Shakespeare by the Sea hopes for a new venue

Theatre group wants to talk sustainability before it's too late

Shakespeare by the Sea is hoping to get a larger facility at a higher altitude in the park it has called home for 26 years.

“We have to think of a sustainable future,” said Elizabeth Murphy, co-founder and co-artistic director.

The proposal for an all-year venue in Point Pleasant Park includes a rehearsal studio, costume workshop, administrative offices and a theatre with 150 to 200 seats. The facility would also be rented out to musicians, politicians, troupes and weddings.

Currently, shows are held during the summer at Cambridge Battery, a clearing inside the park. If there’s an off-season production or a rainy day, shows are held at the Park Place Theatre in the lower parking lot.

Before being home to Shakespeare by the Sea, Park Place Theatre was a canteen.   Madeline Biso

Murphy said matinees are now also held in the theatre, after increasing UV levels in recent years began affecting the health of the actors.

Jesse MacLean has been co-artistic director since 2012 and a company member for 16 seasons.

“It was like looking at a few hundred angry, sweaty people in the audience,” he said. “They’d all be tucked under the big tree at the back, trying to get shade. The whole performance suffered.”

Shakespeare by the Sea performs to over 10,000 people annually. Outdoor matinees had around 200 people. Now inside, there’s a limit of 85 seats. MacLean describes it as “bursting at the seams.”

The theatre company, with little space, uses four shipping containers for storage.   Madeline Biso

In 2017, the company made a proposal to the city to create a new building on the same site, but city staff didn’t support it. Now, the company is looking to build in a new location because in the decades to come, the area surrounding the theatre could be flooded.

“We can’t have our audience come in gondolas,” said Murphy.

According to the Ecology Action Centre and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, sea levels in Atlantic Canada are rising more than the global average. Nova Scotia is expected to experience the greatest relative sea-level rise in the region.

“We’re not trying to be alarmists,” MacLean said. “We’re reacting to the realities that we see every day.”

They would like a new building somewhere accessible near the bus route at Tower Road.

Elizabeth Murphy, co-founder and co-artistic director, shows some costumes they’ve used.   Madeline Biso

On Thursday, Murphy and MacLean presented to the Point Pleasant Park advisory committee, looking for their opinion.

During the meeting, committee member Ian Austen said he wants Shakespeare by the Sea to survive, but he’s “very uncomfortable” at the thought of a new building at Point Pleasant. He worries more people would want to build there too. The city owns the Park Place Theatre and rents it out to Shakespeare by the Sea.

The committee advised the co-directors to talk to council staff as their next step.

If the plan goes through, Shakespeare by the Sea will look for funding from all three levels of government, corporations and individuals.

Madeline Biso

Madeline Biso

Madeline Biso is a student journalist at University of King's College. Her main interests are investigative and data-driven stories. When not doing journalism, Madeline is always happy to learn a new language.

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