The Chelsea Hotel: The Songs of Leonard Cohen
The Chelsea Hotel: The Songs of Leonard Cohen

New Westminster’s Anvil Centre, one of the area’s newest performing arts venues, presents an inaugural theatre season that includes a mix of theatre, music, dance, and family entertainment.

Located in the region’s geographical centre, and conveniently situated right outside the New Westminster Skytrain Station, the Anvil Centre includes a state of the art 361-seat contemporary theatre that will be the focal point of its eclectic first season.

In this Q&A we find out more from executive director Jessica Schneider.

1. This is your inaugural theatre season – why was it time for the Anvil Centre undertake programmed season?

The Anvil Centre is now a very active venue with a busy calendar of community events, programs and regional conferences. Now that we have launched, we have turned our attention to refining the vision for the theatre as a performing arts destination. We are putting it on the map as a contemporary stage with a unique elegance and sophistication.  By selecting programming we are able to really showcase the capabilities of the theatre and begin to build an audience for theatre at Anvil Centre. This is the foundation for a successful theatre and the time is right.

2. You’re starting the season off with Peter n’ Chris’ The Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel – what was it about this duo that you felt would make a good start?

Well they are absolutely hilarious.  It’s appropriate for almost all ages but fresh. The timing, with Halloween, was perfect for us to launch, after all the fall festivals wrap up.  We were fortunate to get them and they haven’t done this show in the area yet.  So it feels like an opportune show for a wide variety of people to come and see.  We will bring more directed programming for youth, children, music aficionados later in the season.  We wanted to kick things off on in an upbeat way!

3. The season is a mix of theatre, music, dance & family entertainment – how important was it to program with such diversity?

Well as a theatre finds its audience or audiences (plural) we feel it is important not to make any assumptions about who is looking for theatre activities.  We haven’t had a contemporary theatre in our community so we need to test a variety of aesthetics, forms, genres to hone in on the best practices and niche programming opportunities for this specific place.  As a civic program, we will always seek to embody the interests of the broadest community.  We also want to remain focused on excellence and create a regional attraction so keeping things diverse is a priority. We will be able to take a number of valuable approaches within the City’s broader arts programming endeavours, and the Anvil Centre’s arts studios.  We will be developing residencies, master classes and more immersive experiences connecting artists and audiences. That is where the diversity of the presentations can contribute the most riches and deepest impacts.

4. Is there something in the upcoming season that you are particularly excited about?

The way we are bringing in different audiences and then changing up the space to heighten and refresh the experience is quite exciting. The Theatre at Anvil Centre is a flexible theatre with reconfigurable seating and stage configurations.  It can do a thrust, cabaret style, proscenium or open floor with ease.  The acoustics are excellent and customising the audience environment can be done with ease.  For the concerts wewill be able to reconfigure the theatre space and sometimes bring in Anvil Centre’s five star food and beverage services. This is going to provide a really distinct performing arts experience.  Five star performances in an intimate five star environment is an unusual mix for a theatre.

Looking at children’s programming we will make it very accessible and present it in a socially engaged approach. New Westminster is a very interconnected community so we have tremendous capacity to ensure performances for young audiences have a deep impact on individuals and families through working with community partners to deliver them. That’s two things, and it’s hard to choose only two!  I’m very excited!

5. You’re hoping to attract audiences from communities beyond New Westminster, what would you say is the attraction for potential patrons from outside New West?

The venue and the location are fantastic.  Easy to get to, in an historic downtown streetscape with wonderful food and local businesses surrounding it, and in first class modern facilities. The programming for the first season is sometimes exclusive in the region and other times is the type you would only find in some hard to reach corners of downtown Vancouver. New Westminster is right in the centre of Metro Vancouver so people will find coming to Anvil Centre Theatre just removes a whole pile of commuter challenges but provides a world class theatre experience perhaps where they might least expect it. There is also an incredible New Media Gallery and Museum in the Centre so it’s well worth visiting just as a pretty amazing new destination experience.

Find out more about the Anvil Centre’s 2015/2016 online at