The Newmarket Theatre Centre performed its first play – Curious Savage – in 1972. Ray Burdon was its President for many years and Paul Aspland was the Artistic Director of the Newmarket Theatre Centre until 1983, when he left Newmarket for England. Ricky Koury, who is now with the Town’s Newmarket Theatre was President after Ray. The Old Town Hall Players was formed in 1981 under direction from Mayor Ray Twinney, while The Old Town Hall was being renovated with a Wintario Grant.
Due to constant changes in opening date, the first play of The Old Town Hall Players did not open until April, 1982. The first play was Arsenic and Old Lace, starring John McFadyen, who was the news director at CFRB at the time and Ray Austin, who was the morning DJ on CKAN Radio in Newmarket and the cast included Roy Green, who was the news director at CKAN and a writer for The Era-Banner.
Plays always ran for two weeks with opening night always free for seniors Over the years, special performances were held for various charitable organizations. During these years, The Old Town Hall was shared with Newmarket Theatre Centre, with each group performing three plays per season. After two years of The Old Town Hall Players and the Newmarket Theatre Centre, the Town insisted the two groups merge in 1985. They decided to create a new name, the Newmarket Stage Company to not include any of the names from the previous two groups. The newly-formed group was able to retain its charitable number, which helped to raise funds to help with the costs.
The Newmarket Stage Company’s last performance in The Old Town Hall was the panto Cinderella in 2008. After that, The Old Town Hall closed for renovations once again. Peter Salt was in Cinderella, who would later become President of the Newmarket Stage Company and is currently on the Executive. Shelley Mathieson was President of the Newmarket Stage Company during this time and for many years following.
In 2009, with the Old Town Hall once again closed for renovations and The Newmarket Stage Company was forced to move to the larger Newmarket Theatre attached to Newmarket High School on Mulock. In the Town-run facility, the Newmarket Stage Company lost the bar revenue, only were allowed to put on 4 or 5 performances, could not get in to create sets, rehearse, etc. until the day before the first performance, and paid far more than before per night at the large theatre. All these problems took a toll on the Newmarket Stage Company’s revenue, audience and membership.
Now with the advent of returning to The Old Town Hall, the Newmarket Stage Company found itself lacking in revenue and membership as well as trying to cope with the uncertainty of a date to move into the Old Town Hall due to the renovations.
The Old Town Hall opened in 2017 after extensive renovations, but by this time the Newmarket Stage Company has moved to Stage 426, the Newmarket Legion on Srigley St. and a new relationship with the Legion was formed.
The venerable Newmarket Stage Company has been putting on community theatre to sold-out audiences at the Newmarket Legion for a number of years while The Old Town Hall underwent its renovations. Even with The Old Town Hall opened, the Newmarket Stage Company still prefers to stage its community theatre plays at the Newmarket Legion with its comfortable cabaret seating, refreshments and plenty of parking.
That is not to say, in the future, the Newmarket Stage Company may put on a play at The Old Town Hall, but for right now, Stage 426, the Newmarket Legion is their home and they maintain a solid relationship with the Legion, says current Newmarket Stage Company President Diane Ament.