In 1984 a small group of local residents formed The Stirling Performing Arts Committee. Its founding members Marion & Bert Bastedo, Dave & Ruth Potts, Peggy Faulkner, Bob & Jean Hatton and John Lowery protested to preserve an old movie theatre. The theatre ran from 1936 to the late 1950’s. Movie showings had become less popular and the theatre was rarely used. Originally constructed to be a Community Service Centre in 1927, parts of the building had been used as a jail and police station throughout the years. The buildings purpose has always been to serve the community. The SPAC fundraised to keep the theatre going over the years and or their love of the performing arts they maintained and cleaned the theatre. Tickets were sold out of the homes of the founding members for live shows held at the Stirling Festival Theatre.
Caroline Smith became the Artistic and Managing Director of the Stirling Festival Theatre in 1996. With her vision, guidance and several volunteers the theatre had its first summer of professional entertainment. The theatre is known for its originality and unique performances. Numerous scripts have been written and collaborated on by both past and present staff like Caroline Smith and David Vanderlip. Writing the scripts themselves gives them opportunity to make changes, seek input and allows performers freedom for improvisation. SFT staff feels that the theatre is a wonderful place to do what they love in a community that supports its theatre.
Today in a small town of 2000 residents, The Stirling Festival Theatre sees upwards of 45,000 people a year that come to see live performances. Managing Director David Vanderlip says it’s the “variety of entertainment” the theatre offers from musical performances to their annual Panto Festival that draws the crowds. Staying true to their roots, the theatre has a policy for being self-sufficient. Generous sponsors from the surrounding community help them bring the best entertainment at the lowest possible price. The theatre draws tourism for the area and works closely with town council.
The future of theatre lies in their ability to engage their audience. Social media plays a crucial role in any business today and the SFT is no different. The staff are not only great a keeping in touch with their community and supporters but they love doing it. SFT updates the surrounding areas through news sources, Facebook, Twitter and their website with upcoming events consistently. SFT is known for professional live theatre all year round that features hilarious comedies, swinging musicals, workshops, delectable dinner theatre mystery shows and their annual Panto Festival.
“Come on by and try it out.” Managing Director, David Vanderlip
Currently the theatre is in a time of transition. Staff, volunteers, members and performers are working on ways to carve out a niche and differentiate themselves from other theatres while staying true to their roots and being open to opportunities. The main goal of the SFT is to promote the love and experience live theatre brings. The theatre will stay close to their roots of The Stirling Performing Arts Committee, volunteers and the community that made it all possible.