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History

In 1982, Greg Wanless, a former Stratford actor who graduated from the National Theatre School and Queen’s University, joined with a passionate group of community members to buy the Gananoque Canoe Club from the local Rotary Club. The group turned the vintage building into a theatre over a few intense months, creating a first season that was comprised of one comedy (ON GOLDEN POND), a classic (THE COMEDY OF ERRORS) and a musical (THE BEGGAR’S OPERA). Attendance tripled over the next two seasons, and Canadian works (now a staple of the company) were added to the repertoire in the second season.Two subsequent renovations of the original theatre enabled the company to produce the larger musicals that audiences enjoy, and gave maximum space for sets and lighting while maximizing audience comfort. The Firehall Theatre was added as a second space in 2004.Under the leadership of Wanless and Associate Artistic Director Kathryn MacKay, the company grew from a three-show season with 6,000 patrons to an eight-show, two-venue company that now attracts 40,000 audience members annually. Since the early 90s, The Playhouse has toured the region with The Young Company performances, introducing thousands of young people to theatre. The company has also presented a variety of successful music series. The Thousand Islands Playhouse is one of the top five summer theatre festivals in Ontario and has a regional economic impact of $10 million per year. In November 2012, Ashlie Corcoran became the second Artistic Director in the theatre’s history.Click here to learn more about Founding Artistic Director Greg Wanless.

The Playhouse:

  • Operates two fully-renovated historic venues side by side on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Gananoque—the 360 seat Springer Theatre and the 140 seat Firehall Theatre.
  • Produces 80-90% of the 7-10 productions presented annually, using professional talent (designers, directors, scenic artists and performers) from across the country.
  • Spends the majority of our annual operating budget ‘onstage’, earning us a reputation for producing works with very high production values.
  • Annually attracts more than 44,000 tourists and area residents.
  • Is one of the top five summer festivals in Ontario, along with the Shaw and Stratford Festivals, Soulpepper and Drayton Entertainment. It is the most active theatre in Eastern Ontario.
  • Provides theatre education and outreach through the Thousand Islands Playhouse Young Company, which not only brings theatre to children throughout Eastern Ontario, but also provides training opportunities for aspiring professionals.
  • Has a regional economic impact of $10 million annually.
  • By the end of 2012, will have presented 197 productions including 26 world premieres.
  • Has been a major supporter of Canadian content since 1982, with approximately 80% of its programming now created by Canadian writers.
  • Has been praised in national and international media such as Variety Magazine, NCPR radio and The Globe & Mail, and was called “the most charming theatre in the country” by CBC radio.
Greg Wanless and Kathryn MacKay

Greg Wanless and Kathryn MacKay – The Beggar’s Opera (1982)