Tag Archives: theatre

Gowan this, and Gowan that; Gowan here and Gowan there. — Gowan’s Opera House

Gowan this, and Gowan that; Gowan here and Gowan there. — Gowan’s Opera House

  Former Gowan’s Music Hall

History of building

Saturday Shopping: Orme’s Piano Store at 189 Sparks Street, in 1897. Awesome carriage on the right. But I particularly like the J.P. Curry “express” wagon on the left. Some things are never Lost.

The store was named after J. L. Orme, a Scottish immigrant who arrived in Canada in 1856. He became the first paid organist at St. Andrew Presbyterian in 1861. Realizing there was a market for such a thing, he opened a music store on Sparks Street which he incorporated in 1866. The store remained in business for decades.

Check out the basically mud road. This level of dirt makes it clear why clean, green parks were so important back in the day. —Lost Ottawa (PA-011372).

When Gowan’s Music Hall was established in Ottawa in 1869, the hall was hailed as a fine forward step for the Capital. Prior to that, Ottawa had had Her Majesty’s Theatre, on Wellington street, but had not had any suitable building where local concerts could be held, or where outside performers who were not in the theatre class could go in the early 1860s they came to Ottawa from Toronto.

The Gowans were musical people. They were also carvers and gilders, picture framers, made looking glasses, etc. They kept a music store, and had a fine brass band and a string band. Over their store they had a dance hall. The Gowans were located at 113 Sparks street, the site which in after years housed the J. L. Orme Piano Store and St. James’ Hall. The Gowans, who were very enterprising people, and seemed to have been possessed of some money, dominated the music field here. It was Gowan this, and Gowan that; Gowan here and Gowan there.

Gowan’s Opera House. Ottawa Dramatic Club. Season 1876-77. First Performance, Friday Evening, 15th December, 1876. Under the Distinguished Patronage of Their Excellencies The Governor General and the Countess of Dufferin. Performance to Commence at 8 O’Clock Punctually. [With]: Mounted Photograph of Gowan’s Opera House. 8x 9cm., on grey card 13.5x 13.5cm, inscribed on verso: Gowan’s Opera House, Albert Street, Ottawa. Seven April 1902. [by H.J. Morgan; not signed]

CLIPPED FROMThe Ottawa CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada31 Aug 1935, Sat  •  Page 2

The Gowans came to the pinnacle of their business eminence, when in the early seventies, they built the Gowan Theatre on Albert street (later the Grand Opera House). This story, however, is not about the Grand Opera House, but about Gowan’s Music Hall. When the Gowans, in 1869, decided that a concert hall was desirable, they remodelled the dance hall above their stores, putting in a stage which would permit of concerts or of small plays. The dance hall had a high ceiling. To make their opportunity for serving the public wider, they put in a floor over half-way up the wall of the concert hall, 12 feet, making another large room above. This room they intended for a supper room for the use of dancers and others.

When their alterations were completed they had a ball and concert hall, on the first floor, 80 x 33 in size, and on the second floor a supper room, 52 x 33 in size. The supper room was planned to hold 300 guests. The reason the supper room was not as large as the ball room, was that on the supper room floor, were a kitchen and dressing rooms for ladies and gentlemen. It should be mentioned that in the ladies’ dressing rooms were racks for ladies’ bonnets, hats and cloaks.

The entrance to Gowan’s halls was from Wellington street, there being then a vacant lot in rear of the Gowan store. The Gowan Music Hall, which seated 600 persons, was the scene of many noted lectures, balls, concerts, plays, etc. On the Sparks street frontage of their building the Gowans had their two stores (separated). In one was their instrument and music store, and in the other their picture framing and gilding establishment. For a while all went well with the Gowans and their enterprises. But the dark days of the 1870s took their toll, and their enterprises became hard hit.

The Gowans were still on the map in 1876. They appear to have still been operating the music hall and the Gowan’s Theatre, but were out of the musical busi ness and the picture framing business. In 1877,which was a very bad year the Gowan’s business appears to have gotten worse. They had left the Sparks street building (including the music hall) and had moved to 192 Bank street, where the three brothers, 4 John, James and Thomas, had their 5 businesses and lived upstairs. Hunter Gowan had already gone away. They still did carving andgilding, and John advertised himself as a musician. What had happened to the celebrated brass band I and the orchestra is not clear. The Gowans still had possession of the theatre apparently.

By 1879 the Gowans were out of Ottawa altogether. Not a Gowan name appeared in the city directory that year. They had either lost or sold the theatre by 1879. In that year the theatre became the property of John (Buffalo) Heney, and the name had been changed from Gowan’s Theatre to “Grand Opera House.” Either in that year or a little later, the late John Ferguson, a son in-law of Mr. Heney became a manager and was manager many years.

