Theatre in Coquitlam

Early Theatre in British Columbia

The Dramatic Association was founded in Victoria in 1862, and New Westminster set up the Amateur Dramatic Club in 1866. The establishment of the railroad also connected BC with the rest of the country which allowed for travelling theatre troupes to visit the province. Soon, multiple theatre venues were built throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s.

 Victoria’s Theatre Royal 1860’s (Image courtesy of BC Archives)

The Victoria Theatre at Douglas and View opened in 1885 replacing the Theatre Royal. Image courtesy of the BC Archives

Theatre Life Skill/Stagecraft

Theatre training, no matter what age you are, comes with many benefits such as increasing self-confidence and empathy, learning to collaborate, leadership skills, and increasing communication skills. Theatre also provides a creative outlet for people, whether that be on stage or behind the scenes. Many skills are developed through theatre stagecraft, with work such as costume design, management, audio, lighting, set design, and creating props. All of which allows people to gain skills in problem solving, cultural awareness, working with technology, and other creative advancements. Theatre itself also provide a space for emotional expression in different forms, with many therapy programs using theatre practices to encourage sharing and working through difficult subjects.

Theatre Training

There are many dedicated theatre training programs within Coquitlam, Place des Arts itself has three different theatre programs ranging from youth based theatre companies, junior theatres, and summer theatre troupe programs. One of the largest training schools in Coquitlam is the Lindbjerg Academy of Performing Arts which focuses on musical theatre training, with classes in Broadway productions, ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, hip-hop, and show choir. They produce multiple local shows each year along with recitals, and provide students with the opportunity to train internationally as well, with show choir recitals in California and sending students to the Broadway Student Summit in New York.

Stage 43

One prominent theatre local theatre company is Stage 43, a non-profit community theatre group that has been producing high quality and affordable theatre within the Tri-Cities since 1983. They produce three shows each season at the Evergreen Cultural Centre, and are members of the Theatre BC Fraser Valley Zone and the Community Theatre Coalition.

They have won the Theatre BC’s Best Production Award in 2010 for their production of Ravenscroft, won five awards at the Fraser Valley Zone Festival in 2017 for Bingo! which was also the production that represented the Fraser Valley Zone at Theatre BC’s Mainstage, getting honoured with two additional awards.

Monster Theatre

Some other theatre companies that produce work shown around the Tri-Cities includes Monster Theater, a company founded in 2000 that creates plays which aim to challenge preconceived notions, excite imaginations, and embodies stories that are strange, twisted, and bizarre. Their latest shows are Crisis on Planet Z! which is a science-fiction play for youth focusing on environmental topics and sustainability, and Juliet: A Revenge Comedy which follows Shakespeare’s Juliet as she refuses to die and teams up with an assortment of other famous female characters from Shakespeare on a literary adventure.

Crisis on Planet z!

Crisis on Planet Z! is an environmental, science-fiction play for young audiences. Zephyr and their alien species the Alphabetians are celebrating 100 years of being on Planet Z when Zephyr makes a new friend and a horrifying discovery: a fuzzy Ziffle shows them how Alphabetians haven’t been ‘improving’ the planet, they have been slowly destroying it! Together, the Ziffle and Zephyr try to warn the Alphabetians, but it’s too late! Touring to school and theatres in March 2023.

Crisis on Planet Z! – written by Carly Pokoradi and Ryan Gladstone. Featuring Joylyn Secunda and Chloe Payne. Costumes by Nita Bowerman.

Aenigma Theatre

Aenigma Theatre produces plays often shown at Evergreen and around the community. They were founded in 2013 by Tanya Mathivanan who wanted to focus on exploring the complexities of the human condition. The company is made up of like-minded artists from diverse backgrounds, which allows them to present unique points of views through a variety of different shows. This year, their Evergreen production was The How & The Why, a play which sees two women biologists sparing over contrary views of science, career, and feminism.

“Sarah Treem’s The How and The Why is a fascinating piece of modern theatre… The first act whizzes by with animated conversations about primates, sperm, pathogens, grandmothers and plenty more. The swift pace of the dialogue and the commitment to the scientific language created an immersive, engaging atmosphere… Leave your pre-conceptions at the door and you will almost certainly learn something about a topic that is woefully underdiscussed (and still misunderstood). What’s more, you will be engaged and entertained throughout.”

– Lillian Jasper, Two Cents & Two Pence

2018 production of The How and The Why. Photo courtesy of Aenigma Theatre.

2019 production of The Turn of the Screw. Photo courtesy of Aenigma Theatre.

Cantonese Opera

Cantonese Opera BC saw an increase in live theatre during the Gold Rush, when amateur theatre groups began popping up through different mining and logging communities as a form of entertainment. Among the theatre groups that became popular were Cantonese Opera troupes which were first introduced into the province in Victoria during the 1860s by immigrant Chinese workers. Cantonese Opera was so popular that by the 1880s, there were five theatre buildings constructed in Victoria purely for opera performances. By the 1920s, local companies began to be established, training local performers and putting on shows, since the implementation of the Head Tax made it difficult for Chinese performers to enter the country.

