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Garrard, Jim

Jim Garrard in <i>Krapp’s Last Tape</i> by Samuel Beckett.
Jim Garrard in Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett.

Playwright, actor, theatre administrator, Jim Garrard was born in 1939 in Englehart, Ontario. He trained as an actor at Queen’s University Drama Department (B.A. English, Drama, Philosophy), and London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). In 1968, he was founding Artistic Director of Theatre Passe Muraille at Rochdale College, a student-run alternative “free” university and co-op. TPM’s first production, Futz (1969), was charged with obscenity, resulting in instant notoriety for Toronto’s fledgling alternative and experimental theatre scene. Other productions included Paul Foster’s Tom Paine, and Jean Genet’s The Maids. His subsequent experiments with improvisational “survival theatre” in British Columbia as artist-in-residence at Simon Fraser University culminated in the Black Queen is Going to Eat You all Up produced at TPM in 1972.

In the mid-1970s, Garrard worked for the (then) Ontario Ministry of Community Services, which at that time (prior to Ontario's first ministry of culture being formed) had responsibility for arts at the community level — a rather broadly defined remit. He connected people within the Ontario theatre community that were otherwise not in contact.

Garrard founded SALON Theatre in 1981 as an after-show performance bar for artists visiting the Toronto International Theatre Festival. From 1983 to 1987, SALON was resident theatre company at Queen Street West’s The Great Hall. In Kingston, SALON partnered with the Grand Theatre Kingston to produce the Kingston Summer Festival (1993- 1999), and, independently, the John A. Macdonald Festival (2010 - 2015). Garrard wanted a company that was working at the crossroads between art and history. He retired as Artistic Director of SALON in 2015.

His “Canadian bondage” plays include: Dead Heat (University College Playhouse, Toronto, 1974), Getting Even (Theatre Second Floor, 1979), Spencer’s Mom (SALON Theatre, 1981), the gothic comedy, Cold Comfort (25th Street Theatre, 1981), and Peggy’s Song (TPM, 1988). Cold Comfort was adapted as a film starring Paul Gross and Maury Chaykin in 1989. Sir John, Eh? A Musical was co-written with Kingston’s Grant Heckman for the Grand Theatre’s summer festival, and subsequently toured to schools in Ontario.

In August 2021, Garrard will perform the solo role in Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett for the Kingston Fringe Festival.

Source: Denis W. Johnston. The Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre, eds. Eugene Benson and L.W. Conolly. Toronto, Oxford UP, 1989. Additional material from Brian Arnott.

Last updated 2021-06-17