Tuesday, December 6, 2011

174 Market Avenue - Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

Place:
Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (
Website)Address: 174 Market Avenue (Map)
Opened: September 30, 1970
Architect:
Number Ten Architectural Group

Background:

In 1958 Winnipeg's Theatre 77 and Winnipeg Little Theatre joined forces to form Canada's first English speaking regional theatre, the Manitoba Theatre Centre. John Hirsch, director of 77, became MTC's director while Tom Hendry, manager of Winnipeg Little Theatre, became general manager.


MTC spent their first decade at the ca. 1904 Dominion Theatre on Portage at Main. When it was demolished in 1968 to make way for the
Richardson Building, the company worked from the Centennial Concert Hall while planning a new home.

In 1968 MTC announced plans for a new,
$2.35 million theatre for Market Avenue at Rorie. The Manitoba Centennial Corporation, which also built the Concert Hall / Museum / Planetarium complex, would foot a majority of the bill.

MTC Interior (source)

The new building had space for all of the theatre's shops, from carpentry to wardrobe. To keep the intimate feel that it had at the Dominion, the stage was sunk five feet bellow street level and of the 800 seats, none are more than 65 feet from the stage.

Grand Opening

The grand opening was a day-long event on Saturday, September 30th. It began with a 10 am breakfast on the stage of the Concert Hall. A number of Winnipeg Theatre alumni attended as did Hollywood actor Darren McGavin, (who didn't have a Manitoba connection but he and his wife were supporters of theatre and came to see the new facility).

Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

Later in the day it was across the street to the theatre. Premier Schreyer accepted the key and in turn presented it to Albert Cohen, MTC's president, who did the honours of opening the front doors. One person not at the event was an ill Maitland B. Steinkopf, chairman of the Centennial Committee, (he died on November 22).

November 3, 1970, Winnipeg Free Press

MTC's first performance was on Monday, November 2, 1970: Bertolt Brecht's A Man's A Man, directed by John Hirsch. One of the actors was an up and coming Gordon Pinsent who got his start at Theatre 77.

An opening night reviewer wrote:

"The theatre is a stark, simple structure, richly carpeted throughout, but with bare concrete and wood walls and huge glass panels. The spartan atmosphere created by the building was dispelled on opening night by the brilliant plumage of Winnipeg's first nighters. Long gowns, metallic pant suits and tuxedos were the order of the day. For glamor, the show was all in the lobby."
(Winnipeg Free Press, November 3, 1970)

Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

A number of well known actors graced the MTC stage, including: Gordon Pinsent, Eric Petersen, Keanu Reeves in Hamlet (1994), Judd Hirsch in Death of a Salesman (1996) and William Hurt in Richard III (2002).

In 2009 it was home to the first professional production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber / Ben Elton musical The Boys in the Photograph
.

In 2009 the Market Avenue theatre was named a National Historic Site.


In 2010 Queen Elizabeth II
bestowed Royal designation on the company making it the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (RMTC).

Related:

Hirsch revives pro theatre in Winnipeg CBC Archives (1957)
Our History RMTC
Performance History RMTC
Manitoba Theatre Centre The Canadian Encyclopedia
Manitoba Theatre Centre Winnipeg Building Index

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