Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Closed; Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival Will Go On

Theatre lovers rally outside the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre on its last night, March 10. Photo: Arlen Redekop , PNG/The Vancouver Sun

Vancouver theatre lovers got sad and shocking news this past Friday: The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre closed its last curtain on Saturday, March 10, 2012.

According The Vancouver Sun, the decision to close the production company was financial: Despite receiving almost $1 million in bailout money from the city council last year, the Playhouse was still almost $1 million in debt.  Playhouse Board Chair Jeff Schulz told The Sun, “We can’t continue operations with the amount of debt we have.”

The news is especially sad given that The Playhouse would have celebrated its 50th anniversary later this year, making it one of the oldest of Canada’s 15 large regional theatre companies.

The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre was an institution in Vancouver; created in 1962, it was the first professional theatre company in Vancouver. It was a leader in presenting original Canadian plays—it’s first Canadian play was Eric Nicol’s Like Father, Like Fun, in 1965—and a huge influence on other Vancouver theatre companies. Christopher Gaze, artistic director of the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, credited the company with helping to “launch” the first Bard on the Beach.

There is one small silver lining in this sad news: The enormously popular Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival (which just ended its 2012 run on March 4) will continue. According the press release from the Wine Festival,

The Wine Festival has flourished in its relationship with the Playhouse Theatre Company and we are saddened by [Friday’s] news,” says Wine Festival Board Chair Randy Kaardal. However, the Wine Festival is a separate society and will continue in staging one of the city’s premier Festivals with our industry partners. We look forward to hosting a successful and vibrant Festival for our patrons in 2013.

The Playhouse Wine Festival is produced by the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival Society and operates the Festival independently from the Playhouse Theatre Company with its own staff, operations and offices. In 2013 the Festival’s Theme Region will be California and its Global Focus will be Chardonnay.

There was an outcry Saturday night in front of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, where saddened fans rallied to lament the closure. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like anything can be done now to save this cherished Vancouver theatre.

UPDATE: There is a petition to save the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company: sign it here.

Have memories of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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