Thus in 1879 ended the story of the Gowans in Ottawa. After the Gowans left Sparks street from Quebec came the large tailor groupof D. Morgan and Sons. The Morgans appear to have torn down the partitions between the two Gowan stores, and to have madet one large store. They also cut out an entrance to the concert hall from Sparks street. Another thing they did was to change the name of the hall from Gowan’s Hall to St. James’ Hall. Why the hall was given that particular name is not known, Perhaps the intention was to provide a British flavor.

The Morgans did not remain long and 113, St. James’ Hall, was acquired by the J. L. Ormeand Son music firm. Mr. Orme, not desiring to have anything to do with suppers or dances, tore out the upper floor and restored the concert hall to its original height.

For years St. James’ Hall had a reputation as a concert and lecture hall and meeting place. Conventions, mock parliaments, and similar gatherings used St. James’ Hall. For many years the Plymouth Brethren held their Sunday services and prayer meetings there, bur now the building was somewhat back to its original condition. There were two stores in the building: Thorburn and Abbott’s and Sutherland and Parkins, and there were two floors above made into offices

Lost Ottawa

Here’s an old idea for Sparks Street — bring back the swings! The young Ottawa lass in front of Orme’s furniture store sure seems to be enjoying it circa 1961.

Orme’s was founded in 1861 as a musical instrument store, but slowly shifted into furniture and appliances as radio and later TV came in. The business still exists with two store in Ottawa. Not too many last that long!

This picture was taken when Sparks Street was still a temporary pedestrian mall in the summer.

(LAC e999904630-u)

Working in the Gowan Theatre -Mr Louis Charbonneau, 456 Besserer Street, Ottawa

This is 456 Besserer Street where Mr. Charbonneau once lived. The white siding house could have beenbuiltafter ateardown or it may be hiding some other structure underneath.

 Memories of those glamorous days in the 1870s when the Gowan enterprise provided Ottawa with all that was worth in theatricals and musical entertainment. When Mr. Charbonneau was a boy still in his teens he was engaged as a stage hand and general helper in the old Gowan’s Hall on Sparks street and later in Gowan’s theater on Albert street (the old Grand Opera House) and therefore he has many interesting memories of the famous Gowan family their celebrated orchestra and events prior and subsequent to the building and opening of the Gowan theater.

Gowan’s Organization, as it was called on its first formation, was started in the early 1860s and were: James Gowan, Sr., first violin and leader: Thomas Gowan, second violin and viola: James Gowan. Jr., cello and trombone:John Gowan. string bass: Hunter Gowan, Flute and piccolo: Karl M. Fehr, clarinet; George S. Suthertherland:cornet. Later Edward Marley. a distinguished violinist from England, became leader of the orchestra.There was also: J. C. Bonner, fine cornet and clarinet player, and a son- in-law of James Gowan, became a member. The orchestra was kept busy in those days attending to most of the musical engagements in and outside of the city.

The Gowans were very energetic and established a combined picture framing and gilding business and music store, afterwards known as “Goldsmith’s Hall.” This enterprise was first located where the Ottawa Electric Company building stood on Sparks street and later it was moved to the premises occupied by the Halcyon Club on the south side of Sparks street. Still later the business was moved to the north side of Sparks street where the Thorburn and Abbott store was. There was a hall over the store in which all the city theatricals and dancing assemblies were held, and it was called Gowan’s Hall.

Mention of this old hall, Mr. Charbonneau feels, should arouse pleasant memories, because in those days it was not only the Mecca of discriminating lovers of drama and music, but the rendezvous of people who revelled in amateur theatricals. Many a meritorious play was staged there by local talent, and many a group of youthful and aspiring Thespians were given an opportunity of displaying their wares on amateur nights.

It was in this old hall that Ottawans got their first glimpse or rather hearing of a “talking machine.” It was irtroduced by Annie du Montford, the celebrated actress of that period, and was shrouded in mystery. The machine spoke its pieces and sang its songs in a curtained box and the audience was amazed. Mr. Charbonneau has distinct recollections of opening night at the Gowan theater on Albert street, which was erected in 1874. One reason why his memory is clear on that point is that owing to the unavoidable absence of the cymbal player, he was pressed into service in that capacity. Thus he proudly lays claim to having once played an instrument in the famous Oowan orchestra.

