Stage Door News

Stratford: The Stratford Perth Museum is building a 300-seat outdoor entertainment venue

Thursday, December 10, 2020

After successfully hosting a series of pandemic-friendly outdoor performances on its elevated porch this past summer, the Stratford Perth Museum is planning to become an even bigger player in the local entertainment scene next year.

With some help from local contractors Player Carpentry and Masonry, their neighbours on the other side of Huron Street, and a number of other stakeholders, the museum is ready to build a entertainment venue on the south side of its building capable of hosting a variety of events for more than 300 guests.

“This is a huge project for us in a number of ways,” said John Kastner, the museum’s general manager. “To take on a capital project like this during (the pandemic), particularly for a heritage institution, is pretty remarkable. To do it without having to dig in (to our reserves) or borrow money is also really remarkable, and I think it puts us in really good stead post-COVID.”

Interest in the eclectic group of musicians, actors, poets and storytellers who performed on the museum’s porch this year inspired Kastner and the museum’s education and programs manager, Peg Dunnem, to pursue adding an entertainment venue to the government-funded museum’s traditional revenue streams.

After the museum successfully applied for a $20,000 grant from the Stratford Tourism Alteration Transformation Project, a federally funded program administered by investStratford, Kastner said he found another willing partner in Jim Player, who has agreed to provide construction materials and site work in exchange for the new venue’s naming rights.

A mini capital campaign launched last week to find 25 donors willing to provide another $1,000 each has already reached about a third of its goal, Kastner added.

In total, Player’s Back Stage will cost about $75,000, the vast majority of which Kastner said will be covered by its supporters from the community.

Although the roughly seven-metre by five-metre heated stage will accommodate local theatre productions, the venue, which will include a box office, concessions stand, accessible washrooms and paved parking for up to 125 cars, will be available for other events, too.

“It’ll be all kinds of different things,” Player said, adding he liked the idea of contributing to a project that will benefit a wide range of community members. “It’s not just the theatre, it’s a community affair.”

Construction of the venue is expected to begin soon. Kastner said the plan is to begin hosting performances at the new venue as soon as the end of May or early June, weather permitting.

The support Kastner has received from the community to get the project off the ground has made a bleak year much brighter, he added.

“I’m not alone when I say this, this has been a tough year,” Kastner said. “(But) there is a lot of great community allies, people that have sort of put their hand in the middle here and said, ‘hey, this is a great project, how can we help ya?’”

By Chris Montanini for

Photo: Stratford Perth Museum. © Ann Baggley.