The idea of a performing arts centre on the site of the Louisbourg Playhouse originated in 1990 when the Town of Louisbourg developed a plan for revitalizing its downtown area. The plan noted the lack of evening entertainment for visitors to the town and recommended erecting an outdoor amphitheatre for the purpose now occupied by the Playhouse on Aberdeen Street.
In 1993, Louisbourg played host to a Walt Disney film production, Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale. Based on a true story, the movie chronicles the adventures of Squanto, a Native American captured by English slavers in 1615 near what is now Cape Cod and taken to Plymouth, England. In the film, The Fortress of Louisbourg was standing in for Plymouth and as part of the movie set a 17th century style theatre was constructed at the Fortress. The theatre was based on Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre in London and was opened to the sky in the centre. The theatre was featured prominently in several scenes of the movie.
After filming, Don Carmondy Productions donated the theatre to the community on the condition that it be removed from the Fortress. In the fall of 1993, the Louisbourg Planning Commission, with the assistance of the local labour pool, dismantled and moved the theatre to its present location on Aberdeen Street. It was the first step in creating a much needed venue for performing arts in the town of Louisbourg.
While maintaining its rustic charm, key improvements and event planning were necessary components in making the facility operational as a performing arts centre. The spring of 1994 was spent making basic structural improvements and putting together a program of events, led by local theatre director Todd Hiscock of the Boardmore Playhouse.
When the Louisbourg Playhouse opened it doors in the summer of 1994, the theatre remained roofless. But this did not play havoc with a successful run of its first ever production, Snowdreams, a play by Peter Cummings. This convinced the Theatre Commission that the Playhouse had a promising future.
Over the next year, more extensive upgrades took place to make the Playhouse a top-notch entertainment venue including a roof, a furnace, washrooms, dressing rooms and other facilities. These improvements along with new lighting and sounds systems made the transformation of the building from a movie set to a functioning playhouse theatre a reality.
Over the past 18 years, the Louisbourg Playhouse has hosted theatre including “The Louisbourg Exchange: The Beryl Markham Story”, “Sea Puppet Theatre” and “The Margaret” as well as musical performances by well known musicians John Allan Cameron, Valdy, Men of the Deeps, Raylene Rankin, Barra MacNeils, Grand Derangement and Lenny Gallant. The Playhouse has also presented the “Soundscapes Series”, the best of Cape Breton music and song. Over 20 performers grace the stage each season in toe-tapping musical events. All have delighted audiences with nightly comedy and music and have helped build the Playhouse a solid reputation for top-notch entertainment.
Today, the Playhouse is operated by the Louisbourg Playhouse Society, a registered non-profit organization.