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Replacing the Playhouse offers an exciting opportunity for our community

Photo by Stephen MacGillivray Photography &

Extensive technical reviews have found the Fredericton Playhouse is in fair to poor condition. 

Over the past months, there have been a number of announcements and news stories about a new regional performing arts centre to replace the existing Fredericton Playhouse and better serve our community.

This project, lead by Fredericton Playhouse Inc. in partnership with the City of Fredericton, is a large, complex undertaking, which reasonably raises a number of questions and prompts a healthy community conversation about the future of cultural infrastructure and its role in addressing broader economic development, cultural development, and quality of life goals and aspirations shared in our region.

The origin of the new performing arts centre project goes back over decade, when our organization began learning about the end-of-life reality that our building faces. Understandably, many people have questions about the state of the building, and wonder what exactly is wrong with it. For a more in-depth answer, I would encourage you to visit the Playhouse’s YouTube page, where you’ll find a video titled “Looking Inside the Fredericton Playhouse.” For now, I’ll provide a general overview of the issues with the facility.

Since 2005, the Playhouse and the City of Fredericton have commissioned a number of studies to try to extend the 53-year-old building’s life for future generations. Unfortunately, all of these extensive technical reviews revealed that most of the facility is in fair to poor condition.

Most of the issues are not visible from a cursory glance at the exterior or the public interiors, and Playhouse management has worked hard to keep the building safe and looking relatively good. That’s because the problems lie in systems and components that are not easily visible or accessible, such as HVAC, electrical and structural issues.

To offer a few specific examples, the Playhouse is incredibly energy inefficient, using 2.6 times more energy than a comparable building. The building has no insulation and has outdated mechanical systems, making it difficult to heat and cool the building. Additionally, the electrical system needs to be completely replaced, as some parts are more than 50 years old.

It’s also important to note that the costs of maintaining the Playhouse as a safe and functional venue continue to escalate. More and more public and private funding, earned income and other resources are being directed toward building maintenance each year.

Of course, when Fredericton Playhouse Inc. was first informed about these serious problems, we explored the possibility of refurbishing the building. What we learned was that, at best, a refurbishment would extend the facility’s life for about 30 years, yet it would cost $12.3 million, and we would need to make many updates to meet current building codes.

Life-safety, fire protection, egress and accessibility requirements would necessitate major changes; elevators would be required to reach the balcony, exits with fire separation would need to be added from all areas of the auditorium, and fire protection such as sprinklers would be required. The studies we’ve conducted have found that these changes would cause a dramatic loss to our current seating capacity (from 709 to 463), effectively taking us backward rather than forward in meeting the needs of the community, never mind expanding our potential impact.

We also considered whether it was feasible to expand the current building beyond its current land envelope, to maintain seating while still meeting life-safety and other codes. But at a cost of $19.2 million, this option would still fail to meet the needs of our community, and would leave us without improved infrastructure for future generations.

Ultimately, taking all of this information into consideration, the City of Fredericton and Fredericton Playhouse Inc. determined that a new regional performing arts centre is the best option to replace the existing Playhouse. This option presents an exciting opportunity. This new 72,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility will have two major performance venues: an 850-seat main hall and a 300-seat flexible performance space with shared lobbies, amenities and backstage functions.

I know many people are curious about what will happen to the existing Playhouse and the land it occupies once it’s replaced, and that’s a concern that the City of Fredericton will address in the months ahead. For now, all we know for certain is that the building would be decommissioned. Fredericton City Council will consider a number of options before determining what to do with the land. We believe that there are certainly opportunities for this important site to serve the broader public interests.

Arriving at the decision that the Fredericton Playhouse must be replaced has been a difficult one for our organization, but we also see so much potential for our community in the new performing arts centre. We find ourselves in the position to turn the challenge of losing the Playhouse into an exciting opportunity to move forward in a meaningful way.

Greg MacFarlane is the Vice-President of Fredericton Playhouse Inc.’s Board of Directors.  

Rick Miller’s BOOM is a mind-blowing experience for audiences of all generations


BOOMSlideoming to the Fredericton Playhouse on Friday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m., BOOM is an explosive new solo performance that documents the music, culture and politics that shaped the Baby Boom generation.

From Dora and Gemini-winning performer Rick Miller, BOOM will take audiences through 25 turbulent years, giving voice to over 100 influential politicians, activists and musicians.

Using cutting-edge multimedia, unforgettable characters and tour-de-force storytelling, BOOM allows audience members to experience global events as they unfolded, from the Cold War, Beatlemania, JFK and the Vietnam War, all the way through to the Summer of Love. This performance is a mind-blowing experience for audiences of all generations.

