The iconic Chester Playhouse rises from the ashes

News release

CHESTER, Nova Scotia, August 27, 2023

For 85 years, audiences have been delighted and entertained at the Chester Playhouse on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. The theatre has hosted local and international artists and become a source of pride for the municipality and the province. Despite extensive damage caused by a fire in 2021, the community rallied around the theatre, determined to reopen and welcome audiences and performances again.

Today, Andy Fillmore, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry and Member of Parliament (Halifax), announced new funding of $1.05 million towards infrastructure upgrades, renovations, and the reconstruction of the newly reopened Chester Playhouse. He made this announcement on behalf of the Honourable Pascale St-Onge, Minister of Canadian Heritage, and the Honourable Gudie Hutchings, Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and Minister of Rural Economic Development.

These funds will contribute to enhanced experiences for performers and artists, as well as for audience members, staff, and volunteers. A new commercial grade projector, sound system, and screen will deliver world-class performances to audiences. Accessibility has been improved with fully accessible spaces, a stair lift to the second floor, and a Bluetooth Hearing Loop system for use by people who are hearing impaired. Electrical systems have been upgraded and HVAC systems have been replaced to comply with modern standards.

This funding to the Chester Theatre Society includes $700,000 from the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Canada Cultural Spaces Fund and $350,000 from ACOA’s Innovative Communities Fund. In addition to funding from the Government of Canada, the Province of Nova Scotia has provided $200,000; the Municipality of the District of Chester has provided $200,000; and private donations totaling more than $1 million have helped ensure the Chester Playhouse’s rebuild and reopening.


“Theatres are the cultural heartbeat of communities across the country. We are proud to support the Chester Theatre Society so they can continue doing their great work to promote and encourage the performing arts in the region. The Chester Playhouse and its supporters have overcome a significant challenge, and I wish the performers, staff, and volunteers the best in their upcoming seasons.”

—The Honourable Pascale St-Onge, Minister of Canadian Heritage

“The Chester Playhouse is a beloved community gathering place where people of all ages can experience and share in the magic of the arts with friends and family. We are pleased to help the theatre build back better than ever after the ravages of the 2021 fire. With improved accessibility and state-of-the-art upgrades, the Chester Playhouse will raise the curtain on a new era of amazing productions and year-round entertainment for residents and visitors alike.

—The Honourable Gudie Hutchings, Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Minister of Rural Economic Development

“Cultural spaces like the Chester Playhouse don’t just happen. It takes the work, vision, and passion of the community to maintain facilities and ensure exciting and relevant programming. With the support of all levels of government, community contributions, and more, the Chester Theatre Society has overcome a devastating fire to deliver high-quality performances that will delight audiences for years to come.”

— Andy Fillmore, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry and Member of Parliament (Halifax)

“The Chester Playhouse has been an important performing arts venue for the local community and the broader South Shore region for more than 80 years. We are pleased to have supported this rebuild project so the facility can continue to provide professional arts programming, as well as community-originated programs.”

—Danielle Barkhouse, Member of Legislative Assembly, Chester–St. Margaret's, on behalf of the Honourable Pat Dunn, Nova Scotia Minister of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage

“The rebuilding of the Chester Playhouse has required strong financial support from very supportive government organizations, as well as many donors from across our community. We are grateful for this shared belief in the importance and potential of the Playhouse, and for the efforts and talents of the volunteers and skilled experts who have worked together to rebuild this beloved theatre.”

—Andrew Chandler, Executive Director, Chester Playhouse

Quick facts

  • The Chester Playhouse was built in 1938 and originally operated as a movie house. It presents a variety of professional music and theatre performances, films, and community events, as well as activities for families and youth, including a Summer Theatre School, after-school programs and targeted family presentations.

  • In September 2020, the Chester Theatre Council Society (now Chester Theatre Society) was awarded $343,000 in 2020–21 from the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Canada Cultural Spaces Fund and $250,000 through ACOA’s Innovative Communities Fund for renovations and the purchase of specialized equipment to make the Chester Playhouse more accessible. The Province of Nova Scotia also invested $110,000 through the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, while the Municipality of the District of Chester provided $100,000. In March 2023, the Province of Nova Scotia announced $400,000 from the Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism, and Heritage, to assist the Chester Playhouse with repairs from fire damage.

  • The Canada Cultural Spaces Fund supports the improvement of physical conditions for arts, heritage, culture and creative innovation. The Fund supports renovation and construction projects, the acquisition of specialized equipment and feasibility studies related to cultural spaces.

  • The Innovative Communities Fund supports projects that build the economies of communities in Atlantic Canada, contributing to initiatives that lead to long-term employment and a stronger local economy. The fund enables communities to develop thriving industry sectors, strengthen infrastructure in rural areas, and invest in projects to help communities overcome economic issues and take advantage of new opportunities.

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For more information (media only), please contact:

Laura Scaffidi
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Media Relations
Canadian Heritage

Lauren Sinclair
Director of Communications
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

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