About us

The Port Theatre is a non-profit performing arts centre in beautiful Nanaimo, BC

Traditional Territory

We’re grateful for the opportunity to live, work, and celebrate the Arts on the traditional unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. hay ce:p q̓a.

Our Core Values

The Port Theatre Society is committed to our core values: PLAID—passion and professionalism; leadership; accountability; integrity; and diversity.

P Passion and Professionalism 

Be passionate about our community and our work; demonstrate a commitment to professional service and skill development.


Build a creative environment which will maximize the potential of the Theatre and all involved in it.


Be responsible to the owners and users of the Theatre.


Be honest, even-handed and open in all activities.


Be accessible and responsive to all segments of the communities in the mid-island area.

We continue to expand our community outreach and ensure access and collaboration with people from all cultures, ages, races and genders. Nanaimo is a gathering place and the Port Theatre is at the centre; the heart of our downtown. Serving our community through our commitment to this mandate:

Showing Leadership… Building Community.

Our community partners include: Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society | CHLY 101.7 FM | Crimson Coast Dance Society | Gabriola Island Arts Council | Literacy Central Vancouver Island | Nanaimo African Heritage Society | Nanaimo Arts Council | Nanaimo Child Development Centre | Nanaimo Community Foundation | Nanaimo International Jazz Festival Association | Nanaimo John Howard Society | Nanaimo Pride Society | Nanaimo Women’s Resources Society | The Port Authority | School District 68 TheatreOne | Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre | Vancouver Island Short Film Festival | Vancouver Island Symphony | VIU Alumni Association | VIU Theatre Department | VIU Visual Art Department

History & Purpose

The City of Nanaimo formed The Port Theatre Society in 1989 to build an 800-seat theatre on the breathtaking waterfront in downtown Nanaimo. The Port Theatre opened in September of 1998, thanks to grants from the Federal/Provincial Infrastructure Works Program and an outstanding level of community support. Of the $13.1 million budget, $8.6 million came from the Infrastructure Works program. The remaining $4.5 million was from individuals, service clubs and corporate donations, the City of Nanaimo and Regional District Areas A, B, C, D and E.

The purpose of The Port Theatre Society is to stimulate and enhance artistic, cultural and economic activity of central Vancouver Island

The theatre is a focal point for residents and visitors alike, offering a broad range of cultural events designed to meet many diverse interests and needs. Programs involve local groups as well as touring attractions and provide access to events for families, seniors, youths and adults, thereby enriching the overall quality of life in the region. A landmark on the city’s waterfront, it also serves as an important meeting place for a variety of community events, seminars and educational conferences. Over 250 events are held in the theatre each year attracting over 100,000 people.

Architect of the Port Theatre, Terry Williams’ goal was to build a theatre that had good sight lines from all seats, excellent acoustics and a wonderful sense of intimacy. Audiences have raved about these features since it opened.

Theatre Angels

The Port Theatre Society is able to increase access to performing arts and help dissolve social, physical and financial barriers throughout our communities through the generous support of our donors. We offer our sincere appreciation for help in maintaining and enhancing the Theatre Angels Program. Give the gift of joy through the magic of live performance plus the sense of belonging that comes from sharing an audience experience.

The Port Theatre Society’s Theatre Angel Program provides tickets to the following social service agencies in the Mid-Island area, who in turn distribute the tickets to clients who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend live performances. 1,480 tickets were made available in 2019 to the following 56 agencies and groups.

