Northeast Public Sector
Operating North Bay’s Capitol Centre has been a blessing and curse for Diane “Dee” Adrian.
Yet, she can’t imagine doing any other line of work that’s quite as satisfying, says the northeast public sector award recipient.
Doing double-duty as a ‘jill-of-all trades’ is part of the routine in managing the historic and active Main Street performing arts venue with more than 300 days of events.
“There’s a love for facility management and bringing new and different acts to the community.”
On performance night, she’s the one with the long, shimmering evening gown mopping up around the toilets as the patrons arrive.
“There really isn’t a job in this building that I haven’t done.”
As general manager of the Capitol Centre, she has become an impromptu boiler technician, roofer, janitor and negotiator.
She’s crawled through tunnels in the bowels of the building, patched pipes and holes in the roof, cleared dead pigeons from dressing rooms before the entertainers arrived, and cleaned the stately 79-year-old venue from top to bottom.
It’s been a constant, but exciting, on-the-job training since Adrian arrived in North Bay nine years ago.
“There could be a line-up at the door, meanwhile, I’m speaking on the phone and directing traffic with my hands, and e-mailing, all at the same time.
“This wouldn’t be everyone’s choice.”
A recent performance of the ‘Evita’ theatre group from New York, the Capitol’s biggest of the year, had the actors in near-hysterics when the roof began leaking during set-up.
“That’s a constant battle in a building that dates back to 1929. When I say I’ve seen it all, I won’t say that too loudly.”
It’s a pressure-oriented job, but when discussions get heated, her nominators say Dee can be counted as the voice of reason with a reputation for fairness and integrity.
And since not-for-profit organizations don’t always pay the best, there’s always employee turnover, keeping Adrian in training mode.
Luckily, in an arts-oriented community like North Bay, she can rely on a dedicated army of 80 volunteers.
Her Calgon-moments are spent roller-blading or cross-country skiing to clear the mental cob-webs or think matters through.
“As busy as I am, fitness is my outlet.”
Despite the long hours, the single mother of three daughters never misses a dance recital, school play, graduation or any other family event. Adrian caught the show business bug doing public relations and programming at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium. “I absorbed constantly,” learning about contractual agreements, union negotiations, show bookings and hospitality riders.
In Thunder Bay, she was one of the original plank-holders walking into a modern performing arts theatre.
But moving in 1999 to manage the antiquated 1,000-seat Capitol Centre was an eye-opener.
The building hadn’t seen substantial renovations for decades.
She had to tackle everything from rebuilding the office filing system to figuring out why red water was running out of the boiler.
But in her nine years, she’s been able to deliver more than $1.5 million in capital projects.
To keep the theatre looking fresh, it’s meant creating something out of nothing and frequent trips to Value Village or Rebuilt Resources.
On the programming side, Adrian has made ‘The Cap’ more inclusive and affordable, especially through children’s programming with a Harry Potter Day, summer theatre camps, March break and birthday parties and garage band competition for the Much-Music generation.
But it will always be a challenge to secure money and steer the centre into a break-even financial position.
At grant application time, the ‘Queen of Grants’ can easily pull 12 to 15 hours, working well into the evening.
She’s been credited with a financial turnaround of close to $50,000 in 2004 and has been a community leader in nurturing local arts organizations and creating activities to promote the arts.
Still Dee’s all-consuming job remains a passion after 25 years, one that she’s grown to love.
“In the arts there’s long hours, but how many people actually say they love their job, hit the ground running every day and are anxious to get there.”
“I consider myself very lucky, very enthusiastic and I’ve always maintained I need to learn something new every day.”