The opening of the Reeve Theatre in 1982 marked a “coming of age for Fine Arts programmes at the University of Calgary.” An initial grant of one million dollars by the Francis F. Reeve Foundation, matched by the Province of Alberta, was to support the construction of “specialized theatre facilities…including puppet and youth audience facilities, small studio/practice theatre seating 75-100 persons and dance studio facilities.” The addition of the Reeve Theatre to the University Theatre complex would continue to support the Department of Drama’s philosophy to “provide students with both practical experience in theatre arts and an academic study of drama. Practice would assist training, while theory would inform stage work.”
Designed by Hugh McMillan Architect Ltd. of Calgary, the Reeve Theatre was over 2,000 square metres of experimental instruction and performance space. This included a primary stage with modules that could be adjusted up or down, in addition to a secondary theatre laboratory, a scenery workshop, a costume construction workshop, make-up and dressing rooms, two “green rooms” for use as seminar or rehearsal space, storage and control rooms.
The Reeve Foundation was started in 1954 by Francis Reeve who worked in towing and transportation in New York before moving to Alberta in 1917. He purchased the Bowview Ranch (now the site of the Ghost Lake Dam) and became involved in the oil and gas industries. His wife, Winnifred Eaton Reeve was a prolific writer, both reporter and novelist, member of the Calgary Women’s Press Club, and first president of the Canadian Authors’ Association (Calgary Branch). The Reeve’s generous donation provided the space for the continuing expression of creativity on campus.