GVPTA: Loss of Playhouse does not mean Vancouver's theatre scene is dead

The following is a message from the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance, addressing the state of theatre in Vancouver following the collapse of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company.

Speaking to the Future of Theatre in Vancouver: A Letter from the GVPTA

March 15th, 2012

In the wake of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company’s announcement on March 9, we at the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance (GVPTA) share the feelings of immense loss as we imagine a future for Vancouver theatre without this historic and venerable player, one of BC’s founding artistic institutions.

The online debate continues passionately over the specific issues and the wider conversation about theatre’s value in our community, and we will continue to monitor this discussion to identify and respond to key needs.

Some expressions are not new, but no less troubling. There is no arguing that some notable theatre makers have left our community in recent years for professional reasons. It is true that in a close community such as ours, for many the opportunities can seem scarce or intermittent; that finding a way to be an artist and raise a family with a reasonable quality of life may at times seem like an unattainable, insurmountable desire.

Those of us who remain—and there are thousands of us, with at least 100 professional theatre companies in Metro Vancouver—are producing and presenting exciting and important theatre that resonates at home and often travels the world. Vancouver should remain proud of its status in the global theatre industry, cited in major international media for matching world-class standards of artistic excellence and innovation. Without the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company’s commitment to presenting contemporary classics, our community is clearly feeling a great and painful chasm, and it immediately changes the ways we make our work. But with so much outstanding theatre being created, produced, and presented in Metro Vancouver, we reject any notions that Vancouver’s cultural relevance – or that theatre forms – are on the decline. As a community of artists and as an industry of producers, we are still here, and we are still committed to a long future for theatre in Vancouver.

These are not easy times, and some politicians have quickly forgotten the promise of the Olympics to help elevate the status of the artist. Individuals working in theatre struggle to make ends meet, as do many of our companies. We recognize declining public subsidies have presented terrible challenges, but as with any business we must adapt to the conditions around us, even as we seek to improve them. We must occasionally look within and implicate ourselves when left unsatisfied.

We are very good at relating to one another and to our patrons who already understand what we do and why theatre is a cultural cornerstone. There is also an enormous population of people in this region who have never encountered a play, or never contemplated attending live theatre. We believe that ongoing self-examination is key to Metro Vancouver theatre’s future growth and prosperity, as our membership pursues its market expansion strategies. We need to continue asking deep, hard questions to determine the tangible and intangible value of our industry in our community, and those questions need to go beyond asking what the damage to our community would be without theatre.

As a membership organization serving Metro Vancouver’s professional theatre makers, we aim to support our member, the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company, as it navigates a difficult process that is being magnified by emotionally-charged media coverage, conversation, and community activism. We are poised for action when their path forward is articulated. At that time, the GVPTA will do what defines our existence as a service organization: we will listen to our membership, identify key needs, and offer whatever support, connectivity, and guidance that we can to help the theatre community survive and thrive.

-The Board and Staff of the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance




Mar 16, 2012 at 2:49pm

I do not think that anyone involved in the Playhouse or the collapse of it is even suggesting that the theatre community in Vancouver is dead. We are all part of that community. What we are suggesting is that many of these companies relied on the Playhouse for various things such as rehearsal space, props and costume rentals at a negligible fee. The loss of access to those things will make it more difficult for the smaller companies to forge bravely ahead on their creative paths.

Mike Puttonen

Mar 16, 2012 at 3:48pm

"...a difficult process that is being magnified..."

The Playhouse has generated millions upon millions of dollars of economic activity over the last 50 years. Playhouse revenue $7,000,000.00 in 2010. It would be hard to "magnify" that big a loss in cash flowing in to any city. I

f the Playhouse Society folds, I've seen no indication that any of the grant or fundraising money is going to be left around for anybody (attention GVPTA members!) to pick up, either. Sure, I could be wrong about that, maybe the little Phoenix is already incubating somewhere...

$1.6million in grants, the same in box office, twice that in private fund raising. Has the GVPTA heard something about where the Playhouse Wine Fest will be putting their half a million, for example? Sure, the provincial $300k will be available for somebody else, but can you trust them on that? You know, George, Kevin, Ida?

The Playhouse from solvency and surpluses to complete collapse, and final closure, in something less than two years.

"...the GVPTA will do what defines our existence as a service organization..." and so will the Alliance, another "service organization, and so will PACT, another "service organization", and CAEA will do what defines a "union"....

Im gonna say a naughty word here... ...advocacy.


Mar 17, 2012 at 2:39pm

Dear GVPTA you've got audiences too. My wife and I are poor as churchmice, but we spend what we can on good theatre. Lets fight to bring more great theatre to Vancouver!


Mar 29, 2012 at 4:59pm

Puttonen - you've got to remember that the Playhouse hasn't declared bankruptcy yet, and there is likely lots of advocacy and strategizing happening behind the scenes to examine the future of the company, or a version of its function, or a new version of its skunky residency deal at the venue. The GVPTA is a service org for its members and since the Playhouse Company is still one of its biggest members, GVPTA would need to remain respectful in media on this issue until otherwise directed by the member.... It's early days.

Mike Puttonen

Mar 30, 2012 at 1:06pm


I salute your positive attitude.

You say there is "likely lots of advocacy"... Do you know of any?

I mean beside on-line, and on top of cars.

Isn't it just as "likely" they can't get a meeting?