Chester Playhouse Rebuild in Progress


While construction began on the Playhouse in the spring of 2022, we really started to see progress as the summer began.

The steel trusses for the roof arrived in early July along with the steel deck giving us a first look at the foundation for the new roof.



More progress in August, with fire-rated gypsum wallboard up on the exterior of both the east and west sides which will then be covered with Roxul insulation and aluminum siding.

The steel roof assembly over the theatre portion is complete except for some vent penetrations.

The balcony floor structure has been decked in, providing a platform to help build the third floor. You can see that the balcony railing for the tech gallery has been partially built.



Work continues into September with more interior work, and additional work on the roof in preparation for final installation.



The building is on course to be weather tight before the snow flies, allowing for work to carry on inside throughout the winter.


New photos from late September. This time we have stairs leading up to the third floor where the Chester Playhouse offices will be located.



We near the end of October and the third floor office space and roof are the center of attention. The LVL (composite wooden) beams for the front section arrived late and Plan-It has started to frame-in the third floor at the front. The wood trusses for the green room at the back are next to arrive. Closing in and being roof-tight should be achieved by the second week in November.



Did you see the newest addition to your beloved playhouse? It’s big, and red and shares some exciting news!



Next summer a very new and improved Playhouse will reopen! In addition to the new fixed seating (that was purchased but not yet installed at the time of the fire), here are the highlights:


Stage FloorThis will be rebuilt as a modern, semi-sprung floor more suitable for dance, movement, theatre school and community use


Artist space – The stage will now be accessible with a lift at stage left.  The backstage area will be maximized for use and storage, and include an accessible washroom/change room.  The Green Room above the stage will be thoughtfully equipped to serve artists well.


Theatre technical performanceFrom digital wiring throughout to placement of new sound and lighting, theatre systems will be customized to enhance the artist and audience experience.  The Playhouse will be fully equipped for live streaming and hybrid presentations, a new standard for performance venues.


Film Presentation – The projector, sound and screen will be at a high commercial grade, meeting the criteria for live stream presentations and delivering an exceptional audience experience.  This will be your favourite cinema!   


Hosting Spaces – The ceiling height in the new main floor lobby bar area has been raised creating a more open environment.  The former second floor bar is now a very functional, enclosed multi-purpose room for use as a patron lounge or a meeting space and includes a washroom.


Staff Work Environment – The new third floor area will be bright and well laid out to meet staff needs and provide flexibility.  The Ondaatje Room and the Green Room will also be equipped to serve as workshop and meeting spaces.


Accessibility – The entry, lower and upper lobby and theatre will be fully accessible and serviced by an accessible washroom.  The stage and backstage will also be accessible, including the washroom. Plans include a stair lift to the second floor Ondaatje Room.  The Theatre will be serviced by a Hearing Loop system for use by the hearing impaired.


Air Quality – As with the restoration project, air circulation, heating and cooling have been prioritized.  The difference is that system design and installation no longer involve maneuvering through a difficult existing structure.  


Green EnergyAll technical theatre lighting will be LED, and the insulation qualities of the rebuilt structure will add to energy efficiency.


Code Changes – The building will satisfy National Building Code requirements for fire safety at a place of assembly, protecting the building from external fire events and protecting adjacent neighbours from a fire event at the Playhouse.  Previously, the Playhouse was grandfathered with respect to many code issues.  The standard for fire protection in a public venue is a sprinkler system.  This solution is not available to the Playhouse due to the lack of a public water supply in the Village of Chester.  The approved alternative approach, incorporating specific construction materials, defined “zones” and extensive venting and alarm systems has added substantially to the costs of rebuilding.


Throughout the winter months, construction carries on inside the playhouse! The theatre itself is taking shape, as well as the framing of the artist’s green room and offices!


A look at our future stage!

Top Left: waiting for windows and doors. Top Right: Green Room is framed. Bottom Left: Office is framed. Bottom Right: Attic with steel beams and concrete floor

Floor beams covered in fire retardant paint.


We continue to move closer to our Grand Re-Opening and are excited to be able to share a look at the work in progress!


Keep checking back for more updates and photos as construction continues on your Chester Playhouse.


Executive Director Andrew Chandler spoke with Katie Kelly at CTV about the history of the playhouse and the rebuild project. Watch the video for a peek inside the playhouse and see for yourself how far we have come in just a few short months.

Chester Playhouse Annual General Meeting


The Chester Playhouse held its Annual General Meeting on Monday, March 28th, 2022.

