5 Things You Didn’t Know About Theatre Under the Stars


Each week we’ll uncover some unusual and (hopefully) interesting facts about the city. This week we take on Vancouver’s beloved outdoor event, Theatre Under the Stars.

1. Audience members once lit up the stage after a power outage 

Postcard from Malkin Bowl. Photo: Vancouver Sun.

During a 1948 performance of operetta Naughty Marietta at TUTS, the power failed and the lights went out but singer Karl Norman continued to perform. Helpful audience members then lined up their cars at the back of Malkin Bowl to brighten up the performance with their headlights.

2. TUTS is nearing its 80th anniversary

Rehearsal at Malkin Bowl for Theatre Under the Stars, 1942. City of Vancouver Archives.

In 1934, the Vancouver Park Board used funds donated by former Mayor W.H. Malkin to build a band shell in his wife’s memory. However, it wasn’t until 1940 that TUTS was founded. Superintendent A.S. Wootten launched the first-ever TUTS alongside conductor Basil Horsfall and actor E.V. Young, with guidance from Park Board manager Gordon Hilker. The first TUTS production included performances of The GeishaA Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It and selections from grand opera.

Related Article:  5 things you didn't know about the B.C. Sugar Refinery

3. TUTS once had a royal audience

Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip attended a performance of The Chocolate Soldier at TUTS during their 1959 Royal Visit to Canada. A decade later, the late Canadian impresario Hugh Pickett met the Queen at a reception in Ottawa and asked her about the experience. The Queen reminisced: “Yes, it was a beautiful moonlit night in your lovely park and we could hear squirrels and peacocks and boat whistles. So charming.”

4. TUTS’ family ties run deep 

City of Vancouver Archives. Ref: AM1616-: CVA 136-082.

Actress Shannon Hanbury who will play Janet in this year’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone is the great-great-granddaughter of William and Marion Malkin, for which Malkin Bowl was named.

5. You could once hear the animals of Stanley Park Zoo in the background

Before Stanley Park Zoo closed in 1996, actors had to compete for attention against barking sea lions, gibbons, peacocks and other wildlife that could be heard monkeying around in the background during productions. Rumour has it, on one occasion, the TUTS audience had to be evacuated after snakes were accidentally released from their enclosure. The wildlife encounters didn’t end there. Raccoons can still be spotted walking on stage, mid performance, from time to time.

Related Article:  5 things you didn't know about the B.C. Sugar Refinery

The 2017 season of Theatre Under the Stars includes productions of Mary Poppins and The Drowsy Chaperone. Visit tuts.ca for more information.