Since 1938 friends, families and visitors to our community have been gathering at 22 Pleasant Street in Chester to experience movies, music and theatre and community events. A supportive and generous community has kept this jewel alive and thriving as an important arts venue on the south shore of Nova Scotia.
The Chester Playhouse is located on MIi’Kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship”, which Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) people signed with the British Crown in 1725.
SIGNIFICANT MILESTONES IN OUR 80-YEAR HISTORY
1938 – Kenerik Movie House
The Playhouse was originally built by Ken Corkum and Eric Redden as a movie theatre named Kenerik.
1963 –Chester Jesters
The first live performances were given in 1963 when Dick and Teka Burwell directed the Chester Jesters in the first of five annual summer productions.
1975 –Leading Wind Theatre
Leo and Dora Velleman purchased the building in 1975, renovated it and renamed it the “Leading Wind Theatre” after a clipper ship that counted Chester among its ports of call. The Velleman’s company, Canadian Puppet Festivals, operated from the theatre until merging with Mermaid Theatre in 1983.
1984 – The Chester Theatre Council
The Chester Theatre Council (CTC) was founded in 1984 to preserve the Leading Wind Theatre as a performing arts centre for the municipality of Chester.
1987 – Renamed Chester Playhouse
The building lay idle until 1987 when the Chester Theatre Council presented its first Chester Summer Festival production in July of that year, “Side By Side By Sondheim”. Thus began the tradition of presenting quality musicals and drama to our residents and summer visitors. In the fall of 1987, the building was purchased by Sir Christopher Ondaatje, renamed the Chester Playhouse.
1988 –More Permanent Seats
To increase the seating in the Playhouse permanent seats were added to the balcony bringing the capacity of the house to 176 seats.
1992 –Donated to the Council
The Ondaatje family donated the playhouse to the Chester Theatre Council in 1992 and the following year the entire building was renovated.
1999 –Raising the Roof
Additional renovations were done to make the Chester Playhouse a modern and comfortable facility for performers and patrons. Work done included a two-story addition to the back of the building which incorporates dressing rooms and a Green Room for performers, a workshop in which to create props and sets, and an updated electrical system. Additional donations allowed work to begin at the front of the building including a new upper lobby and re-established office space under a new (raised) roof.
2005 – Completion
The renovation project was completed in 2005 with the replacement of the original Box Office, an upgraded entry lobby, new washrooms, carpeting and a small art gallery.
2019 –Ruby Jubilee
The Chester Playhouse celebrated its Ruby Jubilee with its 80th anniversary of entertainment featuring Music, Theatre and Film in the Playhouse.
Through the continued support of ticket patrons, donors, sponsors, advertisers, volunteers and government funders, we will continue to build upon the rich history of the Playhouse and attract the finest musicians and actors from our region and beyond, entertain our patrons and provide learning and performing opportunities for youth.