Better At Home Program – Nanaimo Family Life Assoc.
Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Central Van. Island
Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Vancouver Island
Brain Injury Society, Nanaimo
CMHA Mid-Island Branch – The Social Centre
Cedar School & Community Enhancement Society
Cedar Seniors Drop In
Central VI Multicultural Society
Clay Tree Society, Bridges Program
Clements Centre Society
Clinton – Theatre Angels
C.M.H.A. Mid Island Branch
Dallen’s Dream Team Society
Eden Gardens
Forward House Community Society, Parksville
Haven Society
Hepatitis C Society, Mid Island
Heron’s Nest Respite Guest House
Island Crisis Care Society
Island Deaf & Hard of Hearing Society
J. Garnons Williams Ltd.  (was Explorer Program)
John Howard Society, Nanaimo Region
Kiwanis Village Nanaimo
Kw’Umut Lelum
Literacy Circle
Nanaimo 7-10 Club
Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre
Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society
Nanaimo Association for Community Living
Nanaimo Brain Injury Society
Nanaimo Child Development Centre
Nanaimo Citizen Advocacy Assoc.
Nanaimo Community Hospice Society
Nanaimo Disability Resource Centre
Nanaimo Family Life Association
Nanaimo Harbour City Seniors
Nanaimo Organization for the Vision Impaired (NOVI)
NARSF Programs Ltd.
N.Y.S.A. – One Stop Youth Centre
Open Minds Open Windows Society
Pacifica Seniors Lodge
Pamela’s Home Society
Parent Support Services of BC
People for a Healthy Community on Gabriola Society
Port Alberni Assoc. for Community Living
Skaana Community Resources Ltd.
Snuneymuxw First Nation
Supporting Advocates in Leadership
Take A Hike Foundation
Tillicum Lelum – Urban Aboriginal Friendship Centre
Tillicum Lelum – Men’s Wellness Survivors
Vancouver Island University – Clemente Course
VIHA- Mental Health and Addiction Services
VIHA- Youth & Family Addiction
Youth 20/20 Can Project
Wesley Street Social Centre / V.I. Mental Health Soc.

Our Volunteers

Join one of the largest volunteer rosters in Nanaimo!

Pick up a Volunteer Application Form in-person at the Port Theatre Admin Office, 125 Front Street
or  print a copy to complete at home and bring in to the office  

With over 150 volunteers, the Port Theatre Society’s volunteer roster is one of the largest in Nanaimo. We’re privileged to have such dedication within our organization. The depth and experience of the volunteers ensures the seamless execution of the many events presented at the Port Theatre every year.

Volunteer shifts take place during events at the Port Theatre, including concerts, comedy, symphony, dance, receptions and more. We host over 250 events every year, which means that as a volunteer you have a lot of events to choose from! Volunteer positions include Ushers, Ticket Checkers, Audience Services, Coffee or Ice Cream Vendors, and Merchandise Assistants—all integral to running a successful event for the public to enjoy.

Total volunteer hours in 2022: 10,650
Total volunteer hours since 1998 opening: 315,733

A Long-Standing Priority of Investment in the Arts

The RBC Emerging Artists Project supports organizations that provide the best opportunity to advance an artist’s career trajectory in genres such as visual arts, music, theatre, performance, literature and film. Every year the RBC Foundation donates millions of dollars to hundreds of arts organizations globally to help emerging artists become established.

Youth Volunteer Program

The Port Theatre Youth Volunteer Program is an opportunity for youth in our community to experience the arts, gain valuable skills and work experience, take a peek behind-the-scenes at our theatre, and enjoy the many benefits of giving back to the community.

Schools on Stage

Since 2000, our Schools on Stage program has allowed countless children in Nanaimo-Ladysmith public elementary schools and a variety of community youth groups a free day in the theatre to create their own productions and present them for the community. Our goal is to ensure access to the arts begins early for youth, and any funds raised by ticket sales go directly toward enhancement of each school’s arts programs.

Student Work Experience

The Port Theatre is proud to maintain a strong connection to the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Theatre Department to support students advancing their education in order to pursue a career in the performing arts. Student Work Experience provides opportunities for VIU Technical Theatre students to shadow the Port Theatre’s professional technicians during performances and rehearsals at our theatre in order to gain valuable experience toward their chosen career.

Construction of the Port Theatre 1997-1998

Founding Board of Directors

Founding Board Member Margaret Strongitharm at the Groundbreaking Ceremony June 6, 1996

Founding staff including Development Officer Sandra Thompson in 1998

School bus in front of the theatre

School play on the main stage