The celebrated Holman Opera Company opened the theater. In Mr. Charbonneau’s opinion. Sally and Julie Holman were truly great artists, and their mother a wonderful musican. The Holmans were always welcome visitors to tne Capital. The opening performance was attended by the Governor General and his suite and many of the elite of the city. Mr. Charbonneau recalls that among the early plays in Gowan’s theater were “Across the Continent.” “The Silver King.” “The Two Orphans,” and “Lights of London.” He also has vivid recollection of how the boys in the gallery used to stamp and yell when the hero conquered the villain, and how they used to hiss whenever the villain seemed to be getting the upper hand.

Mr Louis Charbonneau, 456 Besserer Street, Ottawa

Opera House Interior – Amazon AWS

Lost Ottawa


Map of the Night: Location of the Grand Opera House on Albert Street, just before it burned down in 1913.

The Grand Opera was apparently Ottawa’s first major theatrical venue. It appears to have been renamed the Colonial by 1912. The movie theatre where the fire started can be seen in the map, right next to the Carling Breweries. I am not sure I’ve seen any reference to this brewery before.

For reference, the King George Hotel was on the corner of Albert and Metcalfe.

(LAC Goad Map)

On the other hand, if you were looking for some great entertainment in 1880, could you do better than Buffalo Bill Cody?

The “Prairie Waif” is actually the name of the play presented on the stage of the Grand Opera House, as well as one of the main characters. In act two it says Bill will give his “Fancy Rifle Shooting.” I wonder how that worked out!

The Grand Opera House was located on Sparks Street. It burned down on a Friday night in 1913 – the result of fire that started with the ever-dangerous nitrate film in the “Nickel Moving Picture Theatre” located next to the Opera House on Albert Street (between Metcalfe and O’Connor).

CLIPPED FROMOttawa Daily CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada17 Feb 1875, Wed  •  Page 1

CLIPPED FROMOttawa Daily CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada15 Jan 1870, Sat  •  Page 3

CLIPPED FROMOttawa Daily CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada15 Jan 1875, Fri  •  Page 1

CLIPPED FROMOttawa Daily CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada26 Mar 1872, Tue  •  Page 3


CLIPPED FROMOttawa Daily CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada24 Mar 1871, Fri  •  Page 2

The First Mosh Pits in Carleton Place — The Opera House of the Chatterton House Hotel

Did You Know Who Began the Mayfair Theatre? You will be Shocked!

Flashy Memories of Pandora’s Box ETC — Oh Ottawa Behave!

So Who Was Miss Livingstone? Burlesque

Vaudeville – Documenting John A. Kelly Ventriloquist — Like Father Like Son

Cool Burgess — Minstrel Shows at Reilly’s Hotel

Susie’s Kitchen Band– Names Names Names

He Said-and– He Said! Oh Let the Song of Words Play!

Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Carleton Place

Weird and Thrilling Concert in Carleton Place? The Fisk Jubilee Singers of Tennessee University

Marx Family

One Night of Indecency! — Marx Brothers in Lanark


Ontario’s Version of the Marks Bros-Tales of the Queen’s Hotel

The Story of Ms. Kitty Marks

Travelling Shows on the Rural Stage

What’s Happening at Christie Lake June 23, 1899

Peg O My Heart — Gracie Mark’s Belt

What’s Happening at Christie Lake June 23, 1899

The Killarney of Canada in Lanark County

One Night of Indecency! — Marx Brothers in Lanark

One Night of Indecency!  — Marx Brothers in Lanark

There were seven brothers were: Robert (R. W.), Thomas (Tom), Joseph (Joe), Ernest (Ernie), John, MacIntyre (Mac), and Alexander (Alec).

April 03, 1902 Lanark

Marks Bros., the peoples choice, Kings of Repertoire, Drama and Vaudeville, played to a packed house in the Lanark Village town hall, Monday evening. The hall was filled half an hour after the doors opened and many people were turned away. Local crowds were looking forward to favourites of the footlights, faith in their great reputation.

From time to time they have come this way, and reports told of artistic presentations of the dramatic art to immense audiences in the great cities of the Dominion and the United States. There was a huge desire to see a real show, on their return to Lanark Village after an absence of ten years.

But pride took a mighty fall, faith was destroyed and the end desire was disappointment. The Marks’ idol was shattered. The show was almost unanimously agreed to be the worst ever given in Lanark County by those who had seen them many times.

Surely these people can serve entertainment, after all these years of tuition, than the vile stuff dished out on Monday night. Jokes, the most coarse and vulgar inflicted by people who cast a slur and reproach upon the name occupied– an all too prominent part of the unfortunately planned program.

