Shows and events in 2022

A multidisciplinary venue at the heart of the cultural life of Brome-Missisquoi

From the beginning, Théâtre de Lac-Brome (TLB) has carved out an enviable place for itself in the region. Today, it is the pride of the citizens of Lac-Brome and has earned the admiration of visitors and artists who perform there. Initially a summer theater hosting professional and amateur productions in English, the TLB has evolved into a versatile, bilingual, year-round venue.

Theater and more

TLB offers a diverse program of theater, music, song, comedy and film. It also presents shows for young audiences and hosts local groups such as the Knowlton Players, exhibitions by local artists and several festivals including the Knowlton Film Festival and the Festival littéraire Lac-Brome.

A bit of history

Birth of Theatre Lac-Brome

Theatre Lac-Brome (TLB) was founded in 1986 by British-born actress Emma Stevens. It marked the return of professional English-language theater to Knowlton, building on the tradition of Brae Manor Playhouse that had already enjoyed its heyday from 1935 to 1956. This renowned summer theater, which was also a training center for actors, produced more than a hundred plays by American or English authors, in which professional and apprentice actors practiced their craft. Today, TLB is the spiritual heir of Brae Manor and continues the proud tradition of theater in the Brome-Missisquoi region.

The first years

TLB was incorporated by Letters Patent in 1988 and, with the support of local residents and businesses, mobilized to provide the company with a permanent performance space. The Knowlton Pub Playhouse, built by Gerry Wood, owner of the Knowlton Pub, is strategically located in the heart of the village. The room had a seating capacity of 135 and, with the guidance of Emma Stevens, Artistic Director, produced plays in English and welcomed amateur groups and a few artists, such as the young virtuoso pianist Alain Lefèvre.

Nicholas Pynes in command

In 1991, Nicholas K. Pynes, a professional musician of New York origin, succeeded Emma Stevens as Artistic Director and would serve TLB well until 2018. From the outset, Pynes committed to staging plays by Canadian playwrights each year, such as John Gray’s hit play Billy Bishop Goes to War, as well as a few works by Quebec playwrights translated into English, such as Heat Wave by Michel Marc Bouchard. Revivals and American musicals were a regular part of the summer schedule, while early fall heralded the return of the Knowlton Players and the popular duo Bowser & Blue. Along the way, Nick Pynes often assisted as a writer, director, musical director, and piano accompanist.

Canadian drama and classical repertoire

In 1996, the TLB celebrated its 10th anniversary and continued to focus on the production and creation of Canadian plays in English, including An Anglophone is Coming to Dinner, by Sherbrooke’s George Rideout, and The Megantic Outlaw, by Nick Pynes and Edward Herkes. The program also includes a more classical repertoire, with authors such as Oscar Wilde, Graham Greene, Henry James, and shows paying tribute to popular music icons such as Patsy Cline and Hank Williams.

TLB takes over ownership of the theatre

At the turn of the century, the Board of Directors decided to purchase the Knowlton Pub Playhouse, which the TLB had been renting for a dozen years. To do so, TLB launched a major fundraising campaign that was a great success. The TLB closed the deal in late 2002, completed several renovations, and increased the capacity of the hall to 150 seats. In the wake of this, the TLB diversified its programming to include all the performing and visual arts. To reflect this new orientation, the venue was renamed Arts Knowlton, a name it would keep for some time, before being replaced by the current official name: Théâtre de Lac-Brome.

TLB continues to grow as a producer and broadcaster

Now with the dual role of producer and presenter of shows, TLB continued its momentum. Nic Pynes’ programs included world premieres, productions ranging from Noël Coward to George Bernard Shaw, and from a Frank Sinatra tribute to French operetta. The musical program was enriched by a classical component in collaboration with countertenor Daniel Taylor and the Orford Arts Centre. Humour also had its place with Lorne Elliott, Stephen Leacock, and the Four Anglos along with the performances of amateur troupes, various exhibitions, and film screenings.

A new bilingual direction

In 2012, under the presidency of Paul Marion, TLB began a crucial transition in its history and henceforth announces itself as a ”bilingual theater”. This new direction reflects both the changing demographics of Brome Lake and the rich cultural and linguistic diversity of the region. It also reflects the need for the organization to expand its audience and increase attendance. Renowned comedian Albert Millaire was at the forefront of the French-language programming as both designer and performer, including Dear Liar/Cher menteur, an epistolary comedy presented alternately in English and French, Mes amours de personnages and Rendez-vous Molière. English continued to have a predominant place in the shows as well as in the number of performances.

A rejuvenation after 30 years
For its thirtieth anniversary, the TLB undertook a major renovation and in 2017 invited its public to rediscover the new premises. The result was the upgrading of several facilities and equipment, 161 new chairs, a new Steinway piano donated by the Carke Foundation, and most importantly, the addition of a spacious, modern, glass-enclosed 1,700 sq. ft. foyer designed by architect Éric Gauthier of the firm FABG. This vast undertaking was made possible thanks to the support of numerous donors and patrons and a major grant of $280,000 from the Department of Canadian Heritage. The Town of Brome Lake also provided specific support to encourage TLB to increase its French-language offerings and extend its performance season.
A forced pause in 2020 leading to a reorganization

In 2018, pianist Dominic Boulianne took over as Artistic Director, followed by Ellen David at the end of 2019. Our Theatre became a multidisciplinary venue open all year round. As TLB announced the launch of a promising 2020 season, TLB was forced to suspend public activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, TLB took advantage of this period to develop a new organizational structure and developed and executed an action plan that is both ambitious and realistic. The Board of Directors also launched an extensive fundraising campaign to ensure the viability of the Theatre, while strengthening ties with its patrons and the municipal administration of Lac-Brome. With the long-awaited easing of health restrictions in early 2022, the TLB finally reopened its doors to the public in March and welcomed a new artistic director in Anne Dubé.

Looking ahead

Well situated in the heart of the Townships, Theater Lac-Brome intends to play a dynamic role in the artistic, cultural and tourism sectors. With more than 90 shows, activities, and events on the program in 2023, Theatre Lac-Brome continues to  contribute to the vitality of the Brome community, to the quality of life of its citizens, and to the influence of established and emerging artists.