Concerts that delight the audience AND the artists
By Marilyn De Lang (Republished from Dockside Magazine)
A true entrepreneur, Peter Swanek is a man who wanted to make a change in his life, went for it, and realized his dream! Thanks to his vision and spirit, the town of Gravenhurst has a year-round intimate theatre with a very special character. For the past four years, Peter has brought superb musical performances to Muskoka, attracting a devoted following of fans from all over the province and beyond.
Opening to a sold-out inaugural performance in 2008 which featured international bluesmen James Cotton and Johnny Winter, Peter’s Players, a licensed intimate concert hall, continues to develop its reputation as a serious theatre with an impressive line-up of talent.
From garage to concert hall As a general contractor doing house renovations, Peter did some hard thinking when a divorce prompted a second look at life. “I didn’t enjoy my work,” he says, “but what I DID like was listening to music.” He contacted musicians – directly at first, and then through agents – and launched a concert series in his Innisfil home. “I just moved the furniture out of the living and dining rooms, plunked in some benches, and the people came,” he remembers. In 2006, he moved up north and bought a house with an attached garage, once the home of Moe’s Auto Repair Shop. By 2008, the garage was transformed into a concert theatre with great acoustics, lighting, and stadium seating, with later additions of a new lobby and artists’ green room.
Musical freedom in casual surroundings
Michelle first met Peter as an enthusiastic fan at one of his Innisfil concerts. When she learned that he was opening a theatre in Gravenhurst with Cotton and Winter, she tried to get a ticket. “When I heard that it was sold out,” she says, “I offered my services as a volunteer bartender.” From here, Michelle became a devoted partner in business as well as life, selling her home in Innisfil and leaving her 20- year career as a dental assistant behind.
Somewhat like the impresarios of bygone years, it’s all about the music for the couple. “Artists feel a real connection with their musical roots when they play at our theatre,” says Michelle. The unpretentious setting gives them the freedom to express their personalities in a way that isn’t possible on a huge concert stage. In fact, sometimes the modest Gravenhurst theatre is the sole choice of venue for international artists: it’s the only Canadian stop for the Yardbirds this summer!
One man’s determination to act on his dream is Muskoka’s good fortune! Peter’s Players will continue to attract talented performers who respond to its laidback ambience. Upcoming shows are always listed on the website, but Peter and Michelle keep their clientele informed through their email list, because sold-out performances are pretty standard fare at Peter’s!