True, there were some good natures. The bicycle act, the singing of May A. Bell Marks, tha dancing of Master George, the ballads of Miss Minnie Bell were among the good things. But those were completely lost sight of in the flow of low gags and snide dialogue between a team of young men having the brazen effrontery to style themselves as comedians.

It was only by a great effort at self contrul and out of respect to the management that these men were not hissed off the stage. Many people wished to leave the hall and were only prevented from doing so by not desiring to cause unnecessary comment.

Lanark can enjoy good clean entertainment and will patronize it cheerfully —but to be treated to a vaudeville performance having acts of the bum variety will not go down with the people of this town. Scores who have witnessed the Marks’ Bros, performances in other towns could scarcely believe to be the same management that handled this show and cannot yet understand what motive they have in allowing their names to be identified with themselves held responsible for such an act. Nothing but shady performers whose work is an affront to the intelect,intelligence and common decency.

The story goes that in 1878, King Kennedy, a magician, was playing to a small crowd in Maberly, Ontario.  Afterward, a brash young man offered to take over Kennedy’s management, for a percentage on every ticket he sold above the dismal crowd in Maberly.  Robert Marks’s career as a theatre entrepreneur was born. Within two years, he had purchased the Emma Wells stock company, was joined by brothers Tom, Joe and Ernie and the Marks Brothers Dramatic Company was created.

From the 1870s into the 1920s, Perth, Ontario’s Marks Brothers Dramatic Company toured much of North America.

The last of the performing Marks, R. W.’s son Robert Jr., who was a stage veteran at the age of three, passed away in the early 1980s, leaving  his collection of Marks memorabilia to the Perth Museum. Read more here– CLICK

Frisky Marks Bros. Husband

The Lanark Era
Lanark, Ontario, Canada
09 Jun 1897, Wed  •  Page 1

The Lanark Era
Lanark, Ontario, Canada
11 Mar 1908, Wed  •  Page 1
The Lanark Era
Lanark, Ontario, Canada
19 Mar 1902, Wed  •  Page 1

The Lanark Era
Lanark, Ontario, Canada
10 Apr 1907, Wed  •  Page 1
The Lanark Era
Lanark, Ontario, Canada
08 Sep 1909, Wed  •  Page 4


Ontario’s Version of the Marks Bros-Tales of the Queen’s Hotel

The Story of Ms. Kitty Marks

Travelling Shows on the Rural Stage

What’s Happening at Christie Lake June 23, 1899

Peg O My Heart — Gracie Mark’s Belt

What’s Happening at Christie Lake June 23, 1899

The Killarney of Canada in Lanark County

Clippings and History of Mill and Bridge Street Almonte

Clippings and History of Mill and Bridge Street Almonte


Photo thanks to Brent Eades of Almonte.com

On the corner of Bridge and Mill Street once sat The People’s Store and the McAdams store– read-McAdams Store Almonte— It burned down and became The Orpheum, then the O’Brien and nowThe Hub. read-Mary Delaney Caught Stealing at The People’s Store

There was a fire in 1911 and that whole corner burned down as it began in the back of People’s store

The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
16 May 1911, Tue  •  Page 1
Thanks to Brent Eades

Almonte and district suffered no great damage as a result of Saturday’s wind of hurricane proportions. The O’Brien Theatre was the only casualty and about one quarter of its roof was torn off.There was also some damage to the ventilators in the building. The matinee was cancelled but Mr. H. R. Davey was able to make temporary repairs and the night show was held as usual — May 1950 Almonte Gazette

may 1960 almonte gazette

Almonte and district suffered no great damage as a result of Saturday’s wind of hurricane proportions. The O’Brien Theatre was the only casualty and about one quarter of its roof was torn off. There was also some damage to the ventilators in the building. The matinee was cancelled but Mr. H. R. Davey was able to make temporary repairs and the night show was held as usual. 

Motoring was most unpleasant and in some sections telephone poles were torn down. The fire brigade responded to four fires on Saturday, three of which were in less than an hour. One was a chimney fire at the home of Mr. James Waddell in New England. Another was a grass fire at the end of Ann St.; the next was at the residence of Mr. Archie Levitan where leaves caught fire in some unexplained way and the fourth was at the home of Mr. Edgar Lowry, corner of Country and Church Streets. This one started from a fire that had been set out several days before and the embers were fanned into life by the high wind.

May 1950

The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
21 Jun 1930, Sat  •  Page 21

May 1930 Almonte Gazette

Everything is just about ready for the reopening of the Orpheum Theatre here and the first official showing will be on Monday afternoon and evening next, June 30th. The first picture to be shown will be the First National beautiful, all technicolor, musical comedy story “Sally,” which both on the stage and through the sound screen has proven very popular and entertaining. The management have made a special effort to secure a positive atmosphere with courtesy and pleasure and a sucessful production for presentation.

