Snapshot of its History and Organization 1952-2022
Domino's creation occurred in October 1952, with 35 people agreeing to pay $5.00 each to help get started. Potential names were placed in a hat and "Domino Theatre" was pulled. It was to be a community theatre, open to all and determined to produce Shakespeare, classics and encourage and produce Canadian plays, by and for the community.
Domino rented various spaces, including the Portsmouth Town Hall, and by 1964 had built a small theatre in a very rough part of town at 8 Princess Street. Domino Theatre had become an incorporated (in Ontario) entity and a charitable organization (federal).
When the rent became too high the members again rented, but eventually built a theatre once more at 370 King Street West in a stable, using a design by Lily Inglis, noted Kingston architect. This 130-seat theatre opened in September 1975.
By now Domino had a regular 7-play season and sold subscriptions. All the seats were always sold out as "Music Hall", an hilarious revue, was so popular that it was presented every season for many years and the only way to get a ticket was to buy a subscription!
In September of 1971, theatre nights were created at the suggestion of local pediatrician, Dr. Briggs, as a way of helping other groups of non-profits make some money for themselves through Domino productions. 14 production nights are made available for a small charge and the groups give away the tickets as a volunteer thank yous or sell them at whatever price they want.
Domino is a member of the Eastern Ontario Drama League (EODL), an umbrella group for Community Theatres dedicated to fostering relationships and information sharing. Domino has hosted their One Act Festival in November and their full-length Spring Play Festival many times and in 2012 hosted the all-Ontario "Theatre Ontario" Festival in the new theatre at 52 Church Street. Many Domino members have been or are on the executive of EODL.
Domino now hosts its own Kingston one act festival in June to enable any local author or producer to present their play on the stage at no cost to themselves. The winner becomes the Domino entry to the EODL One Act Festival.
Domino Theatre is run by a volunteer board of 15 members from the Kingston and area community. Each person serves a 3-year term. There is no term limit.
Plays are chosen by the play selection committee of 4 board and 2 community members. Their mandate is to present a commercially viable season of plays, set to reach at least 55% sales to keep the theatre financially strong. They are asked to make sure we have challenges for the actors and production designers as we teach each other theatre skills.
Our audience comes from Kingston and area. There are 5 penitentiaries, a large military base (10,000 employees), 2 major hospitals (15,000 employees), Queen's University (25,000 students and 15,000 employees) St. Lawrence Community College (7500 students and 3500 staff). We are happy to say we have volunteers and audience from all sectors of our community.
After the 370 King Street location was sold to Queen's University, Domino spent 3 years as the resident company in the Baby Grand. Queen's supplied financial support, a warehouse and a van for those years.
The city agreed to rent space to Domino in the Harold Harvey Arena as it was being closed to hockey. The agreement calls for a 20-year lease, starting in 2010. Domino had to pay for the building of a new theatre. The city provided the outside walls.
Once the lease was signed Domino, with the advice of a professional fund raiser, raised $450,000 on top of the $212,000 we had saved over the years at 370 King Street West. We sold room naming rights, direct solicitation and the Music Hall gang and the Buddy Holly Story production created a major show at the Grand that raised $55,000.
The newest theatre at 52 Church Street opened January 20, 2012 with 160 regular seats and 3 dedicated handicapped seat spaces. The theatre is completely accessible.
One major change to Domino's business plan has been to offer the theatre to other groups for rent. These have included the Eastern Ontario High School Improv games, The Not So Amateur Amateurs, Blue Canoe, a youth group producing musicals in the summer, King's Town Players and occasionally dance and musical groups who would like to do a special one-night show.
Another is the "art wall". Each production has a showing of art produced locally and for sale. We have had over 50 different artists present work in solo and group shows and we all have been happy with the response.
With a helpful donation from the Ken Weston estate and the savings made at the new theatre, Domino has been able to stay afloat during the ups and many downs of the Covid pandemic.
Domino is run entirely by volunteers and we have determined that each year it takes about 200 different people to run the business, including actors, designers, tech, front of house and various committees.
Domino again has a full season of 7 plays in 2022-23 and hopes to run our own One Act Festival in June of 2022 and onward. Covid will determine—stay tuned.
Domino, with its culture of openness and inclusivity, has created many wonderful, varied, often challenging productions over these many years. The fact we have built 3 theatres over this time is a testament to the support we have received from the community and the amazing work ethic and commitment of the many volunteers.
We hope to stay producing for many years to come. Theatre is the oldest profession that is always relevant.