Tickets for BOOM are available through the Fredericton Playhouse box office by calling 458-8344 or online at

This is That LIVE offers behind-the-scenes look at award-winning satirical CBC radio show

31. ThisIsThat

On Wednesday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m., This is That LIVE will bring the award-winning satirical CBC radio show to life on the Fredericton Playhouse stage.

Hot on the heels of the release of their first book, This is That: Travel Guide to Canada, and a string of viral videos, Pat Kelly and Peter Oldring offer an intimate look behind the scenes of their hit show.

Featuring a mix of character interviews and mockumentary stories, this send up of public radio doesn’t just talk about the issues, it fabricates them. Nothing is off-limits – politics, business culture, justice, science, religion – all the issues relevant to Canadians.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see how Kelly and Oldring create the voices and develop content for their hilarious and completely improvised radio show.

Tickets for This is That LIVE are available through the Fredericton Playhouse box office by calling 458-8344 or online at

Hit Fringe festival show Roller Derby Saved My Soul is a fun and uplifting comedy


The hit one-woman Fringe play Roller Derby Saved My Soul is coming to the Fredericton Playhouse on Friday, April 21 at 7:30 p.m.

Since premiering at the Ottawa Fringe Festival in 2011, Roller Derby Saved My Soul has charmed critics and audiences all over the world. Roller derby and superheroes collide in this delightful comedy, described by CBC as “perfect escapism and purely satisfying entertainment.”

With a mixture of heartwarming honesty and snappy observations, the play follows two sisters who try to navigate the tough competitive world of roller derby and finally learn to unleash the hero within. Written by and starring New Brunswick’s own Nancy Kenny, this one-woman show is fun, uplifting and original.

In addition to this performance, the Playhouse is pleased to present a free film screening of On the Fringe on Wednesday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. in partnership with Mayworks Fredericton. This feature-length documentary follows the adventures of artists touring the Canadian Fringe Festival circuit during the summer of 2014. Directly following the film there will be a discussion with Nancy Kenny, who is also the executive producer of On the Fringe.

The Playhouse will also host a free Experience More! Pre-Show Derby Demo on April 21 at 7 p.m. Members of the Capital City Rollers will present a brief demonstration of their roller derby skills and techniques on stage, right before Roller Derby Saved My Soul begins.

Pleased be advised this performance contains occasional use of strong language.

Tickets for Roller Derby Saved My Soul are available through the Fredericton Playhouse box office by calling 458-8344 or online at

Jake’s Gift commemorates Second World War with poignancy and surprising humour

29. JakesGift

On Tuesday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m., the Fredericton Playhouse Spotlight Series will present award-winning Canadian play Jake’s Gift.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2017, Jake’s Gift has been performed in over 200 communities across Canada and overseas, including a much-lauded performance at the Playhouse in 2009.

This powerful one-person performance by playwright Julia Mackey follows a Second World War veteran who reluctantly returns to Normandy, France to commemorate the D-Day landings. There, he meets a young girl who challenges him to confront long-ignored ghosts – most notably, the wartime death of his elder brother.

Full of poignancy and surprising humour, at its heart, Jake’s Gift is a story about the legacy of remembrance. This touching performance personalizes the story behind one soldier’s grave.

Following the performance, the Playhouse is pleased to present a free Experience More! Conversation with Julia Mackey. Moderated by journalist Christine McLean, this event will allow the audience to learn more about the artist’s background, while also highlighting her interpretation and development of the artistic process and exploring her motivation to create.

Jake’s Gift is a Pay What You Will show, a pricing idea introduced last season, offered on select Playhouse performances. This initiative was introduced with a goal of increasing access to Playhouse programs, and encouraging patrons to take a chance on new and exciting performances. For more information about how Pay What You Will works, please click here.

Tickets for Jake’s Gift are available through the Fredericton Playhouse box office by calling 458-8344.

Nominations sought for The Playhouse Honours 2017

The Fredericton Playhouse is asking the public for nominations for The Playhouse Honours 2017.

Since 2008, the Fredericton Playhouse board of directors has awarded The Playhouse Honours annually. The recognition honours individuals’ involvement in the performing arts in Fredericton, fostering a deeper appreciation of the value that people can make to community life through their work in music, theatre, dance, spoken word, and multidisciplinary performing arts. A permanent display in the west gallery of the Playhouse recognizes the honourees.

The Playhouse Honours award is a way of thanking community leaders who have made a meaningful contribution to Fredericton through their involvement in the performing arts,” says Susan Holt, president of the Fredericton Playhouse board of directors. “This initiative recognizes a deserving individual each year, and it’s also an opportunity to celebrate with the many community members whose lives have been significantly impacted by the recipient.”