Mr.  Bruck is general manager and an excellent picture has been procured for the opening day. The new theatre is one of the best in the Ottawa Valley and no doubt will be a great drawing card for Almonte. 

The picture “Sally” will be shown on both Monday and Tuesday of next week, and will be followed by dramatic and musical attractions that will amuse and entertain the large audiences which it is expected  to patronize the new theatre. The program also of the management is to show only features of a high standard which will be superior in quality and of a calibre that will insure a successful entertainment. The advertising pages of the Gazette will from time to time announce the various sound pictures that have been booked for showing here. The new O’Brien Theatre is a commercial enterprise, but it is more. 

This new theatre in Almonte is a testimony to the man whose name ‘it bears; expense has not entered into the construction and equipping of the O’Brien Theatre; only the best in each of the various lines necessary to the building and equipping of the O’­ Brien Theatre was allowed into the architects’ specifications. The result is that Almonte now has a beautiful Movitone and Vitaplione motion picture building, very modern in design, acoustically perfect, and absolutely fireproof. 

The new O’Brien. Theatre is a distinct asset to the town. In addition, the furnishings and the equipment are of the most advanced and approved designs that the world’s markets had to offer, and everything has been laid out to ensure public approval. The old Orpheum Theatre has been entirely remodelled and built; the canopy over the main entrance and the immense electrical sign present an imposing and attractive appearance; there are three entrance doors from Main street into the lobby. In addition there are two exit doors which open on to Bridge street, and these two exits will enable the theatre to be emptied at any time very rapidly. The main theatre building is of brick and concrete and the floors are covered with fresh cement which is a sound deadener. A very modern ventilation system has been installed so as to provide for the free circulation of fresh air continuously. Entering the theatre one goes from the lobby to the main part of the house. The lighting effects in the lobby are modernistic. Particularly artistic photo frame and mirrors decorate both the lobby and foyer. 

These lend a very attractive appearance to this section of the entrance. Going from the lobby one enters the main part of the theatre, with its wide aisles and beautiful, comfortable, upholstered opera chairs, with leather air cushions and upholstered backs finished in wine color. 

Indirect lighting of the aisles is a very up-to-date touch which will no doubt be appreciated by the patrons coming in during the performance. On the stage is a large Vocalite sound   screen equipped with an automatic screen modifier, also electrically operated and controlled. This screen and modifier is one of the new real WS features of the Q’Brien Theatre. The stage back of the Vocalite sound screen has been draped with heavy and artistically finished velour hangings, and the scenic effect will compare with any of the theatres in the larger cities of Canada and the United States. 

The owners of the O’Brien Theatre gave a great deal of time and attention to the question of sound equipment, and after investigating many different styles and makes of machines decided to install the high class Northern Electric sound equipment for both Movitone and Vitaphone in addition to new Simplex projection machines. This newest sound equipment will enable the proper presentation of the bigger and best of the talkies and where feasible the screen will give life size reproduction. 

The main contract for the construction of the new O’Brien Theatre was awarded on a tender basis to M. Sullivan & Son, Arnprior. The architects were Messrs. Richards and Abra of Ottawa, and local firms whose work has assisted in the completion of this fine new building were: Taylor Bros., The proscenium curtains, valances, draperies, carpels and furniture for the O ’Brien Theatre here, and also those in Renfrew, Arnprior and Pembroke, were made and installed by A. J. Frieman, Ottawa. 

Broadloom Axminster carpets, reversible gold French velours, black silk velours and figure silk damasks, all richly trimmed, together with highest grade available. The main contract for the construction of the new O’Brien Theatre was awarded on a tender basis to M. Sullivan & Son, Arnprior. The architects , were Messrs. Richards and Abra of Ottawa, and local firms whose work has assisted in the completion of this fine new building were: Taylor Bros., The proscenium curtains, valances, draperies, carpels and furniture for the O ’Brien Theatre here, and also those in Renfrew, Arnprior and Pembroke, were made and installed by A. J. Frieman, Ottawa. 

photo almonte.com

The theatre was owned and operated by Ottawa Valley Amusements, owned by Renfrew entrepreneur M. J. O’Brien. The Renfrew Theatre was part of a chain that included theatres in Arnprior (now once again associated with Renfrew), and Pembroke, Almonte and Carleton Place.

