It’s all about welcoming back the community and top-notch talent to this intimate heritage venue. In fact, it’s the enchanting combination of it all, bolstered by eager audiences and quality shows, that has kept breathing life into this theatre for almost four decades.
Today, the Upper Canada Playhouse in Morrisburg welcomes more than 40,000 people annually and is known as the leading professional arts and culture organization in the Seaway Valley region of South Eastern Ontario.
Donnie Bowes, Artistic Director at the Playhouse, said the theatre is ushering in its 39th season, offering seven shows from May through December, including three world premiere productions. Bowes said they are thrilled to bring the lights up again for a full run.
Audiences are in for a treat with laughter, surprise and toe-tapping music all year long on stage at the Upper Canada Playhouse. Bowes noted the season features sensational spring and fall live concerts, hilarious summer comedies and a magical, musical Christmas family show – all performed by the finest talent in the country on a stage where patrons are close to the action.
“People are so ready for this,” said Bowes. “We all are. We offer what folks need right now – a chance to escape into a world of live entertainment and abandon our worries for some laughter and music.”
On The Bill For 2022
The stage will be buzzing with life this summer and fall, as a full run of shows is in the works. In fact, the season is already underway and the Playhouse has been welcoming eager audiences for several weeks.
- After a successful spring concert, summer kicked off at the beginning of June, with the premiere of Norm Foster’s new show, Doris and Ivy in the Home, running until June 26.
- Next up, from July 7 to July 31 is Sugar Road, a popular comedy by Kristen Da Silva, one of the hottest new playwrights in the country.
- Everyone’s invited to visit Wally’s Café by Sam Bobrick and Ron Clark on stage from August 4 to August 28.
- Another Foster hit, Come Down From Up River, concludes the summer series September 8 to October 2.
- Audiences will look forward to another new live concert The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt: What Might Have Been from October 18 to October 30.
The 2022 season at the Upper Canada Playhouse concludes with A Christmas Carol on stage from December 1 to December 18. The perfect family show, audiences will follow Scrooge’s classic journey to discover the true meaning of Christmas as it unfolds in a musical, magical adventure on an exciting revolving stage.
Rooted In Community
The Upper Canada Playhouse started as a summer theatre company in 1983. After presenting touring shows for its first season, the Playhouse soon mounted its own productions.
Bowes said the theatre has operated out of two interesting venues during its four decades of operation. “The theatre originally produced out of a large tent located on a country side-road on the outskirts of Morrisburg,” he said. “It sat over 300 people and often was filled to capacity with theatre-goers charmed by experiencing live theatre in the great outdoors.” Bowes admitted it had its challenges, with “both cars and geese honking horns during shows and rainstorms forcing unscheduled breaks in the action.”
So, in 1990 the theatre took a leap and purchased a former toothbrush and argyle sock factory in Morrisburg itself. The organization never looked back – it has since transformed the building into an intimate, 275-seat, climate-controlled venue where patrons are close to the action. “With some public funding and support, and chiefly by robust box office, the theatre has created a space that is totally equipped with an onsite box office, workshop, rehearsal hall, as well as state-of-the-art seating and technical facilities – while retaining the historic charm reflected on the stunning mural of old Morrisburg on the exterior of the venue,” Bowes said.
And audiences have responded. Since then, Upper Canada Playhouse operations have expanded to a full nine-month, eight-show season stretching from March through December, attracting an audience base derived from not only the Seaway Valley itself, but also the neighbouring urban centres of Ottawa, Brockville, Montreal, Northern New York State and the many smaller surrounding rural communities. The Playhouse has also been instrumental in the development and premiering of several concerts and plays which have gone on to realize success nationally at other venues.
Bowes said the audience appeal lies in the informality of the venue, the immediate impact of live theatre, and the inherent quality that professional theatres provide. He said it has all aided in growing the theatre’s local and tourist audience base, which also includes a robust bus tour component. However, he said that growth is also attributed to programming that speaks to a diverse blend of attendees.
“The theatre’s programming offers a mix of theatre and music, with a variety of genres to appeal to a wide audience. The shows are accessible, entertaining and thought-provoking and very often reflect the lives of the audiences that experience them,” Bowes said.
The Upper Canada Playhouse doesn’t stop at staging its own shows: it also offers an inspiring outlet for the community. The Playhouse provides local youth with an educational and interactive experience during its summer theatre school directed by professionals. Bowes said participants work as a team using theatre arts techniques to develop projects, increase their communication skills, build self-confidence and discover talents they never knew they had. In addition, the Playhouse also conducts theatre arts workshops with clients from Community Living Dundas County.
Bowes also notes that along with its many colleagues operating under the jurisdiction of Canadian Actors Equity Association and Professional Association of Canadian Theatres, The Playhouse makes a substantial contribution to the economic and cultural fabric of the rural communities it serves. The Upper Canada Playhouse location along the shores of the St. Lawrence River offers natural side-trip excursions to augment the live theatre experience.
Looking to learn more? Get the details on the Upper Canada Playhouse’s 2022 season by visiting uppercanadaplayhouse.com or contacting the Box Office at: 613-543-3713; toll free 877-550-3650.