Heart of the Playhouse – Roseann Kelly honoured


She is seldom in the lime light at Upper Canada Playhouse. She prefers instead to work quietly behind the scenes, in the theatre front office and on the phones, rather than out in the spotlight.

Playhouse artistic director Donnie Bowes, however, summed up how the actors, the Playhouse staff, the members of the Playhouse board of directors, local businesses, community organizations and audiences feel about Roseann Kelly.

“Roseann is the heart of the Playhouse,” Bowes said.

On November 28, 2015, the opening night of Have Yourself a Swinging Little Country Christmas, before a packed house, Playhouse business manager Roseann Kelly was honoured for her 25 years of service. 

She was presented with an engraved watch by Board secretary Joanne Notman, who offered her the board’s deepest congratulations (joined by the audience) for the work she has done for the theatre. 

Roseann Kelly is the longest serving single employee of Upper Canada Playhouse. She has overseen 25 years of changes, set backs, and triumphs as the Playhouse fought to establish itself as a successful theatre and business. She has worked with four different administrations. She has served with several boards of directors. 

When Roseann signed on with the Playhouse in 1991, the theatre was struggling.

Sometimes it seemed there were more people on stage than there were in the audience. By 1999, there was a real possibility that the Playhouse would be forced to fold.

In a 2010 story in the Leader, Roseann recalled those early, rough years.

“When the phone rang, it was often a creditor, or Samuel French Inc. demanding royalties. We actually had to pile up the bills and decide who got paid first. Board meetings were awful, people struggling with finances, trying to decide what to do. Tension was very high.”

Yet through all the turmoil of the Playhouse’s growing pains, Roseann Kelly remained committed and supportive. She was an optimist who believed that the dream of theatre in Morrisburg would work.

By 2011, following Donnie Bowes’ leadership and efforts as the new artistic director, the Playhouse was eventually achieving a  94 per cent capacity. 

It continues, in 2015, to run at around 86 per cent capacity,  an astounding accomplishment in an economy which has definitely slumped.

Much of the credit for this extraordinary success must be shared with Roseann, who has worked 25 years to help it happen. 

Area tradespeople and businesses know her by name. She leads a “box office team that is known for their efficiency, hard work and pleasant customer service,” said Bowes.

And, as director of the Iroquois-Matilda Lions productions, and a member of the theatre’s very first board of directors, I long ago learned to count on the support, the encouragement, and the wealth of knowledge that Roseann brings to  her job at the Playhouse. 

“She is held in the highest regard (by everyone connected with the Playhouse). We all refer to her affectionately as Rosie,” said Donnie Bowes.

Congratulations to Roseann Kelly for her 25 wonderful years as the “heart” of  the Playhouse.