2021 was a year unlike any other for the Chester Playhouse. The COVID-19 pandemic was ever-changing, and our planned June re-opening of a newly renovated playhouse was put on hold when a fire broke out just weeks before completion leaving the building almost fully destroyed.

The Playhouse Board and Staff quickly pivoted, making changes to save the remainder of our 2021 Season with the creation of our Playhouse Without Walls. Partnering with local venues and utilising Zoom, we were able to bring live music, films, and conversations to the Chester area and ended the year with a positive outlook for the future.

We welcome you to read the complete AGM report and reach out with any questions you may have. Click this link to download the full 2021 Chester Playhouse Annual General Meeting report.


Chester Playhouse Rebuilding Project Public Meeting


A public meeting on the Chester Playhouse Rebuilding Project was held on Tuesday March 29th, 2022 via Zoom. This meeting was to share the overall rebuilding plans, projected timelines and to answers questions.  A recording of this meeting is available to watch below.

Chester Playhouse Rebuilding Project


In September 2021, we wrote to you with an update on our efforts to determine a path forward. Thank you for your patience and support as we have worked through this challenging process.


Today we have very good news to report!


Our plans for rebuilding are finalized and we are making plans to commence work on site in April, with an estimated 12 months for completion.


The National Building Code and the Municipal Building Inspector looked at the rebuilding of the Playhouse as a new construction project rather than a renovation, and initially required that the Playhouse be constructed of non-combustible materials and incorporate a sprinkler system. As an 80 year old wooden structure located in a municipality that does not have a central public water supply, we could not meet either of these requirements and so we retained fire protection engineers to develop alternative compliance solutions. The goal was to provide equivalent building protection and ensure the safety of building occupants and surrounding buildings in event of fire. These proposed plans have been approved.


The resulting upgrades to the previous design and construction of the building will be expensive to implement and basic construction costs have also increased. On a more positive note, the scope of the damage means that we are now able to upgrade building quality and improve accessibility in areas of the Playhouse that were not within the scope of the previous restoration project.


The Playhouse has approached all government partners who are presently invested in the project with formal requests for supplemental funding. We have stressed that individual donors have given generously to the project already, plus are continuing to play a critical role in helping cover ongoing Playhouse operating costs. We are optimistic that the requests to our government partners will be successful but, if there is a shortfall, we will need to turn to our friends in the community for additional support.


We are pleased and heartened that all members of the Restoration Project team are stepping up to see this project through. This means that the experience gained, and the lessons learned from the restoration will flow through to what is now the Rebuilding Project.


We are really looking forward to breaking ground on the Chester Playhouse Rebuilding Project this spring, and to that day when we can celebrate a new Playhouse with you.


While we are under construction, the “Playhouse Without Walls” will continue to present exciting performing artists for your enjoyment so please join us at venues throughout the community for music, theatre and more. The arts will continue to bring us back together as we emerge from the very challenging isolation of the pandemic.


We know you may have questions about the project and that safety is a concern for our community. We invite you to ask them of us directly at an open Playhouse Rebuilding meeting on Tuesday, March 29th 4-5pm via Zoom.


Please register by CLICKING THIS LINK. Key team members will do a brief presentation, and then take your questions. We will also summarize the questions and answers and make them available through our newsletter and website following the meeting.


Thank you for your unwavering support, it means everything!


All my best,


Andrew Chandler

Executive Director, Chester Playhouse

The Rebuilding Project makes the news!


Chester Playhouse – South Shore Breaker

Chester Playhouse – Building Update

As you know, we had hoped that the reopening of the Chester Playhouse would have been an exciting highlight for your summer. The tragic fire on June 11th ended that dream, for the time being.


While we were working with our insurance company and others to determine next steps, we hope you enjoyed and followed our “Playhouse without Walls” summer season. Executive Director Andrew Chandler and his team managed to shift summer presentations to a range of locations, outdoors and indoors. Reeny Smith captivated at the Chester United Baptist Church with her incredible vocals and instrumentation, the Town Heroes brought Cape Breton stories to life through their performance at the Chester Legion, we helped our friends at the Chester Drama Society present a sold-out production of Shorts & Suites, fifteen youth dazzled friends and family with their singing and choreography at the end of a five-day Broadway Boot Camp, The Princess Bride filled a movie screen in Lordly park, author Dean Jobb spoke of researching a true crime, and finally the Playhouse on Pleasant Street brought our community together for a showcase of professional musical talent in the heart of the Village of Chester.


