- Corporate body
The Powerhouse Theatre is a theatre company in Vernon, BC that seeks to provide opportunities and facilties for the advancement of interest and knowledge of the dramatic arts, literature and music through the operation of a community theatre.
The Powerhouse Theatre began life as the Vernon Little Theatre, founded by Flora Nicholson in 1937. The first production was a one-act play called “Lusitania." Following on this success the theatre produced a 3-act play called “Night Must Fall” in 1938. Productions ceased during World War Two, but the company resumed activities after the war with a series of informal workshop plays in 1945. In 1947 the Vernon Little Theatre staged its first full production post-war - “Rookery Nook,” and in 1949 they expanded their activities to producing radio plays on CJIB. As the Vernon Little Theatre did not have its own space, early productions were held in the Empress Theatre, the Capital Theatre, and the Scouts Hall. In 1957 productions were moved to Vernon High School in Polson Park. The inadequacies of the venue soon became apparent and a committee was established to look into the possibilities of a building for the Vernon Little Theatre. A fund was set up with an initial $100.
The theatre company acquired their current location at the old BC Hydro powerhouse (2901 35th Avenue) in 1962. BC Hydro wanted to dispose the property, and seeing a good opportunity for a dedicated theatre space The Vernon Little Theatre Society submitted a proposal to the City of Vernon to take over the powerhouse. After some negotiation it was agreed that the Vernon Little Theatre would lease the building through the City of Vernon at $1.00 per annum plus taxes for fifteen years with the opportunity to renew. A separate non-profit society called the Vernon Theatrical Arts Centre Society was formed to support the renovation of the building into a theatre, and a fundraising campaign was started by G. Silver and W. Malcolm. Construction began in 1963 on the 150 seat theatre designed by Vernon architects T. Gower, D. Huggins and A. Allen. In November 1963 the Vernon Little Theatre put on its first production in the new theatre - “The Madwoman of Chaillot” directed by Paddy Malcolm.
In 1971 the Vernon Little Theatre changed its name to the Powerhouse Theatre, and in 1973 the theatre was renovated to expand seating to 191. 1973 was also the 10th anniversary at the Powerhouse theatre, and was celebrated with a production of “A Flea in the Ear.” Special guest was the renowned Canadian actor Bruno Gerussi. The theatre was upgraded again in 1990 with the help of a B.C. Lotteries Fund grant, which made the theatre safer, more accessible, and more flexible artistically.
Over the years the Powerhouse Theatre has received many awards. Both the company and individual members have won Theatre BC’s Eric Hamber Award several times for their contributions to community theatre in BC– 1969, 1970 (Doug Huggins), 1975 (Paddy Malcolm English) and 1997 (David Jones). In 1988 the Powerhouse Theatre won the Canadian Drama Festival with “Play Memory,” and afterwards travelled to Monaco to showcase the production for the 1989 World Drama Festival.