Montreal is internationally renowned for its vibrant artistic and cultural scene, making the city – the second largest in Canada – a vital and prominent host to world-class theatre. The local stage arts scene is primarily divided by French and English language companies (some of which operate in bilingual territory), and is distinguished for being at the confluence of these two unique communities.
Under the umbrella of English theatre companies in the metropolitan Montreal area are subsidized and independent professional production companies, presenters, receiving houses, community troupes, professional training institutions, and campus-based/student organizations. From intimate dramas to musical spectacles and revivals of classics to contemporary creations, different scales and genres of works comprise the city’s mosaic of seasonal offerings.
Learn more about “who’s who” and “what’s what” in our introductory guide below:
Professional Production Companies
The two flagship regional theatre companies in anglo Montreal are the Centaur Theatre Company and the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, both of which produce and house comprehensive artistic seasons at their respective facilities. With fully equipped performance spaces and reception areas, the Centaur and the Segal often serve as hosts to other major independent stage productions and cultural events in town.
Other fully unionized PACT (Professional Association of Canadian Theatres) members and affiliates in the English sphere are Black Theatre Workshop, Geordie Theatre, Imago Theatre, Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal, Repercussion Theatre, Teesri Duniya Theatre, Youtheatre, and Hudson Village Theatre – all of which collectively announce their forthcoming season programming at “The Launch” each year. Among these well-established, award-winning companies in the region and also of mention are Infinithéâtre, Talisman Theatre, and Tableau D’Hôte Theatre.
Presenters & Receiving Houses
While the Segal and the Centaur are known to accomodate the bigger budget commercial shows (whether homegrown or imported), it is Place des Arts – the largest cultural and artistic complex in Canada – that houses the heftiest national and international acts. With a capacity for 2,990 seats, the proscenium theatre of Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier is Place des Arts’ largest multipurpose venue. Home to the Montréal Opera and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, the site also most notably plays host to the Danse Danse spectacles and the the big-name touring musicals presented by evenko and Broadway Across Canada.
For indie gems, presenting and producing company MainLine Theatre is the go-to joint. Other intimate community spaces showcasing promising emerging work include the FreeStanding Room and Espace Knox. On the contemporary and multidisciplinary scene, MAI and La Chapelle are at the forefront in exhibiting independent creators. For improvisational theatre, Montreal Improv is the leading dedicated nourisher of the art form.
Major historical buildings known to have housed English stage productions are the National Theatre School’s Monument National, Rialto Theatre, Théâtre St-Denis, and Théâtre Outremont. Modern creative facilities presenting (predominantly francophone) cutting edge Québécois theatre are Usine C, Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui, Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, Théâtre du Rideau Vert, Espace Libre, Espace GO, Théâtre Prospero, Théâtre La Licorne, and Théâtre de Quat’Sous.
It’s no secret that Montreal is a mecca for festivals. Hosting more than 60,000 patrons and presenting more than 800 shows every summer, the bilingual St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival is the largest theatre fest in the city. Spearheading the contemporary scene is the renowned FTA – Festival TransAmériques with its spectacular lineup of trailblazing international acts.
Other sizeable entertainment events featuring theatrical productions include the Just for Laughs Festival, Montréal Complètement Cirque, Fierté Montreal Pride and the province-wide ELAN Arts Alive! Festival. Niche, theatre-specific festivals on the calendar include the Centaur Wildside Festival, the Geordie Theatre Festival, the Casteliers International Puppet Theatre Festival, the Montreal Clown Festival, the Revolution They Wrote Short Works Feminist Theatre Festival, and the International Anarchist Theatre Festival. Noteworthy campus events include the National Theatre School’s New Words Festival, the McGill Drama Festival, and Concordia University’s Solo Performance and One-Act Play Festivals.
Montreal is regarded as the world capital of modern circus in being headquarters to the ranks of Cirque du Soleil, Les 7 doigts de la main, and Cirque Éloize. The city is also home to the renowned National Circus School and the majestic TOHU complex in the St-Michel district. Montréal Complètement Cirque is a staple in the summer festival circuit with its accessible, free outdoor programming.
Summer Stock Theatre
Urban theatregoers looking for an afternoon getaway on the outskirts of the island will find the picturesque Hudson Village Theatre and Théâtre Lac-Brome as the two primary professional Québec companies offering English language shows as part of their summer stock seasons.
Geordie Theatre, Youtheatre, and Shakespeare Canada are the widely known professional theatre companies in the English milieu dedicated to devising engaging, educational, and entertaining programming for children and teens. These organizations run workshops and school tours of their productions in the region, with the occasional performance or family-friendly show being offered to the general public. The Les Coups de Théâtre and Casteliers International Puppet Theatre festivals, while mostly francophone, are also known to present high calibre works for young audiences.
The vast majority of community theatre organizations are located in the anglo-dominated west end of Montreal; among the most prominent active amateur thespian troupes are the Lakeshore Players Dorval, Lakeshore Light Opera, Montreal West Operatic Society, Hudson Players’ Club, Hudson Music Club, Lyric Theatre, The Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society, and the West Island Theatre Association.
The Quebec Drama Federation (QDF) is the primary developer, supporter, and promoter of English language theatre in Quebec. A membership based organization, the QDF provides specialized resources to theatre companies and practitioners to facilitate career and creative development; the QDF further works to represent and lobby on behalf of them to government agencies, arts organizations, and community groups at all levels. Services provided to QDF members include: professional development workshops, consultations for individuals and emerging companies, and promotion of members through social and traditional media networks.
Founded in 2012 in partnership with the Quebec Drama Federation, The Montreal English Theatre Awards (METAs) are the primary industry awards in the Montreal English community. These annual peer-juried awards were established to recognize and celebrate outstanding artistic and technical work of local professional and emerging artists. To be eligible for consideration, productions must meet certain criteria and submit to the METAs committee at least one month prior to opening. The presentation ceremony, open to the general public, is held in October of each year.
The primary academic establishments providing professional English language theatre training in Montreal are the National Theatre School of Canada, Concordia University, McGill University, John Abbott College, and Dawson College. For more information on where to study theatre in Montreal, read up on our “Theatre School Guide”.
Here at Montreal Theatre Hub we provide a wealth of up-to-date information on the local scene. Check out the following features and sections of our website to learn more:
- Calendar: A comprehensive calendar of scheduled theatrical events.
- Theatre Gigs: Audition notices, calls for submissions, and administrative job postings.
- Useful Links: Referrals to professional arts associations and unions, art councils and funding bodies, service organizations, and more.
- Where to Study Theatre: Professional training institutions, classes for adults and kids, and summer programs.
- Buying Tickets to Shows: Our published article “Montreal theatre on a budget: how to save on tickets and see shows for less” is among our most accessed content.
Last updated: August 30th, 2019 by Camila Fitzgibbon