Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. Actually, starting at the beginning isn’t that easy when it comes to looking at the history of community theatre on the north end of the Saanich Peninsula.
Sixty nine years ago, on November 24th, 1952, a meeting was held at St. Andrew’s Hall in Sidney for all persons interested in participating in the formation of the ‘Sidney and North Saanich Community Theatre Group’. However, this wasn’t the start of community theatre in the area. Prior to the meeting in 1952 there had existed the ‘North Saanich Little Theatre Association’, which in turn had risen from the ashes of the ‘Deep Cove Drama Society’.
No dates are known for the lifetime of either group, though the Deep Cove group is known to have been in existence in 1933, and possibly for many years prior. Despite name changes a common thread of membership ran through the three groups.
The Peninsula Players presented their first show on March 7, 1953 for one performance only at the North Saanich High School. The evening started with a performance of ‘The Pie and the Tart’ by students from the school followed by ‘High Tension’ and ‘Elmer Cleans Up’ by the Players.
The first full-length production occurred on November 6 and 7, ‘Laburnum Grove’ again at North Saanich High School. All productions continued at that venue until 1957 when they re-located to Sidney Elementary School.
One-act plays continued to be very popular and the Players presented nine such presentations in the first seven years of their existence.
The Players first entered the BC Drama Festival in 1955 and have participated many times since then, winning many awards along the way.
The first Christmas show was presented in 1955. It was ‘Hansel and Gretel’, though it was not presented as a traditional pantomime.
Our first panto was ‘Dick Whittington’ in 1968 followed by ‘Aladdin’ in 2008. Since then we have produced several panto’s over the years.
(Robin Hood, Cinderella, A Christmas Carol, Jack and the Beanstalk and more.)
The first musical production was ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’, done with an in-house band in 1977, and presented again in 1985. Our most recent musical production in 2019 was ‘Mama Mia’, which was a huge success!
Over the past 20 years we were based in various locations from down town Sidney to Greenglade School, followed by Saanichton School and finally in 2014 we signed a partnership agreement with the Mary Winspear Centre where we are now located and working in close partnership.
In recent years we have tried to average three shows a year, mostly comedies, murder mysteries and pantos. For a few years we supported a summer show at the Muse Winery.
For a period of time we held several performances at Berwick Royal Oak and occasionally at the Seniors Centre in Brentwood.
We have several life members, people who have contributed many years of their time and talents into making our shows such a success.
Currently, due to Covid we are unable to put on any shows, we have however formed a relationship with Radio Sidney and will be doing a monthly radio reading or play. To date we have done ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’, ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ and 'Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Tolling Bell', all of which will be available as podcasts here: https://soundcloud.com/RadioSidney or on the Radio Sidney app - free to download on IOS and Android.
Once we are back in full operation we plan to continue with ‘Steel Magnolias’, ‘Black Adder’, our yearly Panto and a musical. We very much look forward to seeing everyone again, in the not too distant future.
As they say in theatre ‘it’s time to break a leg’ and get back on stage!