Heart of the World inside (I am not the girl in the photo)

Inside of the theatre is a neglected microcosm, thoroughly dreamlike and unexpectedly specific. The foyer is much of what you would expect, rag painted light blue and carrying the dim scent of dropped-rail fluorescents, but farther in, however, are surprises. It’s a 300 seat theatre, complete with a balcony with box seats, and though there’s a very certain air of shabby mistreatment, everything’s quite intact. The heavy velvet curtains still swing with a glorious weight and the stage, as much as we could see of it, seems undamaged.

Unfortunately, the realtor was astonishingly unhelpful on the matter of light-switches, which left significant portions of the building lost in a sinister darkness. Backstage, for example, an immense space, three stories tall. I tried to use my camera flash to see, only to discover a maze of chairs and miscellany piled a decade high, impossible to navigate without a steady light. Under the stage was more darkness, this time obscuring a suite of blank rooms I presume used to serve as the proper backstage area, the green room, and where the old caretaker used to live when it the The New York.

They let him live there in exchange for janitorial services. Silva talked to him in 1986, when we lived in the building adjacent, and discovered that he used to be an architect, but blew his mind out when he took a tab of acid that turned out to be something else entirely. He said to her, “I remember when I used to be smart, but I’m not anymore.”

I didn’t brave many of those rooms, only the ones easiest to find lights in, as stepping so blindly into the darkness felt as perilous as it very likely was. I might have been the first person to explore them in years.

Upstairs was far more promising to investigate. The booth, though ridiculously cluttered with celluloid heaps of Bollywood spools, oddly shaped reel tins, and strange burlap covered boxes marked AIRMAIL MUMBAI, is entirely in working order. The equipment looks to be possibly from the fourties, which is modestly intimidating, but the bulb’s been replaced recently enough to alleviate worries about sudden burnout. (What an annoying bill that would be. Ouch.) All in all, it looks to be perfect. (Even down to the fact that the bolt on the booth door is a screwdriver.)

My only concerns will likely be dealt with once I get my hands on both the floor-plans and the current owner’s financial records form the last three months. That will let me A. find the damned lights, and B. finish a proper business plan to interest financers with.

In the meanwhile, this is the rough-draft of my blurb that I’m going to want everyone to whore around – if you have any suggestions to improve it, please don’t hesitate to tell me:

Built in 1910, the Raja Theatre has recently come up for sale. When it was the New York – before it spent a decade as a Bollywood house – the theatre was a fabulous venue known for hosting an astonishing number of fantastic shows, diverse and interesting, such as Neil Young when he toured with Sonic Youth and Krispin Hellion Glover. It is my hope to buy the building and re-open it as the Heart of the World, a multi-arts cultural venue that recaptures and surpasses its previous glory.

Heart of the World is to be an art house repertory, showing everything from original work, (support your artists, people!), to old films where the copyright’s run out, and double-bills like Marc Caro nights, (Amélie, Delicatessen, City of the Lost Children), everyone’s favourite director they never knew the name of. It will also be available for both acoustic and amplified concerts, plays, short performances, and coffee house cabaret evenings. The stage is quite big, and once we dig it out from the decade high pile of uprooted chairs and miscellaneous boxes, it will be beautiful again. I’d also like to have podcasts of performances available on-line for download and use the foyer as a small art gallery of paintings and photography from artists both local and international.

I am attempting to find investors, and if you want to help, please contact me at Foxtongue@shaw.ca with your name and your specialties. Even if you think you’ve got nothing to offer, I’m sure we can find a place for you. Every bit of help is appreciated and work, depending on category, will be paid in shares.

If you think you could help with financing, either by a small donation or by a larger contribution, here’s my plan:

An investor, which could be you or someone you know, buys the theatre outright under contract with me that I eventually pay them the full amount, but that I only end up owning a controlling share, just over half the property. I take care of the taxes, the etceteras, and I make the venue work. I run the place and ultimately we are both in the enviable position of making money with a good thing. The investor is guaranteed to make a profit no matter what happens – even if I default, they still own a considerable asset, one that will be worth more by then from all the work I’ll have put in.

Basically the investor gets all their money back, I get the controlling share, and we both get a really awesome venue that not only enriches Vancouver culturally and opens space to artists, but which promises to provide a steady income.

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