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Nova Scotia

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Maritime province of Canada with a population of 971,395 (Statistics Canada 2019) and an active theatre scene.

Western theatrical tradition was established during the colonization of Nova Scotia with the typical entertainments and performances of the garrison soldiers, exploiters of the resources (fishermen, whalers) and missionaries and clergy. The first recorded performance in this country, Le Théâtre de Neptune en la Nouvelle-France, was performed in Port Royal. But the garrison of Halifax also had theatre as early as 1788, with the Grand Theatre on Argyle St., a 500-seat venue which presented over 400 plays between 1789 and 1814, most of them by amateur groups.

Touring companies from Europe and the U.S. also made stops in Halifax. Local theatre was maintained, throughout the history of the province, by the amateur societies that were an integral part of Canadian life. Theatre existed (and in some cases still exists) across Nova Scotia thanks largely to a community effort. These community theatres include: Bayside Players (Glace Bay), Hubtown Players (Truro), Maple Players (Oxford), Amherst Drama Group, Yarmouth Performing Arts Group, Winds of Change (Liverpool), Playhouse Theatre (Bridgewater) and Parkview Players (Lunenberg County). Colleges and universities also maintain active and healthy drama societies.

Varied theatrical activity across the province was encouraged and burgeoned from 1949 with the establishment, by Don Wetmore, of the Nova Scotia Drama League which organized competitions throughout the province. It also provided a performance space in a renovated Salvation Army building named the Cunard St. Theatre. In 1985 it opened with Judith Thompson's The Crackwalker. The Drama League merged with the Nova Scotia Professional Theatre Alliance to form Theatre Nova Scotia, a non-profit organization committed to encouraging and supporting all aspects of live theatre in Nova Scotia through programs and services.

Neptune Theatre in Halifax was founded in 1963 and continues to make important contributions to the development of Canadian theatre. During the 1970s and 80s several alternative and experimental theatres were formed, including Pier One (1970-74), Halifax Independent Theatre (1977-81), Stage East (1979-84), and Stages (1980-81).

Mermaid Theatre was founded in 1972, and brings theatre to houses throughout the province. Mulgrave Road Theatre has also been touring productions since 1977.

In 1984, Ship's Company Theatre was launched aboard an old ferry. In 1987, Festival Antigonish was founded. In 1993, Eastern Front Theatre was founded in Dartmouth. In 1994, Shakespeare by the Sea was founded in Halifax. In 1995, the Atlantic Theatre Festival was founded in Wolfville.

See also: Patrick Christopher-Carter, Wendy Lill, Mary Vingoe, History of Canadian Theatre.

Overview by Gaetan Charlebois.

Last updated 2020-05-08