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Quebec, Ottawa announce $6.2M for modernization of Montreal's Centaur Theatre

Centaur Theatre is located in the historic building that housed Canada's first stock exchange in Old Montreal. (Alain Léger/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Centaur Theatre is located in the historic building that housed Canada's first stock exchange in Old Montreal. (Alain Léger/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Montreal's oldest English-language theatre is getting a multimillion-dollar injection from the federal and provincial governments for major upgrades.

The Centaur Theatre, located in Old Montreal, will receive $6.2 million — $2.2 million from the federal government, $4 million from Quebec — to upgrade its infrastructure and breathe new life into the iconic Quebec institution.

Quebec MNA Eric Girard, the minister responsible for relations with Quebec's English-speaking community, and Randy Boissonnault, Canada's official languages minister, made the joint announcement at the theatre Thursday.

"[The funding] comes from the Community Spaces Fund, which helps to renovate and upgrade multi-purpose community and cultural spaces that provide services and activities to official language minority communities — spaces just like the Centaur Theatre," said Boissonnault.

The money will go toward upgrades such as repairing the building's foundation, modifying the main entrance to improve accessibility, raising the height of the roof to accommodate new stage equipment and replacing the ventilation, heating and electrical systems, as well as the plumbing.

Federal Employment Minister Randy Boissonault, left,  and Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard shake hands after a funding announcement for the Centaur Theatre in Montreal, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024.
Federal Employment Minister Randy Boissonault, left, and Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard shake hands after a funding announcement for the Centaur Theatre in Montreal, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024.

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Official Languages Randy Boissonnault, left, and Eric Girard, Quebec's minister responsible for relations with English-speaking Quebecers, right, shake hands after a funding announcement for the Centaur Theatre in Montreal on Thursday. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Eda Holmes, the artistic and executive director of Centaur Theatre, says the investment signifies a bright future for the English theatre community.

"We're just thrilled because it's going to give us the chance to make more art, make better art and make art available to more people," she told CBC's Daybreak.

Renovations are expected to last until at least January 2025.

Founded in 1969, Centaur Theatre is located in the historic building that housed Canada's first stock exchange in Old Montreal.

At one time a cinema, the theatre will now get some much-needed infrastructure, namely a fly tower, that will allow it to revitalize its artistic programming, said Holmes.

A fly tower is a large system above the stage which allows the crew to hoist in different elements like scenery, and supports components like lights.

"It will change the way we think about what kind of plays we put on stage, the size of the shows, the number of shows," said Holmes.

Quebec Culture Minister Mathieu Lacombe said the Centaur Theatre is a "flagship venue for English-language theatre production" and at the heart of Quebec's theatre scene.

"I'm delighted to announce this major support, which will enable us to bring our buildings up to standard to ensure their longevity and, at the same time, preserve our built heritage," he said in a statement.

Holmes says the end goal is to be a theatre for all Montrealers and "represent the really beautiful unique diversity of this city, and to put that city on stage."