Maintaining the Princess Avenue Playhouse has taken considerable effort, fund-raising and patience as upgrades have taken place over time, largely funded by performance revenues. Now, the estate of a community-minded citizen will be working to further enhance the building and the lives of people in Elgin County. The pace of renovations at the playhouse has recently accelerated thanks to a generous donation of $200,000 from the Estate of Dorothy Palmer.
The aim of community theatre is to entertain and build community and the Elgin Theatre Guild succeeds superbly in doing just that, giving experienced and fledgling actors a chance to shine in an intimate theatre setting. The Playhouse is also the venue for musical performances by local artists and occasionally ones from further afield, including an energizing performance this past spring by Jimmy Rankin.
“When we’re done, this building will be beautiful,” said David McCormick, building and facilities co-ordinator on the board of the non-profit theatre guild.
The Princess Avenue Playhouse was designed by architect Neil Darrach, and erected in 1907 by the Church of Disciples. The building has three outstanding facades framed by two distinctively different towers. Notable are three large circular stained glass windows.
Currently the windows are undergoing re-leading and painters are working in the auditorium. Other renovations made possible by the Dorothy Palmer Estate include new roof; paving of parking lot; curtains for windows and stage; patching of auditorium plaster; lobby recarpeting; refinishing of the original church entrance and turret; new sound and light boards; electrical system upgrade and establishment of a performer trust fund.
The grant came about after Andrew Gunn, trustee of the Dorothy Palmer Estate, attended an event at the theatre, and recognized it as a vibrant and viable organization that served the community well. “I am confident, knowing how much Dorothy enjoyed live music and theatre, that this is a very appropriate project for the Estate to support.”
Dorothy Palmer taught elementary school in Eden, Sparta, and at Myrtle Street School in St. Thomas. An accomplished pianist and singer, she particularly enjoyed her role as a music instructor in the schools and as a member of the church and community choirs. Mrs. Palmer lived her whole life as a resident of Elgin County. She died in June 2010.
More photos by Mark Girdauskas in the slide show below.