The Staircase unofficially opened in 1997 and has been a cultural incubator ever since. We closed our doors mid-March 2020 to protect our community and our loved ones from the COVID pandemic.

To maintain artistic freedom, we did not follow the pathway of government funding. The Staircase survived entirely on ticket sales, concession sales and rentals. As a family-based artrepreneurial venture, were unable to sustain the project for the duration of the pandemic. Very sadly, this has lead to the permanent shuttering of The Staircase

The people, values, beliefs and love that embodied The Staircase flourished in a historic building. 27 Dundurn North was Canada’s first electric power distribution station. From 1914 to 1977, the transformers delivered electricity to Hamilton’s homes and industry. Since the beginning of this century Hamiltonians electrified Hamilton at 27 Dundurn with their creativity. The building has always been for and about the people in it. Since the people of The Staircase left 27 Dundurn the building is looking for new caretakers.

Around 2010 The Staircase came under the guidance of Colette Kendall. Colette worked tirelessly towards the goal of a self sustaining, community driven arts facility. There is no question that she achieved this goal. Building an arts facility from the tickets sales from a micro theatre, the concession sales from a micro kitchen, and scheduling >100 events per month was a herculean task. Colette persevered and vision for 2020 was very good indeed. We all know what happened next and even the robust arts incubator that she created could not withstand a global pandemic. Hamilton is indebted to Colette’s performer centered vision that drove The Staircase to it’s greatest heights.

The Staircase occupied a disproportionate amount of our family’s time and resources. Colin and Liam grew up with this cantankerous older brother called The Staircase. Our family has spend 25 years collectively raising this third child. Often pure obstinance is all that kept us in the community theatre game. We were getting tired.

While The Staircase contributes to the health of the city, it also depends on the health of the city. As owners we had been planning for an eventual LRT stop at Dundurn and King. Anti-transit radicals killed the democratically supported LRT project in late 2019. It became clear that one could not plan for the future in Hamilton.

In January 2020 we started working on our exit from The Staircase. Our goals were to keep Colette rolling and protect the community space. The pandemic drove a micro-organism through the lungs of this plan. So here we are at this truly sad juncture.

There are so many people thank. It will take years to thank everyone that made this run possible.

— Hugh MacLeod and Kathy Garneau (Liam and Colin and 27)

Comments are open for you thoughts and memories. Please send photos and images to info@staircase.org


  1. The Staircase has a special place in our family history too as we watched our son Joshua Obermeyer, become a second adopted person within it hallowed halls. So many improv classes and shows helped build his nascent talents into something that was a joy to watch. Kathy and Hugh, I had the pleasure of teaching Liam when he was in grade 5 and am thrilled at the education that your arts experiment brought to my son while he was at university and beyond. The Staircase continues to be a great community even if the building is absent from the equation. Thank you. Thank you, Thank you. – Stephen Obermeyer, August, 2o2o.

  2. I’m sure this is a heart heavy choice for all of you. It’s so disappointing when your City makes short sighted decisions.
    Thank you all for the hard work and great art you have brought to Hamilton.
    I’m sure you have touched a million hearts with your efforts.
    I hope you take a bit of a rest before your next creative project begins.
    Love to you

  3. Lets hope the new caretakers see the value the Staircase has added to the arts scene in many forums and continues what Hugh and Kathy raised for the community and that the new owners Collette take note the value of having her run the theatre is if they and hope the do carry on with it being an arts centre.
    There are many many memories for all inside this venue.
    I appreciate all of the Improv Instructors at the classes I attended.
    Thank you Hugh and Kathy for keeping this historical building going called the Staircase.
    p.s. Did Kathy ever find a stationary set she was looking for.

  4. The news about the closure is such a heartbreak. Thank you for providing a wonderful venue for all of these years. We’ve seen such fantastic shows there – many Fringe performances, Magician Nicholas Wallace, Troubadour Corin Raymond, writer Heather O’Neill; we’ve purchased from the Maker’s Market over a few Decembers; attended film screenings; a performance of Mamet’s Oleanna. What a loss! Your hard work was never taken for granted in this family. You’ve been the gem within walking distance we have shown our family and friends from out of town. It is hard to believe that you have capitulated to the pandemic but this has been brutal and there is no blame on this end – just happy memories and hope that somehow it will rise again in another incarnation.

  5. There have been so many losses already during this pandemic, but this one hits especially hard. The Staircase became my spiritual Hamilton home before I even moved here, and its very existence in played a huge role in that decision. The Staircase is and will always remain a place where one family opened its arms and made family of us all.

    Now, the question; you’ve done so much for us, nurtured so many dreams, fostered so many young careers, fed us so generously body and soul — what can WE do for YOU?

  6. As a European, it is crazy to see how Hamilton is trying its best to kill itself: no LRT, trying to kill the bike sharing system, and continuing to sprawl. The staircase is the place where I spent most of my evenings out in Hamilton: improv, theatre, storytelling nights. A little jewel that cannot thrive in a town where people just care about parking and spend time in their own backyards.

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