Opened in 1965, Canberra Theatre Centre was Australia’s first performing arts centre.
Along with The Lincoln Centre (New York City), Philharmonie (Berlin), and the National Theatre of Japan (Tokyo), Canberra Theatre Centre was one of a series of iconic performing arts venues built during this time.
Set in the artistic heart of Canberra, the centre comprises three performance spaces, The Canberra Theatre (1,239 seats), The Playhouse (614 seats) and The Courtyard Studio (92 seats), and is a regular stop on the tour circuit for Australia’s leading theatrical producers and performing arts companies.
Back in 1965, the centre was two separate buildings, being the Canberra Theatre, and The Playhouse, which were “linked” by a covered walkway.
At that time 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.
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.
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 theatre (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!