History of Centennial
All the World’s a Stage
Within the Eastern Townships, Centennial Theatre provides a cultural forum for dance, music, drama, and education. In addition, Centennial Theatre embraces the public and allows the audience an opportunity to witness the process of creating works of art. We are continually striving to provide quality programming within a warm, intimate environment. We wish a unique experience to everyone who passes through our doors.
As a performing arts centre, Centennial Theatre has played a significant role in the cultural life of the Eastern Townships region over the past 40 years. The theatre, inaugurated on January 14, 1967, was designed to bring together artists and audiences in an atmosphere of visual intimacy and acoustic excellence. This superb theatrical environment is achieved by recreating the wide auditorium sweep reminiscent of Greek amphitheatres; with a capacity of 550, Centennial Theatre provides actors, dancers and musicians with a significant audience, while maintaining a close relationship of auditorium to stage. The Italian stage house, with proscenium and flies, is extended forward in an open stage concept by means of an apron elevator. The many configurations made possible by this system have created surprising flexibility on stage.
Built at first to serve the needs of the Drama Department, the opening of the theatre was the dream come true of many students and professors, particularly of Arthur Motyer, who was then the Director of the University Dramatic Society. In 1972, Bishop’s University and Champlain College launched the first cultural season at Centennial Theatre. The Cultural Series, as it was called then, included classical music, dance, mime, theatre and jazz. Centennial Theatre’s mandate has always been to present high quality concerts and shows from the many fields of the performing arts. The theatre has presented Al di Meola, Christopher Plummer and Natalie MacMaster. Through the years, special efforts have been made to serve the English population of the Eastern Townships. In 1989, film series were offered to better serve the surrounding population.
Today, Centennial Theatre has its own administrative structure, including the Programming Director who, with the help of a programming committee, books a complete season, bringing renowned artists from all over the world to the theatre. Among the many groups presented during the past years one can count pianist Marc-André Hamelin, dancer Margie Gillis, dance companies O Vertigo and Marie Chouinard, the Penderecki and Keller Quartets, I Musici de Montréal, South African Johnny Clegg and Savuka, jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and many, many more. Centennial Theatre is also equipped with a 35mm projector, which allows for the presentation of films in their original version. In 1992, Centennial Theatre inaugurated the newly renovated lobby, box office and offices by presenting the premiere of the film “City of Joy,” with special guests from the cast and crew. The final renovations were completed in 2006.