Did You Know? Sagebrush Edition! - Western Canada Theatre

Did you know that the location where the Sagebrush Theatre currently stands used to be an extension of the Pleasant Street Cemetery? After a flood in 1939 exposed and upturned tombstones, the City decided to move the caskets and hand-carved headstones to their current location between 8th and 10th Avenue on Pleasant Street.



Between 1939 and 1949, the population of Kamloops hadn't grown much, but after troops began returning home after World War II the local schools were struggling to keep up with the growing population. The number of younger people in Kamloops was growing, the Cameron Commission reduced the number of BC school districts in 1945 (which led to smaller communities like Westwold and Monte Lake bussing their students in to Kamloops for high school), and high schools were mandated to also offer both General and University Programs. The School Board began planning a new comprehensive high school, but the new school (especially the auditorium) was considered too expensive and extravagant. This led to a failed referendum vote in 1948 after much debate about the use of a school that was "too far out of town". It wasn't until 1951 that the referendum passed, which led to the school being built. Kamloops High School was officially opened in 1952, with the highly-debated auditorium opening in 1953. At that time, the school was not able to accommodate PE classes on the small campus, so those classes were continued at McGowan field and the KAA Hall, and music classes were offered at the old Columbo Hall. 

The Sagebrush Theatre that we know today started out as an auditorium for the Kamloops Highschool (now SKSS). In 1963, Tom Kerr (WCT's Founder and first Artistic Director) was working at KSS as the senior drama teacher. He and Marian Owens would collaborate over the years to create many productions together, including The Sound of Music, Oliver, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, and Peter Pan. Because the auditorium at KSS was inadequate for musicals (the auditorium didn't include the present-day stage and backstage areas; those were added in 1978 when the theatre was expanded and the design was flipped), musical productions were offered in the Elks Hall on Seymour Street.  Kerr, in addition to his teaching duties at KHS, created the The Western Canada Youth Theatre, which was a combination of student and professional actors who not only performed in the KHS auditioium, but went on tour throughout Southern BC and overseas to London and Edinburgh. In 1973, the youth theatre transitioned into professional theatre company, Western Canada Theatre Company, and around that time the planning stages of the Sagebrush Theatre began. Thanks to the hard work of Tom Kerr, Frank Glassen, The WCT Board of Directors including WCTC Board President Judge Terry Shupe, The Honourable Len Marchand, and the late A.V. MacLeod, and funding from the Federal Minister of State, the Sagebrush Theatre was built and in operation by the autumn of 1978. 



In 2003, the South Kamloops Secondary School Band Room, which had shared space in the lobby of the Sagebrush Theatre since the 1970's, moved into a newly renovated section of SKSS that was conveniently located right across the parking lot! In 2006, the lobby of the Sagebrush Theatre underwent further renovations to provide better accessibility for patrons, and to modernize the venue.  


The Sagebrush Theatre, as it currently sits at 1300 9th Avenue, is a 685-seat theatre space adjacent to South Kamloops Secondary School. It is owned by School District #73, is operated by the City of Kamloops, and is managed by Western Canada Theatre. The Sagebrush Theatre is home to the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra and Western Canada Theatre, and hosts local, community, and professional rentals each year. 

The Sagebrush Theatre resides and operates on the traditional unceded territory of the Secwépemc people on the lands of the Tkʼemlúps te Secwépemc within Secwépemc'ulucw.