Nominations can be made by any person or organization. Underscoring the personal investment that they have made in the community, recipients must be individuals, not companies or organizations. Recipients may be a professional or amateur artist, administrator, volunteer, educator, philanthropist, advocate, organizer, etc. A selection committee (jury) comprised of members of the local arts community will review the submissions and recommend an honouree to the Fredericton Playhouse board of directors.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, April 28, 2017. Past recipients include Ilkay Silk (2008), Brent Staeben (2009), Philip Sexsmith (2010), Walter Learning (2011), Mabel Doak (2012), Bonnie Kilburn (2013), Michael Doherty (2014), Hrvoje and Aida Tisler (2015) and Peter Pacey (2016). The Playhouse Honours is proudly presented by Atlantic Mediaworks.

To nominate a candidate for The Playhouse Honours award, please fill in the following information and complete a written submission of no more than two (2) pages describing the reasons you feel that your nominee should be considered for The Playhouse Honours.

An emphasis should be placed on the accumulated contributions of individuals over a period of time and consideration should be given to the local legacy and impact of the nominee on community life and the performing arts.

To the selection committee:
I/we hereby nominate [name(s)]
to receive The Playhouse Honours.
Telephone: Email:

You may attach additional information such as letters of support, materials, testimonials, etc. to your submission.

Nominations may be sent to:
The Playhouse Honours Committee
Fredericton Playhouse
686 Queen Street
Fredericton, NB
E3B 1C2
Fax: 506‐459‐6206

For more information please contact Valerie Hillier at 4596209 or visit

Preparing for Performances Takes More Effort Than You May Realize…


Measha Brueggergosman performs at the Playhouse.

When you attend a performance at the Playhouse, the show you’re seeing on stage is a final product. What you may not realize is that our technical and front of house staff begins to prepare for a performance weeks before it reaches the stage.

Last season, the Playhouse hosted 120 events. I thought it might be interesting to take a behind-the-scenes look at the process our staff goes through to prepare for each and every one of these shows.

With as many as three to five performances on our stage during an average week, Playhouse staff members are easily communicating with 15 to 25 different artists or groups at any given time.

A member of our technical department typically reaches out to the artist about a month before their show. Sometimes we’ll communicate directly with the performer, sometimes with a tour manager, technical director or production manager.

This early conversation, known as the “advance” is an opportunity to describe the Playhouse’s specifications; touring artists perform in a wide range of different venues, all of which have different lighting, sound and stage capabilities, so it’s important that they understand our particular details. It’s also a chance for our technical department to determine whether the artist will bring their own technicians, and to discuss how many Playhouse crew members will be needed.

Over the weeks ahead, our technical staff will discuss the artist’s needs in great detail, depending on the type of performance. For example, in the case of a band, we would need to know elements like the artist’s “stage plot”, which determines where the instruments and equipment should be located on the stage.

Most dance and theatrical performances will provide us with a detailed technical rider, a document that explains how to set up the stage, lighting, sound and sets for the show. The rider provides our technical department with a solid understanding of elements like lighting cues, and the ways we will need to use our fly system to raise and lower sets. About a week in advance, the technical department will send along a confirmation sheet to summarize all the technical details, as well as the schedule for the day and the crew requirements.

Our patron services manager also reaches out to the artist about two weeks before the show to begin preparing their “front-of-house” experience. This is an opportunity to discuss everything from catering and merchandise needs, to the artist’s photography policy, as well as the details concerning any special post-show receptions or meet-and-greets that might be planned. This department is also responsible for scheduling volunteers, bartenders and merchandise sellers to work during the show.

The day of the show is when all of this behind-the-scenes work pays off. Most often, touring artists will load in their instruments, sets and other props and equipment earlier on the day of the performance. Our technical crew will set up lighting to the artist’s specifications, and will run sound checks and rehearsals if required. In the meantime, our front of house department sets up catering, prepares merchandise areas, ensures any show programs are prepared and ready to be handed out, and checks in with the artist to make sure their needs are met.

Some shows are more complicated than others. While a standup comedian might just require a single microphone, a full theatrical performance could require complex sets, which may need to be changed during the show. All of these factors are taken into account during the planning and execution of the setup.

Once the performance is finished, the technical crew works quickly to remove all of the artist’s equipment and load it onto their truck, making sure the stage is ready to go for the next day when, often, our team will start the process over again from scratch.

Thanks to these extensive preparations, performances at the Playhouse should appear effortless from the audience’s perspective. But make no mistake; there are many more hours of planning and preparation than there are hours of performance. We work hard to ensure our patrons’ only job is to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Tim Yerxa is the Executive Director of the Fredericton Playhouse.