The History of the Belleville
In 1951, a group of friends gathered at the home
of Gladys and Bert Simpson to read a play for pleasure. They enjoyed
it so much they decided they would form a group and perform it.
They met again that fall at the Dickens Tea Room
in downtown Belleville to plan a public meeting in the Corby Library
to form the group. Also present at that meeting were Mrs. Doyle,
our first president and Elaine Jardine, a trained theatre director.
The Voice of the People, a play by Robertson Davies,
was one of the first one-act plays performed. It went on to win
the Eastern Ontario Drama League Festival and was invited to the
Dominion Drama Festival in St. John's, New Brunswick, the next spring.
The fifties were very successful, but eventually,
television stole the heart of our audience. We struggled to stay
alive with little money and no money or home to operate from. We
found places that ranged from the third storey of a downtown building,
to a donated room at the back of a building on Campbell Street to
a vacant storefront at the East end Plaza.
In 1969 we acquired the use of the D.L. Storey
Building on Pinnacle Street, which was formerly the Salvation Army
Citadel, now owned by the City of Belleville. We are responsible
for all operating costs of the building, including utilities, heat,
repairs and maintenance, plus any improvements we wish to make.
We renamed it The Pinnacle Playhouse and it has been the source
of our success ever since.
The Playhouse has undergone many transformations,
including the initial refit to a 126-seat theatre with a revolving
stage. In 1982 - 83 the Belleville Theatre Guild, with help
from our subscribers, community groups and local and provincial
Governments, renovated the Playhouse to increase seating to 154
and to provide much needed production space both onstage and backstage.
In 2002, the Belleville Theatre Guild initiated
its "Help Give Us A Lift" campaign to raise funds for
an elevator addition with additional wing space, a new box office
and a barrier-free washroom. A generous grant was obtained through
The Ontario Trillium Foundation. The Guild's building fund,
which we had been saving for years for that type of project, provided
the bulk of the remaining cost. The balance was raised through generous
donations from businesses and individuals in the community. The
most significant of these sponsors have their names encased in the
BTG Walk of Fame on the sidewalk in front of the building.
The Guild also has an Annex, a warehouse space
that houses, set pieces, props, costumes, a board room, a workroom
for our set builders and rehearsal space for upcoming productions.
The Belleville Theatre Guild is proud to have provided
quality community theatre. We have presented to the community a
wide variety of plays, musicals and theatre-related workshops. We
have brought theatre training to almost three generations through
our outreach programmes to young people and those young at heart,
primarily through the efforts of volunteers and on occasion paid
professionals. The Box Office Staff and musicians for our musicals
are the only area where we provide compensation for services rendered.
From 1968 to 1972, we were fortunate to secure
the services of three successive resident Artistic Directors, who
provided their expertise. The programme was funded through an Ontario
Provincial Arts Grant. Richard Howard, Roy Higgins and Ted Bairstow
offered much guidance and training to our Theatre Guild members.
The Belleville Public Library recently opened right
next door to our jewel of a theatre. We look forward to a long and
happy partnership with this organization in the future.
The Belleville Theatre Guild is the envy of many
community theatres throughout Ontario and beyond. Over the years,
many dedicated Boards of Directors have administrated this cherished
organization and this tradition continues to the present time.
In 2001/2002 we celebrated our Fiftieth Anniversary. The 20011/20012 Season heralded our 60th Anniversary. Long Live
The Belleville Theatre Guild!