Marilyn Miller 1929 in Sally which was playing at the O’ Brien

Source: North Lanark Regional Museum
When the Rosamond Hospital in Almonte quickly filled on the night of the accident, the O’Brien Theatre opened their doors rather reluctantly.  When confronted, the owner of the theatre protested opening his doors, claiming he didn’t have any authorization. Nevertheless the doors were removed, and used as stretches for the dead and wounded.
Converted into a temporary hospital and morgue, it is unclear whether the theatre had re-opened by December 31 as advertised in the Almonte Gazette.

Photo Allan Stanley— read-Lottie Barr’s Chips Almonte –Thanks to Allan Stanley

Almonte1925 Gazette

The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
28 Dec 1942, Mon  •  Page 12

The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
21 Jun 1930, Sat  •  Page 24
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
21 Jun 1930, Sat  •  Page 24
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
12 Aug 1969, Tue  •  Page 37
The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
16 Feb 1957, Sat  •  Page 3

Thanks to Brent Eaded

Our pushing young merchants, Messrs. Riddell & McAdam,
have purchased the •People’s Store• property from Mrs. J.T~
Brown, and will shortly remove to their new stand. The price
paid was $5,550. At the sale on Saturday afternoon .Mr. Wm.
Curry, blacksmith, bought the Cowie pump factory and the
residence adjoining, paying therefor.$950. Sept 1890 Almonte Gazette–https://lindaseccaspina.wordpress.com/…/mary-delaney…/

Related reading….

Almonte at Night — 1946

Lottie Barr’s Chips Almonte –Thanks to Allan Stanley

Seeds of Love–Almonte Cinema – Then and Now

Les Portes Tournantes Film Almonte 1987

Will I Begin This Day as Mary Poppins and End Up as Cruella DeVille?




Let me start off by saying I love the Mississippi Mudds. I’m not just saying this to be nice (most of you folks know how bluntly honest I am)- this is the 100% truth. I can’t sing- I used to be able to dance, but torn knee cartilages have ruined my chance of ever becoming the next Anne Miller (Google that one kids)– so I appreciate hard work and talent. Especially from this great local volunteer run theatre troupe.

Saturday’s Matinee is the last day you can see the Mississippi Mudds uplifting performance of Mary Poppins –and you should really make a point of seeing it. In fact, you could say you get more than your money’s worth going to see this production–because I personally felt the performance “kinda” went on too long.

Do I think it could have been edited? Maybe– But, then again I am not a theatre producer- but, I do think the one too many stage changes added to the length of this production. Sometimes it made it difficult as an audience member to find a break from the constant barrage of set changes. But then again that is a personal opinion, and as Mary once said :”I never explain anything”.





“But a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”

However, the leads were nothing short of fantastic with Michelle Eno as our beloved Mary Poppins and Robert Horne as one great Bert. “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun.”  The cast performance from the smallest to the tallest excelled, and I marvelled at the many character changes some of these actors do. Bravo!

Amazing show– with with so much brilliance to go around, a few cuts could have made it EVEN better. (mucho kudos to the backstage folks- you earned your keep LOL) 

“Always be yourself unless you can be Mary Poppins then be Mary Poppins”

“The whole world is at your feet and who gets to see it?” You do.. Last chance today to see Mary Poppins is tomorrow. Step in Time and go see it.

Last Show—Saturday, Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at Hallmark, 438 McNeely Ave, Carleton Place or by calling 613-253-3000.



Photo-The Mississippi Mudds – Public page


Mississippi Mudds Website

The Mudds are a very active amateur theatre group located in Carleton Place, Ontario. The Mudds have a mission to bring Music, Dance and Drama to the community in an engaging and inclusive way. Our goal is to foster an appreciation of performing arts for members and audiences alike.

Since 1973, the Mudds have been bringing musical revues, family musicals, broadway shows, murder mysteries and a wide variety of performances to the community. Performing in the beautiful and historic Carleton Place Town Hall, there could not be a better venue to enjoy live theatre.


Veteran Mississippi Mudds actors take on roles of Mary Poppins and Bert in upcoming production




Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News

It’s Tough To Be A Pirate–by Mark Piper




Carleton Place’s signature theatre company – the Mississippi Mudds – are performing a new musical version of the children’s classic, Peter Pan, at the Carleton Place Town Hall, over the next two weekends.  Last Sunday was the dress rehearsal, and we’re ready to open on Friday. YES TODAY!! TONIGHT!!

Today’s guest author is iconic Mississippi Mudds all around actor and “guy” Mark Piper. Take it away Mark and thanks for writing this.




It’s Tough To Be A Pirate–by Mark Piper


I have a unique perspective on this production:  I’m the bad guy.


