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Canadian Stage

CTE photo
Later Life by AR Gurney from Canadian Stage, directed by Bob Baker, 1996, with Sheila Moore (bottom l), Nicola Cavendish, Tom Wood (l), and Robert Haley

Canada's largest not-for-profit theatre company, located in Toronto, Ontario, formed in 1988 by the merger of Toronto Free Theatre (under Guy Sprung) and Centrestage (under Bill Glassco). After two controversial years under Sprung and Glassco, following which Sprung was ousted, the company was directed by Bob Baker (until 1998) and then Martin Bragg (until 2009), formerly the general manager for the company. Matthew Jocelyn was Artistic and General Director until 2018, when Brendan Healy was appointed Artistic Director.

The Canadian Stage Company (more popularly known as CanStage) was initially created to present Canadian theatre at several venues, but after Sprung the mandate stretched to include mainstream and more populist works, including A Little Night Music, Into the Woods, and Shirley Valentine. However, in autumn 1996, CanStage hazarded a production of the controversial gay American epic Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.

In January 2000, George F. Walker's Heaven, figured in a company controversy when the work's premiere was transferred from the mainstage to a smaller hall after the leadership of the house decided the play was too controversial. Said Martin Bragg, artistic producer, in an interview with the CBC, "George wants to make people angry ... and what he doesn't realize is that a good portion of the Bluma Appel audience wouldn't have the interest in getting beyond the first five pages of the script."

Among the Canadian works presented were the premieres of Richard Ouzounian's and Marek Norman's adaptation of Carol Shields' novel Larry's Party (January, 2001). To celebrate its 20th anniversary, CanStage produced three Canadian works: The Palace of the End by Judith Thompson; Fire! by Paul Ledoux and David S. Young; and The December Man by Colleen Murphy. It also regularly featured the plays of Morris Panych, and collaborated with other theatres across Canada in co-productions.

The company's mandate, as stated by Bragg, was "to create and produce the best in Canadian and international contemporary theatre, attracting Canada's best writers, directors and actors." Through the New Play Development program, CanStage strove to raise the national and international profile of established Canadian writers and to nurture emerging playwrights.

For the 2010/11 season, A.D. Matthew Jocelyn expanded the mandate to include innovative performance pieces from across Canada and Europe -- creating "a trans-disciplinary theatre that pushes the boundaries of convention and reflects a resolutely 21st century aesthetic." These included Kim Collier's metatheatrical work, Tear the Curtain!, in which stage and film interacted. His programming was notable for its diversity of form, content, and origin, while including Canadian works. For the thirtieth anniversary season (2017/18), Canadian Stage programmed Declarations by Jordan Tannahill; Backbone by Red Sky; and The Overcoat by Morris Panych and James Rolfe.

In 2018, Brendan Healy was appointed Artistic Director, with a mandate "to maintain the theatre company’s new identity as a producer and presenter of international and international-class interdisciplinary performance – but root its work in the reality of this Canadian city at this point in time" (quoted from J. Kelly Nestruck. Globe & Mail. 19 Mar 19).

The company presents its mainstage productions at the St. Lawrence Centre in the Bluma Appel Theatre (875 seats), and at the Berkeley Street Theatre (in the former Toronto Free Theatre space), which includes two stages - the Theatre Upstairs (150 seats) and Theatre Downstairs (241 seats). CanStage also presents "Shakespeare in High Park" each summer.

The company's archives are at the L.W. Conolly Theatre Archives of the University of Guelph, Ontario.

Website: www.canadianstage.com

Last updated 2020-09-01