Majestic Theatre part of Canada’s history

Historic theatre continues to serve the community with new productions.

History plays a big part in this country and in Bashaw, the Majestic Theatre is a huge piece of that puzzle.

First built just 10 years after Alberta became a province, the theatre represents the early settlement history of the region and is widely believed to be the last remaining theatre of its kind in western Canada.

It was saved from demolition in 1998 by a group of concerned residents the Friends of the Majestic Theatre who were able to purchase the building from the town and have it restored in 2005 to resemble its 1930s facade.

Jean Knudtson, a member the Friends, explained the theatre has and continues to be part of the community due mostly to the love and support people show for it.

“When I moved to Bashaw, I was excited to know a theatre was here as I was involved in the theatre where I came from,” she said.

About $110,000 was raised through donations and grants from the provincial and federal governments to get the tremendous amount of work completed. The theatre would also be designated a historical resource and become an integral part of the community once again hosting plays, dances and numerous other social functions and meetings.

“And, I love it. It’s unique, the acoustics are fantastic and the ambiance, the feel of it is a lot different than other venues,” said Knudtson. “And in spite of it being smaller, the people love coming from all over to see performances or look at it and there is a core group of dedicated people that put in a lot of work and commitment to keep it going.”

Through its 102 year run, the Majestic has played host to thousands of acts and performances including magic lantern shows, theatrical productions, silent and ‘talkie’ movies in addition to being the community’s first Catholic Church.

Bashaw town founder, Eugene Bashaw, is said to have constructed the wood-frame ‘boomtown’ style building for property owner, Ponoka’s Ella Wing, in order to host plays and other social events. It was officially opened at the Majestic Theatre in 1921 and renamed Dixy in the 1940s when it resumed its movie theatre role once again.

One other feature inside the building is the large mural placed on the ceiling, by local artist Ed McFadden, that depicts the town and theatre’s history.

New production

While the theatre is quite busy throughout the year with dances, music jams and other activities, the big feature and largest fundraiser for the Friends is the annual dinner theatre production, set for March 31 to April 2 and April 6 to 8.

This year the group has chosen the play The Robin Hood Capers that sold out all six performances in only a short time, so short in fact that a seventh performance was added on March 30.

Knudtson is one of a team of directors for the comedy, who noted the play is a bit of a departure from what the group usually puts on.

“It’s different. Normally, we put on fast-paced comedic plays, but this one is more slow,” she said, who is also joined on the team by Val Wandler and Debbie Babcock.

It’s about four older lovely individuals, two men and two women, that each tell their stories and who all happen to be crooks and have spent time in jail.

“All four are played by some wonderful actors who do a really good job in a play that isn’t easy to perform. There are also other characters such as a nephew and his fiance plus the corrupt mayor and his sidekick with his wife. In all, we have 10 people play separate parts,” added Knudtson.