The potential loss of the Waldorf Hotel as an arts and culture venue is troubling for Richard Stroh, artistic director of Squidamisu Theatre.
Waldorf Productions, the operators of the refurbished East Vancouver hotel, have announced they plan to move out on January 20.
“When I first heard about it, I was shocked,” Stroh told the Straight. “I was like, oh my goodness, this could be the end of another venue, another platform for people to produce artistic endeavours.”
While the Waldorf’s downstairs area is a popular venue for live music and dancing, its upstairs hotel rooms have also been put to use by artists and performers.
During last year’s Vancouver International Fringe Festival, Squidamisu Theatre mounted George F. Walker’s Suburban Motel plays in one of the hotel rooms.
Actors and audience members crowded together in the small space, a ready-made stage for the six-play cycle that explores the gritty underside of urban life.
Stroh said the hotel’s décor, odours and other natural elements, like the sound of police sirens wailing outside, all contributed to the theatrical experience.
“They allowed us to actually mount shows in their hotel rooms, which was a totally amazing gift,” he said.
“The Waldorf just was the best fit based on the play’s subject matter, its setting, and the Waldorf’s surroundings, and the elements of the people that you find in the hallways.”
The hotel rooms have also been used by visual artists. Black & Yellow Gallery has been based in a second-floor room since March 2011, rent-free.
Stroh praised the Waldorf’s management for their support for the arts. He said Squidamisu Theatre was given use of the hotel room at no charge for the production.
Because of the uncertainty over the Waldorf Hotel’s future, Stroh’s hopes for remounting the Suburban Motel plays on such a unique stage are in doubt.
“The thought of going somewhere else for that, it’s just really sad because it was perfect,” Stroh said. “In my mind, the Waldorf and the Suburban Motel collaboration was just perfect.”