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International Theatre Week

This being International Theatre Week, it causes one to ponder this community's history of theatre. It is a long one. I recall a 1818 newspaper advertizing The Charlottetown Amateur Theatre and by 1827 a call for proposals for building " the new intended theatre in this town". It is not clear whether they managed to build at that time, but it is obvious that the interest was here. In 1854 The Temperance Hall, at the NE corner of Prince and Grafton Street, was built and many fine cultural events were held there. The changes in its name confirm the interest ; Philharmonic Hall, The Athenaeum, Gospel Army Hall to name a few. That building had certainly encouraged the community. After the Johnny Hatch fire in 1883, that destroyed what is now the Bank of Commerce corner, the community was gungho enough to consider the need to build a 2500-3000 seat hall. When the Masons build their Temple [a portion of which was later to become The Prince Edward Theatre] in 1890 on Grafton Street, Charlottetown had it's first official theatre altho' it was a long way from 2500 seats. The Strand Theatre in the stone Market Building and the Lyceum in the old Bible Christian Church on Prince Street entered the scene about this time, too. They were not of the same league. As the years went by those building did not meet the needs of the community either. When the new Prince of Wales College was being built in 1931 the lobbying was strong to include a "suitable entertainment hall" for the community. They sited as their main reason the fact that The Prince Edward charged too much making it "practically impossible to come through with anything more than a meagre balance..." So we saw, in our day, PWC being the location for Community Concerts, Music Festivals and many theatrical presentations. It was never as fine as the Prince Edward, of course, and it continued to be the location where Easter Monday or Saint Patrick's Plays were held and Red Glove Revues and the like. When the Little Theatre Guild was begun in 1936 they could be found performing anywhere there was a stage; The Old Lyceum, Heartz Hall at Trinity Church, and for really big shows the Prince Edward, until finally they found their permanent home on Willow Street. There were other places like church halls and the Holy Name Hall and later there were the school auditoriums. The point is that amateur theatre, supported by the occasional travelling professional group, was alive and well in this community for many, many years. Theatre was held for the enjoyment of the audience and the performers not for the Bus Tours, a problem that plagues us today.

Written Friday, March 30, 2001 at 01:28 AM

(c) 2000 by Catherine Hennessey. Questions or comments? Email me@catherinehennessey.com

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