The Canberra Theatre Centre is the Australian Capital Territory’s principle performing arts venue and was the first government initiated performing arts centre to be completed in Australia and opened in 1965.
Originally the centre was two separate buildings, being the Canberra Theatre, which was “linked” by a covered walkway to The Playhouse, a 310 seat drama theatre.
The Centre instantly became a focal point for national touring and has been used by most of Australia’s leading theatrical producers and entrepreneurs including J.C. Williamson Theatres Ltd, the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, the Australian Opera, Michael Edgley, the Australian Ballet to Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, the State Theatre Company of South Australia and the Sydney Dance Company.
Besides the 310 seat theatre, The Playhouse also comprised a small visual art gallery, a meeting room and a restaurant, which proved to be very popular with the Centre’s patrons.
There have been a series of extensive capital works upgrades in the life of the Centre to improve the services provided to our patrons.
In 1971 the covered walkway, which “linked” the two venues, was enclosed to create more foyer and function space for the Canberra Theatre and improved Box Office facilities.
The Playhouse had a series of improvements made over the years. In 1975 the works included providing improved backstage storage space, wardrobe facilities and additional dressing rooms.
As the activities of the Centre expanded so too did the staffing and technical requirements. In 1982 administration offices, a large scenic construction workshop, including a mechanical painting frame and a rehearsal room/90-seat venue entitled The Courtyard Studio were completed.
In 1988 the Canberra Theatre auditorium, foyer and link were extensively refurbished in order to maintain parity with other comparable performing arts centres around the country.
In 1998 The Playhouse was rebuilt to a 618 seat theatre, moving away from the older style ‘fan’ type auditorium to a more upright semi-circular drum layout. It has since become a favourite venue for many artists and companies to perform in.
In 2006 the new Link/Library was built with a permanent home for Canberra Ticketing. This building provides the much needed extra front of house toilet facilities and a modern bar for both The Playhouse and the Canberra Theatre. In late 2007 Access improvements saw a new lift installed in The Playhouse as well as a more accessible entrance to the Theatre stage door and The Courtyard Studio. A lift to the Administration offices was included in the refurbishment as well as a wheelchair hoist to stage level. The Courtyard Studio dressing rooms were relocated and new front of house toilet facilities are now available to The Courtyard Studio patrons. 2009 saw new venue signage installed throughout the Centre.
With the original Canberra Theatre auditorium now over 40 years old, discussions about the future of this valuable community asset have commenced with key stakeholders and who knows what the future holds!