Curtain to rise on new theatre in Charlottetown

Sally Cole
Published on January 2, 2016

Florence Simmons Performance Hall prepares to opens its doors at Prince of Wales Campus of Holland College

After months of waiting and anticipation, the curtain is ready to rise on the new theatre at Holland College.

The Florence Simmons Performance Hall will have its grand opening later this month.

And Michael O'Grady can't wait for the stage lights to go on.

"The journey has been transformative. There have been a lot of challenges along the way but now we're very close to being finished. And we're all thrilled with the outcome," says O'Grady, vice-president of innovation enterprise and strategic development at Holland College, opening the door to the spacious room with the red velvet curtained windows, accented with gold braid.

"There's definitely a wow factor when you come in because, for most of us, the visual memories we have of this space is of the old gymnasium, which was pretty worn out when construction began. So now there's a theatre in here, but it has a very natural feel. It's a perfect fit for the space."

The performing space features a 303-seat theatre with the latest in lighting and sound technology as well as a large stage.

"The stage was extended to perhaps double its size to accommodate larger groups, including performances by the Holland College Welshmen Community Band and our theatre and dance students," says O'Grady, adding the school of performing arts is a partnership between Holland College and the Confederation Centre of the Arts.

The renovation has been sympathetic to the building's attributes.

"We were very fortunate to find the space in, more or less, its original condition, which is 1932-33. And we've been true to that in our renovation, maintaining the art deco style," says O'Grady.

Formerly used by Holland College athletes, it was filled with gym equipment.

Now it will return to its original use.

"The space will be used for all kinds of performances — music, drama and dance as well lecture space and general community use."

Inside the entrance, past the original glass doors with brass push bars, there's a lounge. Like the theatre, it will be decorated in art deco style, complete with a 1930s clock and podium as well as film reels and other memorabilia.

"This was the heart of the Prince of Wales campus. It is now the heart of the Prince of Wales campus of Holland College and, I think, the heart of this downtown community."

Michael O'Grady shows the spacious new stage in the Florence Simmons Performance Hall.