The Show Must Go On.

The Playhouse must evolve again to serve the community’s needs

by Ilkay Silk

I have lived in Fredericton for 48 years. During that time, I have experienced many times, as have many of you, the joy, the thrill and the awe of a live performance on the Playhouse stage.

A vibrant, well-designed, people-focused downtown is essential to the health of any city. The urban core is the heart of the city as a whole — and a heart needs to be strong and vigorous.
— Fredericton City Centre Plan

When I moved here, in 1970, the original Playhouse was in use. This simple theatre, built in 1964 as a gift to the people of New Brunswick by Lord Beaverbrook, had a modest proscenium stage designed for the community of that time. It was perfect for touring productions, travelogues by various organizations, university revues and concerts.  

But the original theatre did not meet the needs of Theatre New Brunswick, which was established in 1968, and based at the Playhouse.

In 1972, the Beaverbrooks stepped up again, generously funding a massive renovation project to upgrade the building to serve the needs of a fully developed producing theatre company. The Playhouse added a fly gallery, upgraded its dressing rooms, created spaces for building sets and properties and for making costumes, enlarged the stage and updated the auditorium.

Now, 48 years later, the time has come once again to reimagine this performance space. Its next iteration must now serve a community that has more than doubled in population. It must accommodate the needs of a performing arts scene that is burgeoning and thriving locally, nationally and internationally. It must continue in its role as an educator by providing live performances for our youth, and as space for our emerging artists to experiment and develop new work.

In short, the Playhouse of today must accommodate the needs of Fredericton as a centre of excellence in the performing arts in New Brunswick in the 21st century. Just as the 1964 version couldn’t meet these needs in 1972, the current version can’t meet them in 2018.

The Playhouse is a sacred space, our ‘living room,’ open to all.  It brings us together to experience the powerful expression that only a live performance can give. Our shared experience reminds us of our humanity and our responsibility as citizens. Without a theatre, our community would be deprived of its potential.


Ilkay Silk is an actor, director, playwright, producer, administrator and educator. She co-founded Theatre New Brunswick’s Young Company and is past Director of Drama for St. Thomas University. She has chaired numerous arts organizations and directed for a number of stages and for film. She is the recipient of the Excellence Award for Arts in Education from the province of New Brunswick and the inaugural Playhouse Honours Award. She is a Member of the Order of Canada. She chairs the TNB Foundation.