VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A crowd full of actors, artistic directors and even theatre students held a vigil at the Vancouver Playhouse Saturday night, saying they want to “keep the lights on.”

Messages of condolences were splayed with chalk on the sidewalk, and on sticky notes stuck to the theatre’s outside walls.

The theatre is closing after Saturday’s showing of Hunchback, a few months short of its 50th birthday.

High-profile people in the theatre community came out, including Bard on the Beach artistic director Christopher Gaze, who says he doesn’t blame the theatre’s artistic manager.

“If the province, the city or an individual is able to step up at this moment and give the Playhouse another chance I believe they could be successful, but I think they need to change their shape.”

The theatre’s board chair admits its operating model played a big role in its demise.

Actor Norman Browning got his start at the theatre back in 1969. “I’m here not to just support the Playhouse but to support the arts. If we lose the Playhouse, we lose a large part of our fabric and I don’t understand why it’s happening when I see so much wealth around me.”

Arts Club artistic director Bill Millerd came to tip his hat to the company.

“The Playhouse was the first professional theatre company to get established and last 49 years. A lot of other companies, including the Arts Club, were all part of that, we’ve all grown out of that. We can thank the Playhouse for leading us to create the best  theatre we can.” 

The company announced on Friday it’s shutting down because it can’t deal with a million-dollar debt. Fifteen full time employees have been laid off.