Lights. Curtain. Go!

Reimagining the Rivercity Stage.

Gallery photo by



You sit in a softly lit theatre; a buzz throughout the red, velvet draped room. You sip wine, whispering to a friend: “I didn’t know this place was here.” You wait with anticipation—the lights go down. Backstage, an actor, dancer, or musician waits in the wings—heart racing, trying to turn shallow breath into deep breath. The curtains open, they enter the stage, lights rain down, instinct and practice take over, and their craft spills on stage. It’s magical. You’re at the Rivercity Stage, Campbell River’s coolest small performance venue.

The first mention of Rivercity Players, the non-profit community theatre society who owns and operates Rivercity Stage, took place in the local newspaper in 1960. After a decade of productions, and apparently some good drama, a 1970 report states, “Theatre coming to life after shaky beginnings.” In those days, there wasn’t a performance venue in Campbell River, and the theatre club used to practice in barns, sheds, and basements. They would perform in pubs and warehouses, wherever they could bring the art of theatre alive. 

The Tidemark Theatre opened as a performing arts centre in 1987, giving the community a great stage; but a touch too great for smaller acts and community theatre. The Rivercity Players desperately wanted a venue, somewhere between pubs and the Tidemark, to call home. 

In the early 2000s, what is now the Rivercity Stage on Hemlock Street was Nautilus Gym owned by Michele Nelson Woodrow. She and her husband have a soft spot for the Players and let them rent the gym as their practice venue and clubhouse. In 2012, the couple bequeaths the building to the Society—an amazing gift to both Rivercity Players and the community, solidifying performance space into the cultural landscape of Campbell River.

Volunteer blood, sweat, and tears go into major renovations that turn a gym into a beautiful little theatre. The Players successfully put on four shows a year, and things are good.

Intermission – The audience waltzes into the lobby to see old friends and talk to strangers, sharing in the collective experience of live performance. You get another wine and wonder what the Second Act will bring.

Cue 2020 when the pandemic nearly kills small live performance venues across Canada. Historically, all revenue came from packing the house. Nothing happened for two years … the little theatre almost didn’t make it. Thanks to generous donations from dedicated members and community grants, the Rivercity Stage is given new life.

Lights Curtain Go Gallery

The Second Act – The show must go on, but differently.

Rivercity Players realized that, if they wanted to survive and take good care of the building, they would need to diversify, innovate, and expand the offering; broaden the approach, promote the venue, and get new people involved and all types of performance happening.

Highway 19 Concert Society is a non-profit music production company that regularly hosts shows on the Rivercity Stage. Around six concerts each year, bringing award-winning touring acts of diverse genres from all over Canada. Highway 19 and Rivercity also partner to host High School Open Mic Nights that provide an accessible, inclusive space for youth to perform and host shows suited towards them. With support from the Campbell River Rotary Club, the youth events regularly sell out.

Rivercity Stage is also the chosen venue for a variety of burlesque shows, putting the theatre’s sexy red velvet interior to good use. Movie nights and film festivals are also becoming a thing.   

But community theatre remains the priority, and, even with the theatre being so busy, Rivercity Players are committed to producing four shows a year. In 2023, the Players will present at The Splash, Theatre BC North Island Zone’s festival.

Theatre organizations from Nanaimo north will come to Campbell River to perform plays May 15-21. This brings a variety of quality theatre to the community while contributing to the local economy.

And just like that, the show is over.

The curtain closes and the audience cheers. Applause fills the space and vibrates through the veins of the performers and crew. Everyone holds the collective experience of sharing the risk and reward of live performance. It’s exhilarating and feeds the human condition and need for art. 

Join in the creation of the next act!

Rivercity Players welcomes new members, volunteers, and patrons. Join us onstage, backstage, behind the bar, in the audience, or host your own event. We’re a catalyst for creative inclusive performing arts in Campbell River.

Check us out at or on Facebook and Instagram.