Theatre has progressed far from its beginnings in Nova Scotia - from
performances on boats in Port Royal, to the use of flying at Neptune!
Theatre in Nova Scotia essentially began with the performance of The Theatre of
Neptune in 1606 in Port Royal, this was the first theatrical performance in Canada.
Written by Marc Lescarbot, The Theatre of Neptune was an attempt to avoid mutiny,
entertain the settlers, and welcome Sameul de Champlain and Poutrincourt back to Port
Royal. The cast was a combination of French men and Mi’kmaq, they were directed by
Lescarbot and performed on canoes and barges in the basin.
Neptune Theatre in Halifax began in 1915, and was known as Strand Theatre. The
name Neptune Theatre was derived from Marc Lescarbot’s The Theatre of Neptune.
During the depression, in was closed, and reopened as a cinema. In 1963, it opened as
Neptune Theatre which we know today as a live theatre. It started slow, and many times
came close to closing for good; now it is Atlantic Canada's largest theatre! Neptune may
have been the first regular theatre group in Canada to tour, but that’s not definite.
Neptune continually renovates and with new additions all the time, it gets better all the
time. This year, with their performance of Peter Pan, flying is now possible as part of
their plays! Since 1983, another part of Neptune Theatre is the Neptune Theatre School –
exposing the art of acting, set management, directing and more to the masses.
Scholarships are available to those who don’t have the money and wish to pursue theatre.
Neptune's story is quite similar to many other Nova Scotian theatres. They all
started small, had a tough time going, but a lot of them are now quite successful. For
instance, Mermaid Theatre started in 1972 as a small troupe, based in Windsor, they now
perform all around the world! Their children's plays and puppets surpass many for unique
content as well as quality. This year they have various troupes touring at the same time so
to bring the charm of Mermaid Theatre to more of the world, more often.
The Nova Scotian theatre that is closest to my heart is King’s Theatre. Founded in
1921, King's Theatre in Annapolis Royal is the place where my passion for the theatrical
art originated. Many people take for granted that we have such a beautiful theatre nearby,
but King's has hosted many great troupes from around the province and beyond, two of
which we have already mentioned – Neptune Theatre , and Mermaid Theatre; their
traveling shows have been performed on King's stage. During the 400 celebration, I
returned to King's for some children's workshops, in which we wrote, acted, and created
sets for plays possessing themes related to the settlement of Port Royal and the 400
celebration. I really do think that King's Theatre is a gem among Nova Scotian Theatres.
A new theatre now in our midst is the Two Planks and a Passion Theatre, part of
the Ross Creek Center for the Arts. This theatre developed in 1992 in Canning, and it is
well on its way to being one of the best in the province. Their original Canadian themed
plays have won awards, and their adaptions continue to bring back the audiences. Starting
out as a touring group, Two Planks and a Passion has now settled down in Canning and
performs large scale plays to audiences on their outdoor stage. Truly a great development
for Nova Scotian, and Canadian theatre. Each summer they hold workshops at the Ross
Creek Center for the Arts in order to expose the arts to other people.
Theatre in Nova Scotia has progressed from the first play performed in Canada to
professional theatre performances around the world. Nova Scotian theatre continues to
progress and add new technology (and troupes) to the mix. Diversity is certainly nothing
we’re shy of, and our Canadian themed plays continue to thrill audiences.
Neptune Theatre http://www.neptunetheatre.com/content/About_Us
Two Planks and a Passion http://www.twoplanks.ca/about/historyandmission.html
Mermaid Theatre http://www.mermaidtheatre.ns.ca/about/index.shtml
King’s Theatre (Zouppa) http://nstp.ucis.dal.ca/zouppa_5227.html
Recorded memory of theatre life in Nova Scotia (Zouppa)
The Theatre of Neptune http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?
Nova Scotian Theatre Development
February 25, 2010