Passion on stage: The Royal Opera House performance of Tosca plays tonight at the Civic at 7 p.m.

COLUMN: Collaboration between Civic and Capitol

The Capitol offers film, and the Civic has seen the footlights come up, too.

I’ve sometimes thought Nelson could develop a map based on how things were. “It’s in the Annable Block, where Rose’s Deli used to be,” makes perfect sense to someone whose been around long enough.

For oldtimers, memories linger in directional advice; for newcomers, it can be useful to know how the map has changed, the better to navigate the present.

And so it is with the Civic and the Capitol. Both theatres have done stints as performance and film spaces, just as both have undergone campaigns to reopen, renovate, and rekindle Nelsonites’ love for our grand old spaces.

The Capitol Theatre opened in 1927, delighting Nelson audiences with the first “talkies”. The Capitol also served as a place for performance from time to time, but for the most part movies were king.

After Nelson’s Opera House burned down in the ’30s, plans for the Nelson Civic Centre included an auditorium for performance.

It was a hopeful thing to undertake in the Depression era; in 1936 the Civic became Nelson’s newest performance space, with 956 seats.

But times were tough and revenue elusive. Famous Players, then operating the Capitol, took over and eventually settled on the larger, newer Civic — and the grand old Capitol began its decline. By the late 1960s, the Capitol was pretty much done.

Meanwhile at the Civic, a series of private operators replaced Famous Players. In the days of Rose’s Deli you could watch a film with a handful of people and then discuss the merits of the film at Wait’s News and compare notes on the dialogue as heard or misheard through the old mono speaker.

By 2008, the Civic was pretty much done.

But Nelson folk don’t give up easily. In the 1980s the Capitol Theatre Restoration Society formed and, with vision and elbow grease, reopened the theatre as a live performance space. Much more recently the Nelson Civic Theatre Society did the same, reopening the Civic with film as its primary focus.

For the most part, the Capitol’s programming celebrates excellence in touring performance and local talent.

The Civic delights film-o-files with offerings from mainstream to indie.

But the Capitol offers film, and the Civic has seen the footlights come up, too.

From the get-go, the reopened Civic and Capitol boards discussed ways to work together to ensure success of both and the greatest variety for Nelson audiences. Can two spaces show film and performance and still fill seats? The answer is emphatically yes.

The newest Civic/Capitol collaboration comes in a partnership to present great performances on screen, splitting programming between the two theatres for greater flexibility.

Throughout the 2014/2015 Season both theatres will show full-scale pre-recorded live performances from The Royal Opera House, the National Theatre of Britain, the Globe Theatre, Great Art on Screen, and an unforgettable concert series.

In partnership with MEI Events International and Cineplex Front Row Centre, look for Carmen, The Nutcracker, Warhorse, MacBeth, Henry V, and La Bohème at the Capitol.

At the Civic, we’ll kick off with Tosca tonight. Then watch for Great Art on Screen (Manet and Vermeer), The Tempest and Don Giovanni, and iconic contemporary concerts including Hungarian Rhapsody: Queen, Live in Budapest 1986 (Freddy Mercury, larger-than-life!) and Peter Gabriel.

Both theatres handle their own tickets, with collaboration through schedule planning and cross-promotion. Performances happen once or twice a month on Wednesdays at 7 p.m.. A quick visit to either or gives you the when and where for every great performance.

At Wait’s News you can still discuss the evening’s entertainment at a counter that hasn’t really changed for decades, but Rose’s Deli, once housed in what is now Ward Street Place, is a fond memory.

And the Civic and the Capitol live on.

Nelson is a fluid, innovative place, redrawing its map again and again: a celebration of what was, what is, and what will be, working together to achieve great things.


— Anne DeGrace is the past president of the Nelson Civic Theatre Society. To find out about the Great Performances series and other events go to

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