Stage Door News

London: The Grand Theatre announces a new play for the 100th anniversary of the disappearance of Ambrose Small

Monday, December 2, 2019

100 years ago, on December 2, 1919, one of Canada’s largest unsolved mysteries occurred. Theatre tycoon Ambrose Small, who owned The Grand London and many other Canadian theatres, sold his empire for a record sum, deposited the money in the bank, and then disappeared. He was a ruthless businessman with a fondness for gambling and women; qualities that did not endear him to his employees, his business partners, his gambling rivals, or the ladies in his life. After December 2nd, 1919, Ambrose Small was never seen again.

That is to say, he was never seen in the flesh again. From the time of his disappearance, Ambrose Small has been spotted in and around The Grand London, where he is said to haunt his favourite theatre.

On this, the 100th anniversary of the disappearance of Ambrose Small, the Grand Theatre announces a captivating new play commissioned through the COMPASS New Play Development Program, which will launch the 2021/22 season. Award-winning, Canadian playwright Trina Davies has been commissioned and is developing Grand Ghosts. The Grand acknowledges Tourism London - funding development partner for this new work.

Ms Davies describes the story underway as follows, “with Grand Ghosts, audiences will be invited on a ghost hunt to experience the Grand in a way they never have before. Areas of the theatre that have been previously unseen by the general public will be exposed, along with the stories that are held within the building’s 1901 bricks and mortar. This hunt may open up something that has long been hidden within the theatre: the story of Ambrose Small, his disappearance, and all those around him that felt entitled to a piece of the action.”

“We couldn’t think of a better day to announce this new work that will be fun and very ghostly.  This play will draw in those who love local history, murder mysteries, and ghost stories alike,” noted Dennis Garnhum, Artistic Director.

Grand audiences will remember Ms Davies’ work from the 2017/18 season when the first play from the COMPASS program, Silence: Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell, was beautifully presented on the Spriet Stage, and then continued on to a successful run at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 2018.

In addition to this exciting announcement, on Monday December 2, 2019 from 6:00-8:30pm, the Grand Theatre will host an event marking the 100th anniversary of the mystery, called “Ghost Stories: The Disappearance of Ambrose Small.” Dennis Garnhum and Trina Davies (participating online from the west coast) will talk more about the Grand Ghosts project.

Joining this evening’s event is author and journalist, Katie Daubs. Her recently-released historical non-fiction, The Missing Millionaire: The True Story of Ambrose Small and the City Obsessed with Finding Him, tells the story of Ambrose Small, and his life in early 20th Century Ontario. The evening will include moderated discussions on the research and inspiration behind both the book and new play.  Audience members will be invited to share their own ghost stories or ghost encounters they have had at the Grand.

Members of the public are welcome to reserve their spot at this free event by going online to, by calling 519-672-8800, or by visiting the Box Office at 471 Richmond Street.

Event Schedule:

6:00pmDoors Open
6:30-7:30pmModerated talk with Dennis Garnhum, Artistic Director; Trina Davies, Playwright; and Katie Daubs, Author of The Missing Millionaire.

Hear a special update on the brand new play from the COMPASS New Play Development program—hint, Ambrose is involved!

7:30-8:00pmGhost Stories and Sightings
8:00-8:30pmReception and Book Signing

Photo: Ambrose Small. © c.1919.