In 1926, the M.V.Kipawo was launched down the ways of the Saint John Shipyard, their first steel vessel and the pride of the Dominion Railway. She was destined to become the last of the Minas Basin Ferries when, in 1942, she was commissioned as part of Canada’s naval defense. In 1982, the Kipawo Heritage Society was successful in securing the Kipawo’s return to Parrsboro from the rocky shores of Newfoundland, where she was cast by time in a state of disrepair. The aim of the society was to restore the Kipawo into a floating cultural centre, capable of housing live theatre productions, art shows, and Maritime heritage displays.
Ship’s Company Theatre came into existence in 1984 when co-founders Michael Fuller and Mary Vingoe staged the first production aboard the old and dilapidated ferry vessel. You’ll be in Her Arms by Midnight and Other Parrsboro Stories was received with much excitement by the local community. The show ran for six days and played to sold out houses. Over the years the company has enjoyed tremendous support locally, regionally and nationally. The production season has grown to fourteen weeks and the operating budget has increased many fold. Ship’s Company now offers a Mainstage program of three plays running in stock and, since 1995, a Second-stage, which is dedicated to new and emerging artists from the Atlantic Provinces. 1999 saw the introduction of a Concert Series which has grown to a total of eight concerts each season. In 2004 a Kid’s Stage was introduced and showcases a selection of children’s shows each season as well as an expanded Theatre Camp program that offers camps to youth from ages five to seventeen. Periodically, the theatre tours a production to other centres in the Maritimes. The company’s success is the result of strong vision, commitment from our artists, and a loyal audience. Ship’s Company embraced the risk of developing new theatre for our region – plays that may transfer to larger stages farther afield.
The Mission of Ship’s Company Theatre is to be a prime centre for the production and development of Canadian and Atlantic theatre. The chartered objects of The Ship’s Company include the primary activity of presenting theatrical performances with special emphasis on Atlantic Canadian content. Ship’s Company is committed to the promotion, development and support of the artists of our region. Since 1984 Ship’s Company has commissioned, developed and/or produced thirty four new works as well as having given many new plays valuable second productions.
A number of world premiere plays have gone on to stages across the country: notably, two plays by Wendy Lill, Sisters and The Glace Bay Miners Museum and Lance Woolaver’s World Without Shadows, and more recently, Claudia Dey’s Trout Stanley, Michael Melski’s The Fly Fisher’s Companion, and Daniel Lillford’s The Mystery of Maddy Heisler, each of which received world premieres at Ship’s Company Theatre. Paul Ledoux, Michael Melski, Harry Thurston, Silver Donald Cameron, Jennifer Overton, Carol Sinclair and Charlie Rhindress are playwrights who have been supported through the commissioning program. Kit Brennan, David French, Donna Smyth, Janis Spence, Ray Guy, Daniel Lillford and Pam Boyd have also contributed to the body of work.
The high quality of this work enables us to attract the best in regional talent to bring productions to life. The Ship’s Company stage has been graced by the work of Deborah Allen, Don Allison, Jack Belt, Andrew Bigelow, Michael Chiasson, Mary-Colin Chisholm, Richard Donald Robert Doyle, David Fox, Gay Hauser, Carolyn Hetherington, Martha Irving, Brooke Johnson, Andy Jones, Tim Koetting, Niki Lipman, Jenny Munday, Frank MacKay, Marguerite McNeil, David Renton, Joseph Ruttan, Mary Vingoe, Mary Walsh, and Joseph Wynne to name a few. Their work and the work of many other fine artists is the foundation upon which our reputation is built. Tremendous community and government support enabled us to make our long-standing dream of a permanent home for Ship’s Company a reality. The new theatre was designed by the architectural firm of Brian MacKay-Lyons Urban Design around the M.V. Kipawo, which remains the physical and spiritual centre of our unique performance venue.