Theatre company in Vancouver, British Columbia since 1964, which evolved from the Arts Club, a private club for artists, musicians, actors, and writers founded in 1958. It is now the largest urban not-for-profit theatre company in Canada, having produced over 500 plays, 120 of which are Canadian, with 80 premieres. It has also introduced many talented Canadian actors to Vancouver and Canadian audiences, including Michael J. Fox, Janet Wright, Lally Cadeau, Nicola Lipman, and Brent Carver.
Its first venue was a converted gospel hall on Seymour Street (250 seats), where it played for 27 years until the building was demolished in 1991 to make way for a condominium. In 1979, the Company added the current Granville Island Stage (650 seats in a renovated warehouse), and in 1983 a smaller Revue Stage next door. The Revue Stage relocated in 2015 to the BMO Theatre Centre in Olympic Village (Goldcorp Stage, 250 seats). In 1998, the Company added the Stanley Theatre, now the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, which is its administrative home. The Arts Club Theatre also tours three plays every season.
Until 1972, when Bill Millerd became Artistic Managing Director, plays were usually thrillers and comedies. His ambitious production of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris in 1972 (dir. Richard Ouzounian) brought in larger audiences for an extended run of eight months, and opened up possibilities for a wide range of theatrical fare: from provocative premieres of Canadian plays to large-scale musicals.
The first homegrown box office success was Sherman Snukal's moralistic sex comedy, Talking Dirty. Set in the Kitsilano district of Vancouver, it enjoyed 1000 performances in 1981-82, and toured in B.C. and in Toronto, the longest run of any Canadian play. Other early Canadian productions included the works of Michel Tremblay, David Freeman, Ken Mitchell, and Carol Bolt. The Company stages a full season at Granville Island, including a Christmas production (notably the oft-presented Nicola Cavendish play It's Snowing on Saltspring), and a wide range of works from musicals to classics and Canadian plays by Morris Panych, John Lazarus, George F. Walker, John Gray, Joanna McClelland Glass, and Kevin Loring (Thanks for Giving) 2017). In 2016, the Arts Club commissioned and premiered Onegin, a highly acclaimed musical by Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hill, which subsequently toured across Canada for 26 weeks.
The Revue Stage has hosted popular musicals, revues, and comedies. Notable Stanley Theatre productions include Morris Panych's interpretation of Hamlet (1999), Sweeney Todd (2000, directed by Panych), the touring production of Michel Tremblay's For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again/Encore une fois, si vous le permettez, Lee MacDougall's High Life, and David French's Jitters (2017).
An anthology of six plays was published by Playwrights Canada Press to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the theatre: The Arts Club Anthology, edited by dramaturge Rachel Ditor.
Bill Millerd announced his retirement as Artistic Director in 2017. His last production as director after 46 years was Once, an outstanding tour de force of musical and acting talent.
Ashlie Corcoran, AD of Thousand Islands Playhouse, was announced as the new AD, as of October 2017. For the 2019/20 season, she programmed the world premieres of two Canadian plays: the 2018 Alberta Playwriting Competition winner Cipher by Ellen Close and Braden Griffiths; and Marcus Youssefís Itís a Wonderful Christmas-ish Holiday Miracle, an Arts Club Silver Commission. The season also included carried away on the crest of a wave by David Yee, a series of nine short plays, including one about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami; Birds and the Bees by Mark Crawford ; and Trey Anthony's musical Da Kink in My Hair.
In 2021, when the Covid-19 pandemic closed theatres across Canada and around the world, Corcoran commissioned playwright Andrew Kushnir to produce an "investigative podcast" on the history of the theatre, which he entitled "This is Something Else," available on the theatre website.
Profile by Anne Nothof, Athabasca University
Last updated 2022-04-11