Photo courtesy of Cantonese Opera website.

Coquitlam Queens

Drag Culture in Theatre

One of the first drag shows in Coquitlam was Spring Queening, which opened on March 24, 2018 at the Evergreen Cultural Centre. It was produced by the Coquitlam Queens, Daniel Mason and Steve Johnson (aka Jakyllyn Hyde and Flannery Pajamas), who wanted to start a drag community in Coquitlam after noticing the lack of one. Drag performances have been a big part of theatre culture going all the way back to Ancient Greece and the Elizabethan era, when women were not allowed to perform on stage so all female roles were done through male actors in drag. Contemporary theatre has taken on drag in many ways, through having drag performers play female characters like in Hairspray and Chicago, to incorporating drag and gender topics into shows itself like in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Some Like It Hot, and much more.

“The very first drag queen that really inspired me was Divine, and Divine was a pop culture icon in the 80s – And I remember seeing her in Hairspray when I was young, and Hairspray, the original non-musical version, by John Waters, it came on TV, and it was one of the first references that I had for an actor playing a female character. He wasn’t playing a drag queen, he was playing a female character, in drag.”

– Daniel Mason (Jakyllyn Hyde)

School Theatre

Theatre plays an important role in many school curricula, with the programs offered in several of Coquitlam’s secondary schools, including Centennial Secondary, Pinetree Secondary, Riverside Secondary, and Gleneagle Secondary. Centennial Secondary School, in particular, has put out at least one theatre production per year since its inception in 1967. From Cabaret (1976) to Les Misérables (1989) to Grease (2009) – which had a record-breaking 11 sold-out shows in a row – Centennial’s theatre productions comprises of its Drama, Band, and at one point, even a Stagecraft program. This year, Centennial’s theatre students went back to 1987 with a winter production of Rock of Ages.

Les Misérables was a more than apt title for the show. Miserable is the only way to describe the first-time readings, the costume confusion, and the overall mad rush to pull the whole show together. There were times when the hours of rehearsals seemed to last “19 long years”, and of course there were other technical difficulties.”

“It was the set, the costumes, the people, the moments… the mistakes. The performance was an experience for the cast, crew, and the audience. A little piece of Broadway made its home here in the school and in our lives. Thanks to everyone, we wouldn’t have made it alone.

– Centennial Yearbook Review of the extravaganza “Les Misérables” by Mercedes Dunphy (1989)

Entrance corridor to the Verlie Cooter Theatre in the old Centennial Secondary School building. Photo Courtesy of Craig Hodge.

Verlie Cooter Theatre in the old Centennial Secondary School building. Photo Courtesy of Craig Hodge.

Vancouver Sath

Punjabi Writers Collective

From March 6th to April 10th of 1988, the Vancouver Sath Theatre collective performed two plays, A Crop of Poison and Picket Line (both written by Sadhu Binning and Sukhwant Hundal) for the CFU cultural program called Picket Line Tour. Over 1,000 people attended four venues in the Fraser Valley. Funded by Canada Council Explorations Grant, Picket Line is based on the Hoss Farm women mushroom workers who joined the CFU and fought to improve working conditions. Vancouver Sath, formed in 1983, is a collective of Punjabi writers from the Lower Mainland, BC.

Sadhu Binning co-founded Vancouver Sath collective in 1983. From 1983 to 1995 Sadhu Binning was an integral part of Vancouver Sath. The writers collective produced plays that addressed societal issues. The main purpose of the group was to acknowledge problems in Punjab and within Canada. They produced a play about Punjabi female farm workers. Many women who worked on farms were not aware of unions and their rights. As a result, many were exploited.

Dr. Binning strongly lobbied for Punjabi language education and it was this involvement that helped him become a Punjabi instructor at the University of British Columbia from 1988 to 2008.

Photo courtesy of SouthAsian Canadian Digital Archive.

Theatre Backstage Roles


In charge of the entire production, overseeing everything from choosing the production, working with a director, budgeting, venues, and hiring staff

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Stagecraft and Prop Making

Behind the scenes look written by Caroline Alarie who is the Theatre Supervisor – Stagecraft Technician Properties and Scenic Painting at Douglas College.

“Early 1920 – 1930’s Cash Register prop. A Vampire Story, Douglas College

Part of the play takes place in an old brothel; the actors had to move a cash register around. The Director and Set Designer requested an antique, early 1900 gold cash register. After doing some research, I found out that these antique pieces were exclusively made of brass, steel and cast iron, weighing between 100 to 150 pounds, and the actors would not have been able to move them. Original cash registers are also very expensive. So I decided to make one, it is not a perfect replica but an adapted one to fit a small set piece at the director’s request.

I 3D printed many of the parts, the type keys and many of the decorative ornaments. I used a laser cutter to shape the sides, the plexiglass windows and the drawer. Some fabric trims and poly clay were used as decorative elements. The base is made from wood, including the curved front panel.

I used four different shades of gold for the paint, and dry brushing to make it look used and dirty. ”

Coquitlam Heritage Society at Mackin House

1116 Brunette Avenue
Coquitlam, British Columbia
V3K 1G2