi"  (State real estate) promises that the reconstruction works will resume in November, but while new contractors are being sought, the director of the theater Evita Ašeradena is concerned that the fabric of the building is exposed to the elements and quickly degrading. Currently it is estimated that construction work at the theater will be concluded in spring 2024, meaning that the centenary of the theatre will likely be marked at its temporary home.

"We will probably celebrate our centenary here. The centenary of the theater is in September 2023, we will have a centenary in Kurtuve, but I think that the city of Valmiera will only benefit from it, the audience will get used to the fact that there is an art space here, I think that we will warm up Kurtuve as much as we can," says Ašeradena.

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