In 1982, Greg Wanless, together with a passionate group of community members, purchased the Gananoque Canoe Club from the local Rotary Club. Over a few intense months, the vintage building was converted into a 360-seat proscenium theatre right on the banks of the St. Lawrence River
The first season in what is now known as the Springer Theatre featured a comedy (ON GOLDEN POND), a classic (THE COMEDY OF ERRORS), and a musical (THE BEGGAR’S OPERA). Canadian works-now a staple of the company-were added to the repertoire the following season, and within its first three seasons, attendance at TIP tripled.
Two subsequent renovations of the Springer maximized space for sets and lighting as well as audience comfort, enabling production of popular large-scale plays and musicals.
Under the leadership of Founding Artistic Director Greg Wanless (1982-2012) and Associate Artistic Director Kathryn MacKay, TIP grew from a three-show season with 6,000 patrons to an eight-show, two-venue non-profit theatre that attracts 40,000 patrons annually. One of the top-five summer theatre festivals in Ontario, TIP regional economic impact hit $10 million per year.
In November 2012, Ashlie Corcoran became the second Artistic Director in TIP’s history. During her five-year tenure, Corcoran expanded programming to range from large-scale musicals, to screwball comedies, to contemporary international and classical works. She founded TIP’s Playwrights’ Unit, designed to foster the talent of both emerging and established artists, and initiated a series of partnerships with theatre companies across Canada. With these co-productions the Thousand Islands Playhouse and Gananoque’s national presence and profile increased considerably.