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Company of Sirens

Social action, feminist theatre company, founded in Toronto Ontario in 1986 as a collective of politically engaged women artists. It original members included Cynthia Grant, founding member of Nightwood Theatre, Lina Chartrand, Aida Jordao, Catherine Glen, Lib Spry, and Shawna Dempsey. The Company produced plays for labour groups, and formed an early alliance with the Organized Working Women. Its mandate was to develop new productions which inspired social change and alternative action for women.

The Company of Sirens performed in a range of alternative theatre spaces: women's shelters, community centres, schools, at union meetings women's service organizations and cultural associations. It also produced an annual show in a traditional theatre venue in order reach a wider audience.

The Company was commissioned to create a wide range of works dealing with sexual harassment, battered women, day care, racism, pay equity and women and work. Following the performances, the actors led a discussion about about the issues raised in the shows.

The Company’s first production was The Working People's Picture Show, commissioned by several unions, women's organizations and community groups, and developed in conjunction with Edmonton’s Ground Zero Productions. It was performed hundreds of times between 1985 and 1995 in the touring-for-social change network. Subsequent works include: Shelter from Assault, commissioned by the Ministry of Housing; No Problems Here, an anti-racist play commissioned the Ministry of Citizenship, and created by Alison Sealy-Smith, Catherine Glen and ahdri zinna; Foul Play, commissioned by the Women's Studies Department of Glendon College and the Sexual Harassment Education Centre of York University; All the Way, (about teen sexuality and peer pressure); Les Ms., a satiric spoof of Broadway representations of women; and the Portuguese Wedding Song (a critical portrait of repressive social traditions).

The Company of Sirens also produced a performance series called Siren Soirées, which was developed in response to the dismal findings in Rina Fraticellli’s “Status of Women in the Canadian Theatre”: surveying 1,156 productions staged in Canada between 1978 and 1981, Fraticelli discovered that women accounted for only 11% of the country's artistic directors, 13% of its directors, and 10% of its produced playwrights. The Soirées provided a forum for over 200 women artists to present their work to the public and receive critical feedback.

Sources: Cynthia Grant, “Still ‘Activist after All These Years?" Canadian Theatre Review 117 (Winter 2004): 14-16.

Lynn McGuigan, Guelph Arts Centre. www.guelpharts.ca

Last updated 2021-01-24