Thank you for supporting the intense, short season! Your donations and attendance made it possible.


The most important question now facing the Playhouse, and the community, is whether or not we can rebuild.


Here is what we know:


The specific cause of the June 11th fire may not be determined due to the extent of the damage at the back of the attic where it started.


The Playhouse building was insured and the total of the insurance proceeds, restoration funds not spent at the the time of the fire, and equipment and other furnishings in storage are sufficient to rebuild the Playhouse to our existing plans. Our insurer has sourced detailed estimates and recommends rebuilding upon the salvaged remaining structure and foundation.


However the challenge in front of us is that we have been advised by the Municipal Building Inspector (who is the authority having jurisdiction regarding fire protection requirements) that any rebuild of the playhouse must now incorporate a sprinkler system. This was not a requirement for the original restoration project, which, importantly, did add fire protection enhancements throughout the building and which potentially limited damage to nearby properties.


A sprinkler system is not feasible. It requires a significant flow of water and, in the absence of a public water supply, this would have to be furnished by a 50,000-gallon (approx.) cistern and emergency diesel pumping system. The estimated 40’ x 60’ x 100’ cistern cannot be accommodated on our property and options such as acquiring adjacent land, if available, are beyond our financial means.


To overcome this obstacle we have engaged recognized experts in fire protection consulting and engineering to identify alternative Code compliance solutions for fire protection. Once we receive their report, assuming that alternative compliance solutions are possible, it is our intention to pursue approval for a rebuilding plan that incorporates these elements. We are working as fast as this complex situation allows, and hope to have a direction by the end of October.


Your questions and feedback over the past two months have focused on our insurance situation, which we have answered above, and on the potential consideration of an alternative site for the Playhouse. There are many reasons why a different site could be attractive, but it is important to note that the same challenge related to access to public water for a sprinkler system would apply. A new site would also require a comprehensive feasibility plan, adding years and costs.


We believe that the best and only path before us at this point is to do everything we can  to rebuild the Playhouse we were on the verge of delivering to the community with its vast improvements over its prior incarnation, many of them safety related. It is imperative that we overcome the roadblocks quickly and move the project forward. Please be assured that our goals include working with municipal/provincial fire protection authorities to rebuild a safe Chester Playhouse for all staff and patrons.


You have invested in this important project as donors, patrons, champions and more. Thank you for your ongoing patience. We will update you as soon as we have clarity on the path forward, and will bring you into the conversation for guidance and input.


The Playhouse continues to be an active organization with a mandate to deliver professional, community and youth performing arts programming in Chester. The “Playhouse Without Walls” model will be our focus for serving you during the period of rebuilding and we will need to rely on your continuing enthusiasm, ideas and financial support to sustain the Playhouse.


We look forward to sharing live performances with you this fall.




Susan Crocker and Liz Crocker, Board Co-Chairs – On behalf of the Board of Directors, Chester Theatre Council Society.

2021 Chester Playhouse Fire

We remain tremendously grateful to our Chester Volunteer Fire Department as well as all other fire departments that were called to scene: Chester Basin, Blandford, Hubbards, HRM Fire Station 56 (Black Point), Western Shore, Martins River, Mahone Bay, Blockhouse, Oakhill, Lunenburg, Bridgewater, Cornwall, New Ross, Windsor, Hantsport, Brooklyn and Southwest Hants (Upper Vaughan). Everyone worked so hard and so bravely to contain the fire. It was extinguished on Friday night, with no injuries reported, but significant damage to our beloved Playhouse..


There are many questions about what happened, and what happens next, and we will provide answers when we have them. Investigators and assessors will be examining the site over the coming days and weeks, and it will be some time before we know much. For now, the site is closed off for safety purposes and so that investigations can proceed. We thank you for your patience.


Many have asked if they can donate to help out, and we remain truly humbled by our community’s generosity. We will be determining the building needs in time, but in the short term, if you are moved to donate, you can do so to our General Operating Fund here.


While we look for alternate locations for some of our planned indoor events, we also have planned several outdoor events that we are optimistic can proceed. Your support now will allow us to present these events in our community, support the artists involved, and help us bring live performance back to Chester.


We will provide further updates, as we have them. Thank you to everyone who has reached out, and offered their kind words and support. We are, like you, terribly disappointed by this dark day. But we are undaunted, and we look forward to a brighter future tomorrow.


With love,


The team at the Chester Playhouse



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