After the curtains have closed and the audience has filed out, Alyson Dean, remembers going back on stage and looking out on the empty red velvet seats of the Playhouse. “That picture always stands out in my mind.”
Dean, 28, has danced at the Bonnie Kilburn Dance Centre since she was three years old. The dancers would spend weeks at a time performing at the Fredericton Playhouse. She and her fellow dancers always felt lucky to have an entire theatre feel like home.
Concerns have been raised over the past year about future plans for the Playhouse in downtown Fredericton.
“It was identified that the playhouse as a building was at end of its life," city councilor John MacDermid said.
MacDermaid said that the Playhouse has been difficult to keep running as it was not built to modern standards. It is expensive to heat because there is no ventilation and they have had heating system failures the day of a performance.
There are electricity and pipe issues and emergency features, such as exit signs and the sprinkler system, are not up to code. Playhouse staff have had to use a tarp to direct water leaking through the roof away from the stage during a performance.
“For every play that’s happening on the stage, there’s a performance happening in the background that allows all those functions to happen,” MacDermid said.
MacDermid said rehabilitating the Playhouse was an option but “it just didn’t make sense.” Refurbishment efforts would cost approximately $22 million and would result in the loss of nearly 250 seats on the theatre floor. As repairs could take up to 36 months to complete, the city would lose close to two full performance seasons.
“So you’re spending a huge amount of money on rehabilitating a facility that really only dates back to the 60s in really rough shape,” MacDermid said.
It has been decided that the Playhouse will be rebuilt at its current location of 686 Queen Street. The phase development, due to begin within the next two years, will cost approximately $50 million. The city council is still looking for funding to cover architectural design which costs $5 million alone.
When asked if the new Playhouse would maintain its iconic historic-traditional feel, MacDermid said, “I would like to think that it will just develop its own charm.”
Alyson Dean said she understands that the new build is a necessity but “it’s difficult when you’re losing all of that heritage value and the more theatrical aspect of it.”