To say Jacquie Gordon gave a lot to the Tidemark Theatre in Campbell River is an understatement.
Gordon passed away in 2021, but ensured that her legacy of giving back to the theatre would continue. Gordon left two $10,000 gifts in her will, one to the Campbell River Community Foundation and one to the Tidemark Theatre itself to ensure that arts in Campbell River would always have support.
The Tidemark Theatre Society coordinated with the Community Foundation to use both funds, as well as donations made in her name after her funeral to set up a legacy endowment fund with the money, which will benefit the theatre in perpetuity.
“The whole idea of the endowment fund, especially for arts, arts facilities and arts organizations, is to grow … and give back the interest … so that the facility or organization can continue to operate,” said Jim Kent, managing director for the Tidemark Theatre. “This is tremendous seed money that has allowed us to honour Jacquie’s contributions specifically to the Tidemark Theatre throughout her life.”
Gordon was instrumental in starting the theatre. Her daughter Christina Gordon said that things really got moving after performers from the famous Russian Bolshoi Ballet company came to Campbell River in 1981 for a performance “complete with security guards holding Kalashnikovs and all that kind of stuff and we had them up at Carihi High.”
The Gordon family, which included Jacquie, Christina and Heather Gordon Murphy, put together the show, but “(Jacquie) was mortified that dancers from the Bolshoi (company) in Russia were having to dance in a gymnasium,” Christina said. “So that’s when he really just went whole hog on converting the Van Isle (Theatre).”
The Tidemark, which started out as the Van Isle theatre, originally showed movies. It was built in 1946, and officially opened in early 1947. The Gordon sisters remembered seeing Star Wars there. However, after the Bolshoi incident and the growth of the theatre scene in Courtenay, Jacquie’s push to make the Tidemark into what it is today really took off.
From there, Jacquie pushed Campbell River’s city council at the time to show an interest in the nascent Friends of the Tidemark society — which predated the Tidemark Theatre Society — and begin converting the old Van Isle movie theatre into what it is today. The city purchased the property in 1985.
“My sister actually did name it,” Gordon Murphy said. “We had a contest to name it and people put their names in and Christina came up with the Tidemark, it’s where the tide would be if the Tyee Plaza didn’t exist. I saw a picture of driftwood against the front door.”
When the Tidemark finally did open in 1987, the community held a celebration. There was a jazz night, two nights of dance, a classical music night and a final show that combined it all together.
“Sybil Andrews was feted … her art came out of the era, at least a lot of the art that she did in Campbell River.”
Andrews’ art also inspired the original decor of the building: the kelp motif that once adorned the lobby was painted by Marcy Prior.
The rest of the decor was all Jacquie, however.
“Because it was an art deco building, she took a trip down to Washington to study the architecture of the art deco buildings of the time,” said Gordon Murphy. “So that’s why it’s pink.
“She wanted to keep that feeling of the era when it was actually created. It was where we went to the movies.”
Keeping with the art deco theme is the original neon sign, which wasn’t easy to source on the Island in the late 1980s.
“She fought to have a neon sign,” said Gordon Murphy.
“We had to hunt for somebody to make a new, not retrofitted, neon sign.” Christina added. “Lots of times when people talk about playing the Tidemark Theatre they talk about the neon sign. How often do you go to a theatre that’s not in Toronto or New York that has a neon sign?”
Other Jacquie touches are the mom and baby room, which is a rarity in theatres.
Though Jacquie only performed once (not counting one production in high school), her life was lived for the arts: whether backstage, making costumes or pushing for support in the community.
“It was Jackie’s ability to pool the support in and to drive it forward unrelentingly,” Kent said. “She was a sweetheart, but she was a force as well.”
The result of all that work is the Tidemark as it is known and loved today.
“It’s well-known across Canada as the little pink theatre at the end of the road,” Kent said.
“We’re able to bring in world-class acts, and also really honour and support our grassroots people, who can come in and perform as well,” said Christina. “That’s really the key to running a very successful community theatre. I know that’s what my mom wanted.”
The fund is now open, and people can donate at the Tidemark Theatre website. All of the funds donated go into the endowment fund, and interest is used every year to help with the theatre’s upkeep and operations.
“The role that Jackie played is really really special,” said Michaela Arruda of the Community Foundation. “The piece that she was able to give to the Tidemark to start an endowment fund is just such an incredible way for her name, memory and honor to live on.
“The theatre is such an amazing place, and we have to be thankful to Jacquie for it.”
ArtsCampbell RiverLocal NewsTidemark Theatre