Quarter-century anniversary marks new family-oriented vision for Ottawa theatre
Much has changed since Centrepointe Theatre opened a quarter-century ago, yet the facility’s role as a quality-of-life boost for the community remains.
The theatre was originally part of a bigger project called Nepean Civic Square, which brought the city hall of the former city of Nepean to the area around Baseline Road and Woodroffe Avenue from Bells Corners, and housed it with features such as a library, art gallery and theatre.
It has since been renamed Ben Franklin Place, named after Nepean’s mayor at the time it opened, and it remains a municipal building of the amalgamated City of Ottawa.
Debbie Hill, the city’s cultural services manager who worked with Nepean’s cultural department in 1988, says council intended to make the new municipal building “a people place.”
“To have the foresight to include a theatre as part of that vision, they really need to be applauded because the theatre has become really central in the whole experience at Ben Franklin Place.”
While the theatre gives amateur entertainers a chance to showcase their talents, it was also meant as a venue for big-name acts.
The grand opening featured
homegrown and internationally recognized impressionist Rich Little. Since then, several prominent performers have come through, including Sarah McLachlan, Blue Rodeo, Christopher Plummer and the Barenaked Ladies.
Theatre manager Allan Sansom says the facility is for “community development and improving the quality of life for residents that live in the area.”
Among the changes Centrepointe has seen is the 2010 expansion that brought in the 199-seat Studio Theatre.
Combined with its main theatre, which has capacity for about 1,000 people, Centrepointe is
the second-largest theatre complex in Ottawa after the National Arts Centre, says Sansom.
It’s worth noting that the expansion resulted in the facility’s official name becoming pluralized to Centrepointe Theatres.
And Sansom, who has been with Centrepointe for three years, says he has been trying to bring in more family entertainment.
“The general consensus was that in days long past, Centrepointe was your mom and dad’s theatre, but it wasn’t necessarily the theatre you went to if you were younger than 40 or so,” he says.
“What I’m trying to do is appeal even more to the 40-and-younger bracket when we can, (but also) trying to branch out in the area of family programming.”
For example, there were two sold-out shows in November by the Kratt Brothers, animal enthusiasts known for television programs such as Kratts Creatures, Zoboomafoo and Wild Kratts.
Also that month, there was the Kick It dance party for kids ages four to 10.
Photos: Centrepointe Theatre