Fonds MS-3-1 - Neptune Theatre fonds

Watercolour costume designs featuring three men in Asian costumes Watercolour costume design featuring a woman in Edwardian dress Watercolour costume design featuring a women in a brown dress Watercolour costume design featuring a man in military uniform Watercolour costume design featuring an older man in a smoking jacket Eighteen wheels Taming of the shrew How the other half loves Master builder Butterflies are free Much ado about nothing Four poster Night of the iguana Medea Diary of a scoundrel Step dance Absurd person singular Guys and dolls Endgame Ever loving Private lives Juno and the paycock Wizard of Oz Special occasions Filthy rich The apple cart Come back Debut and encore West side story, Romeo and Juliet You better watch out, you better not die Sea horse Mass appeal Present laughter Cabaret Twelfth night Twelfth night The mystery of the oak island treasure And when I wake A moon for the misbegotten A Christmas carol A Christmas carol A streetcar named desire Victory The black bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon Joseph and the amazing technicolour dreamcoat Evita Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf The black bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon Alice in Wonderland Joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat
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Title and statement of responsibility area

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Neptune Theatre fonds

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  • Multiple media

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  • 1943-2017 (Creation)
    Neptune Theatre

Physical description area

Physical description

48.5 m of textual records and other material

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Administrative history

The original precedent for Neptune Theatre was Nova Scotia's first French language theatrical presentation, Marc Lescarbot's Le Theatre de Neptune en la Nouvelle-France in 1606.The impetus to found a repertory theatre in Halifax was spurred on by the Canada Council's encouragement of establishing regional theatres in the late 1950s. Local Halifax politicians supported the endeavor, believing it would aid city development and help to attract additional tourists. Neptune's first repertory season was in 1963-1964. Neptune was also the first completely year-round theatre in Canada.

In the early years, Neptune produced a variety of plays in an attempt to appeal to a broad audience. However, attendance numbers typically were only around fifty percent of capacity and the theatre started to experience the first of many financial hard times. Subscription series were introduced in 1967 to help counteract these problems. Neptune was also supported by a variety of grants, including some from the Canada Council as well as from all three levels of government.

Neptune has produced many Canadian-authored plays, including several commissioned specifically for them over the years. From the start, Neptune attempted to reach a wide audience by touring one or two productions each year on a regional basis, beginning in 1963. The first nation-wide tour was in 1967. Neptune also produced several world premieres in its early years, including Michael Cook's Colour the Flesh the Colour of Dust (1972).

In the early 1970s, the decision was made to have a single season from November to August rather than continuing the year-round schedule. It was too expensive to maintain a full company for that time period. It was also difficult to attract many of Canada's best performers to stay in Halifax for long periods of time. Therefore, rather than attempt to remain a repertory company, Neptune became a stock company during this time.

In the 1971-1972 season, Neptune's Studio Theatre was created. This second stage produced more experimental works as well as workshop-style productions. It was dependent upon government grants and, due to a lack of such monies, disappeared after the 1973-1974 season. It was later reinitiated by Tom Kerr in the 1985-1986 season under the name "Neptune North," and later in the 1990s as the "Studio Series."

The community took an active interest in Neptune. This was first concretely demonstrated by the creation of The Tritons, or Children of Neptune. This was a group of young people who wanted to know more about Neptune and it served as the forerunner of the Theatre School, later established by Tom Kerr in 1983. In 1973-1974, a Student Theatre Company was formed jointly with the Halifax School Board. However, it was quickly abandoned after only two seasons.

During these early years, it became progressively clear that the physical resources of the Neptune Theatre, namely the building and theatre equipment, were lacking. This acknowledgement was the start of a quest to improve these facilities. Various renovations were conducted over the years, but the desire for a new theatre building remained a passionate goal. Studies were conducted and plans were drawn up in the early 1980s to create a joint Neptune and Art Gallery complex on the Halifax waterfront. These plans were abandoned due to a lack of financial backing. Neptune also considered redeveloping the existing building with the addition of a second stage during the 1980s. This dream finally came to fruition in 1997 with the construction of a wholly renovated building, complete with a second stage.

The financial situation worsened as the theatre's deficit mounted from 1974 to 1977. In 1978, Artistic Director John Wood was replaced by John Neville (Artistic Director 1978-1983), who worked to correct the financial situation by instigating several changes and programs. New managerial staff was hired to help improve the financial area through new subscription campaigns and by appealing to the business sector for sponsorship.

An actor of international stature, Neville helped to promote Neptune locally and abroad. He kept himself visible to the greater community by acting in several plays and helped to increase Neptune's community exposure with the creation of the Young Neptune Company, a professional company that conducted extensive school tours throughout the region. Neville also instituted the artist-in-residence program in 1981-1982 and attempted to increase the accessibility of theatre to the community with the lunchtime productions. These productions became difficult to maintain alongside main stage productions and were phased out after the 1983-1984 season.

Tom Kerr maintained the Young Neptune Company, the artist-in-residence program, and also added the Apprentice Directors' Program in 1983. He also founded the Neptune Theatre School in 1983 with the help of Irene Watts.

Today, Neptune remains a multi-faceted organization with main stage productions, Studio Series productions, a Young Neptune Company, and a successful Theatre School. There will surely be many more seasons to come.

Custodial history

The materials were donated to the Dalhousie University Archives in 127 accessions between the years 1971 and 2012. Prior to that, the records were in the custody of Neptune Theatre and various affiliates, including George Flie, Robert Doyle, Olga Dimitrov, Thomas Lackey, Bill Pyke, Gary Clark, James Garland, Anthony Ibbotson, Jane Trimble, Janet Thompson, Marion Boggild, Laura Jantek, Hal Forbes, Blanche Potter, Jackie Dawson, Larry Hines, Robin Creelman, Shelagh O'Hara, Charles Culver, Lynn Dixon, and Helena Marriott. Certain records were also transferred to Dalhousie University Archives from Halifax Regional Municipality Archives and Acadia University's Esther Clark Wright Archives.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records that document every aspect of Neptune Theatre as an organization, including various textual records and graphic and audio-visual material pertaining to productions, events, personnel, and the administration of the Theatre. Types of records include correspondence, meeting minutes, reports and newsletters, financial records, box office records, applications, licenses, contracts, scripts, posters, newspaper clippings, production notes, programs, press kits, videocassettes, audiocassettes, negatives, contact sheets, slides, photographs, and other materials.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


While efforts have been made to respect Neptune's original arrangement of their files, the materials have been subjected to an imposed intellectual arrangement in the series and subseries. Our mandate has been to arrange the material in a sensible and logical fashion, primarily by purpose or function. However, occasionally an alternate arrangement, which had been imposed by previous archival management, was irreversible due to time constraints. As a result, several series suffer from inconsistency with our mandate.

Language of material

  • English

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Restrictions on access

Some correspondence is closed, videotapes are for theatre viewing only, and administrative records less than ten years are closed. All other materials are open for research.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Materials do not circulate and must be used in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room.

Finding aids

Associated materials

There is a separate collection in the Dalhousie Archives for Robert Doyle (MS-3-18), an artist who produced several sketches of Neptune's sets and costumes over the years.


Further accruals are expected on a regular basis.

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