It takes a village to raise a playhouse, and a playhouse to raise a village

By Guest Blogger Michelle Annette Tremblay

There is a place in Bancroft — a truly special place — that is adored by local residents and seasonal visitors alike. It has watched over the picturesque downtown, from its perch at 5 Hastings street, for almost 100 years, going through several incarnations. Originally the town hall, it later became the local jail and court house, and then a Christian education centre where many locals still remember attending Sunday school as children. According to numerous credible sources, it is haunted; but don’t worry, the ghosts seem friendly enough, if not a bit bashful.

Every summer, throngs of people climb the steps of the historic building — which the community renovated into a permanent centre for the performing arts in 1993 — and crowd its lobby. Once inside, you’d never guess it’s ever been anything other than a performing arts centre; various original features have been lovingly restored, the auditorium has vintage velvet seats and luxurious stage curtains, and the lobby has gorgeous tin ceilings. Of course, I am talking about the Village Playhouse.

In many ways it’s the cultural and creative heart of the community. Many of Bancroft’s youths got their first job at the Village Playhouse, working the concession stand or ushering. Well known business owners, teachers, politicians, and people from just about every part of the community have graced the stage, showing off their acting chops, and bowing to enthusiastic applause. Past performances have ranged from tear-jerking dramas, to energetic musicals, to beloved farces and comedies. Within its walls, dreams are shared, laughter constantly erupts, and life-long friendships are made. Many new residents say that when they moved to Bancroft, it was the theatre community who first embraced them and made them feel like locals right away.

But the Playhouse is more than a place to enjoy community theatre. While the Playhouse is dominated by live shows through the summer months, it hosts events year-round. Musical acts from all over the country perform in its beautiful auditorium; galas, fundraisers, and special events are held in the lobby; guest speakers and performers draw crowds; and the North of 7 Film Festival presents selections from the Toronto Film Festival from September to June on the big screen.

The Playhouse is currently home to Bancroft Summer Theatre’s production of “Stepping Out,” a Richard Harris comedy that won the ‘Best Comedy Evening Standard Award,’ and was popularized by Liza Manelli’s film version. The play tells the story of a beginner’s tap dance class that is struggling to improve before a charity pageant. While trying to overcome their inhibitions, the group, against all odds, must come together and in doing so, find that they are less out of sync both in and out of class. The show is on until Aug. 17, and tickets are available at the box office – you won’t want to miss it. And for the Roy Orbison fans out there, tickets are still available for a tribute concert on Aug. 24.

You can find out more about the Village Playhouse by visiting www.VillagePlayhouse.ca, or call the box office at 613.332.5918 to reserve tickets.

  The Village Playhouse, at 5 Hastings Street, has watched over Bancroft’s downtown since 1921.

The Village Playhouse, at 5 Hastings Street, has watched over Bancroft’s downtown since 1921.

  You can see evidence of the Playhouse’s history, such as the bars above the concession   stand, which still remain from when it served as the local jailhouse.

You can see evidence of the Playhouse’s history, such as the bars above the concession stand, which still remain from when it served as the local jailhouse.

  Though the auditorium has modern features like central air-conditioning and proper theatre   lights and sound, it has the feel of an old-time theatre with vintage velvet seats.

Though the auditorium has modern features like central air-conditioning and proper theatre lights and sound, it has the feel of an old-time theatre with vintage velvet seats.

  Call the Village Playhouse box office at 613.332.5918 to reserve your seats!

Call the Village Playhouse box office at 613.332.5918 to reserve your seats!

  Local artist Arne Roosman painted the backdrop for “Too Many Cooks,” a comedy performed   by Bancroft Summer Theatre earlier this summer.

Local artist Arne Roosman painted the backdrop for “Too Many Cooks,” a comedy performed by Bancroft Summer Theatre earlier this summer.