Yes, that’s right, I’m Captain Hook.  The one with the nefarious henchmen and the evil laugh.  Being constantly chased by a crocodile with an alarm clock in its belly.  And my arch enemy is a flying boy (who has a fairy sidekick named Tinkerbell).


Okay, so I’m playing it for all it’s worth.  Pretty shamelessly, in fact.


When we started rehearsals back in January, director Jeff Lee and I decided right from the start that Captain Hook had to be a lot bigger than life – he was the cartoon villain that all the kids in the audience love to hate.  He’s the Eton-educated upper-class toff that leads the silliest and most ineffectual band of pirates you have ever seen, and they are constantly outwitted by the young man in the green suit.  Now, kids hate pretentious twits, and they love to outwit stupid adults – so they love to see Peter Pan beat the evil black-bearded buccaneer and his bumbling band over and over again.


But can I make an observation?  I’m the oldest guy in the cast.  In fact, I had to get my naturally grey beard dyed black in order to be young enough to play an old pirate!  And Peter Pan is a young boy that can run circles around him – in fact, fly circles around him.  Is that fair?


Still this whole “everybody hates Captain Hook” thing has caught on.   Even though the show is full of wonderful songs, both solos and chorus, the pirates and I get all the nasty stuff. Peter Pan and Wendy get to sing all the nice songs, naturally, about dreams, and Neverland, and tomorrow, and flying home. The Lost Boys (Peter’s gang) get to do a song and dance number about how tough they are.  Even the mermaids get ethereal, ghostly music.


What do the pirates get?  Pure evil – songs about killing and hanging and fighting and poison.  And the musical director of the show, Adam Reid (despite his considerable talent), seems to take sadistic pleasure in punishing the poor pirates, and their leader, over and over in every rehearsal.  (I see a great future for him in piracy, as a matter of fact.)


So, when you come to see Peter Pan – either this weekend or the next – spare a few thoughts for the bad guy.  He’s doing the best that he can.




(Peter Pan, the Mudds new musical production, at the Carleton Place Town Hall: performances for the next two Fridays and Saturdays April 22, 23, 29 and 30 at 7:30 pm (tickets $20), with a special Thursday night performance April 28 at 7:30 pm and Sunday matineesApril 24 and 30 at 2:00 pm (tickets $15). Tickets are available at the Hallmark Store, 2-438 McNeeley Ave. in Carleton Place or by calling 613-253-3000.)





  1. Publicity shot – me (Captain Hook) and Lilly (Peter Pan) – note that my beard hasn’t been dyed black yet.  And that’s not all my own hair.  Peter is, as usual, looking for a fight.


  1. Londoner, Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, another Londoner, Michael, John, Wendy, and a Londoner.  Backstage, waiting to go on for the opening number.


  1. Mermaids!  Actually, pirates don’t have much of a problem with mermaids.


  1. Evil Genius Musical Director Adam , in the orchestra pit, (henchmen in the background) preparing for final rehearsal and sadistic abuse of sensitive, caring, not at all evil Captain Hook.


(Photo credits: 1 – Angela Rogers; 2, 3, 4 – Kate Martin.)




Take a Bow! The Magical World of Mark Piper



Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Carleton Place



In the 1880’s  one of the many Uncle Tom’s Cabin theatre troupe toured through Carleton Place on a regular basis even thought there were constant bad reviews. The first place it played was Newman’s Hall. Here is a tidbit about Newman’s Hall: after the Carleton Place High School moved from Hurd’s Hall; it found it way to Newman’s Hall. There it became the temporary quarters for a High and a Public School class. Newman’s Hall is the building now occupied by the Brewers’ Retail Store on Bridge Street.

Newman’s Hall- Advertisement

New Public Hall opened by Mr. Robert McDiarmid.  One of the best in this part of the country.  Auditorium rearranged to accommodate 500 people.  The stage scenery, painted by Sosman & Landis, Chicago, provides four scenes, the ‘woods’, ‘parlor’, ‘kitchen’, and ‘street’.  The drop curtain presents a view of placid waters, rugged mountain rocks and ancient castle.


Photo of one of Sosman & Landis’s theatre landscapes

images (34)

February 1885

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Under the personal direction of John F. Stowe, nephew of the celebrated authoress Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin will appear in the Town Hall, Carleton Place, September 19, 1896.  Company of 40.  Novel features include the blowing up of the battleship ‘Maine’.

September 1897

All Tom shows appear to have incorporated elements of melodrama and blackface minstrelsy.These plays varied tremendously in their politics—some faithfully reflected Stowe’s sentimentalized antislavery politics, while others were more moderate, or even pro-slavery.Many of the productions featured demeaning racial caricatures of Black people, while a number of productions also featured songs by Stephen Foster (including “My Old Kentucky Home”, “Old Folks at Home”, and “Massa’s in the Cold Ground”).The best-known Tom Shows were those of George Aiken and H.J. Conway.The many stage variants of Uncle Tom’s Cabin “dominated northern popular culture… for several years” during the 19th century, and the plays were still being performed in the early 20th century.

