The Montréal Theatre
English-language theatre in the Province of Québec in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was not confined to ALLEN'S COMPANY OF COMEDIANS. Other troupes, whose members came from theatre traditions in Britain and the continent, travelled to Québec via Albany or Boston in the United States.
Montréal Theatre, The
English-language theatre in the Province of Québec in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was not confined to Allen's Company Of Comedians. Other troupes, whose members came from theatre traditions in Britain and the continent, travelled to Québec via Albany or Boston in the United States. Many actors returned to the United States, but they made an interesting contribution to theatre history in Québec. A troupe headed by James Ormsby, who had performed with Edward Allen at the Theatre Royal in Edinburgh, came from Albany to perform at the Brobdingnag Theatre in Québec C during the summer of 1804. They put on a summer season of open-air theatre in Montréal in 1805 and an 1805-06 winter season at the Patagon Theatre in Québec C, returning to Albany in August 1808.
In December 1807 William Henry Prigmore opened the New Theatre in a former fur trader's warehouse of Montréal. He was assisted during the summer of 1808 by a group of actors led by Noble Luke Usher. However, in mid-December 1808, Prigmore's troupe disappeared en route to Québec C, probably drowned while crossing the St Lawrence River's ice bridge. Prigmore was replaced by John Duplessis Turnbull, who went bankrupt at the end of the season and the building was maintained by the Jeunes Messieurs Canadiens until 1816.
Following the idea of John Bernard, joint manager of the Boston Theater, Usher, together with his French wife (née Harriet L'Estrange), founded the Montréal Theatre in 1808. It was established in a stone warehouse in the Faubourg des Récollets. Theatre professionals such as set designer Noble Allport and John Bernard, formerly of Covent Garden, were brought there. Leaving the management of the Montréal Theatre to Allport, the Ushers opened a New Theatre in Québec C in Armstrong's Theatre Tavern in August 1808.
However, Usher left Québec City in September 1810. Mrs. L'Estrange Usher returned to Boston in February 1811, ostensibly to hire actors. She never returned. John Bernard, Usher's Boston partner, considered taking on the Québec C Theatre but decided against it. The War Of 1812-14 effectively stopped border crossings by Loyalist actors. Although many of the Québec performers stayed in Albany after the war, Duplessis Turnbull stayed in Canada. He renamed the Ushers' first hall the New Montréal Theatre and ran it as an English-language theatre until it was destroyed by fire in May 1820.