The First Mosh Pits in Carleton Place — The Opera House of the Chatterton House Hotel



                                               El Niño Farini with drum, mid 19th century. © Victoria and Albert Museum

Today I published a story from my book Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac where I was a prime suspect in a mosh pit at Limelight in NYC. I always thought that mosh pits were part of our present history.  Not so fast!  I learned online in one of our local papers that the idea of tossing someone through the front lines began eons ago. In fact it even occurred in our local hotel The Chatterton House Hotel.


In 1897 at the Opera House of the Chatterton House Hotel in Carleton Place, life was not much different than any other theatre pit. Kindred attractions may be remembered as of the prevailing taste of our play goers. An interesting diversion of the theatre seating pit would be tossing. A boy on the back bench would say:”Toss Me,” and two or three of his companions would pick him up and swing him over the heads of those in front. The latter, whose heads he had landed upon would forward him with another swing, and, finally he would arrive at the front bench, where he was privileged to stay as a reward for the hardships of his flight. Small town newspaper editors were very unhappy with the theatre going behaviour of some sections of the audience. Some young men sat at the back and heckled the entertainers and shouting and whistling through out the show.


Lewis and Wardrobe Hippolympian appeared many times at The Chatterton House Hotel.  They performed songs and choruses, acrobatic and gymnastic feats, contortions etc. The Carleton Place Herald reported that Lewis and Wardrobe also  formed themselves into a brass band and performed in the town streets wherever they went. Nothing but talented, unique, and beautiful people.


Photos from The Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

More stories from the Desk Books of The Chatterton House Hotel (Queen’s Hotel) Carleton Place from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

Part 1- Tales of the Chatteron House Corset — Queen’s Hotel in Carleton Place- can be found here.

Part 2- Hell on Wheels at Lady Chatterton’s Hotel in Carleton Place– can be found here.

Part 3- I Will Take Some Opium to Go Please —The “Drug Dispensary” at the Chatterton House Hotel

Part 4- Chatterton House Hotel Registrar- George Hurdis -1884

Part 5-What the Heck was Electric Soap? Chatterton House Hotel Registrar

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tillting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

Why is the Town Hall Stage Slanted? Is it Collapsing?



Town Hall Photo…The Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum has boxes of photos from the old Canadian basement that Jennifer Fenwick Irwin rescued. This is another one of the old treasured photos from times gone by.


The other day I was up on the stage gazing at the beautiful auditorium and I felt like all I needed to do was sit on the floor and I could slide to the end it. The floor is so slanted you feel like you are walking a 35 degree angle (someone said more like a 3.5).

I immediately thought the floor must have sunk and it needed massive repairs. Well, I was wrong. That floor is heritage designated along with the building because that is how they used to build stage floors. It is one of the few remaining raked stages in Canada, fine examples of woodwork in pine and ash, decorative pressed metal ceilings and mosaic encaustic flooring.


English theatre stages in the Middle Ages and early Modern era typically sloped upwards away from the audience. This is known as a rake or raked stage and improves the view for the audience. Raked stages can still be seen in many opera productions, where a temporary raked acting surface is built over a theatre’s permanent flat stage. Creating a raked stage can also assist set designs requiring forced perspective. 

On a raked stage an actor who is farther from the audience is higher than an actor who is closer to the audience. This led to the theatre positions “upstage” and “downstage,” meaning, respectively, farther from or closer to the audience.

The term:”upstaging” refers to one actor moving to a more elevated position on the rake [stage], causing the upstaged actor (who stays more downstage-closer to the audience) to turn his back from the audience to address the cast member. The term “upstaging” also has since taken on the figurative meaning of an actor unscrupulously drawing the audience’s attention away from another actor.- Wikipedia

All the world is a stage but we are so fortunate to have a piece of rare theatrical history in our town.


Dan Williams
When I was a kid the town hall including the auditorium was wide open. You could go in and discover stuff!. The balcony was a great place to go, or behind the stage which was pretty much unused spaced sort of like the attic in an old house. You could however make your way to the tower! Fun times! The other thing I remember about the auditorium is the annual Fireman’s Ball. I was just a kid but I remember being there and hanging around in front of the stage listening to some country band playing “On the wings of a snow white dove”. I hated country!
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
19 Apr 1921, Tue  •  Page 8