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Luscombe, George

Director/producer/playwright born in Toronto, Ontario in 1926, considered one of the fathers of the Alternative and Experimental Theatre movement in Canada. He died in Toronto on February 5, 1999.

George Luscombe worked with Joan Littlewood in England in the 1950s and was heavily influenced by the direction in which she was taking theatre: away from the drawing room and into forms of psychological and physical expression.

On his return from Canada, he founded and lead Toronto Workshop Productions/TWP from 1959-86, combining in his own work some of Stanislavsky's theory with concern about the social realities surrounding him.

TWP became noted for rereading the classics as well as for the process we now call collective creation. It also began to focus on original Canadian texts.

One of the hallmark productions of TWP was the acrobatic behind-the-scenes look at circuses called Hey, Rube! which was premiered in 1961 but was revived several times. The work that has had the most vivid life outside of TWP is Ten Lost Years (created in 1974).

When Luscombe left TWP, he was to remain on salary as artistic director emeritus but became the victim of budget cuts in 1988.

He received honorary doctorates from York University, and the University of Guelph, where he taught undergraduates. In 1981 he was awarded the Order of Canada by a government which had withdrawn its support for TWP, and helped to bring about its demise. In 1988, he received the Toronto Drama Bench Award for Distinguished Contribution to Canadian Theatre.

The press release for the 2013 publication of Conversations with George Luscombe by Steven Bush (Mosiac Press) asserts: "George’s visual creativity, his exciting use of stage space and his ensemble approach to acting inspired Canadian theatre for three decades, and beyond. His legacy is carried on, knowingly or otherwise, in the work of every theatre and every artist not afraid to take a stand on crucial issues of the day. As George once said: 'A theatre without opinion is not a theatre.'”

Profile by Gaetan Charlebois. Additional material from Jack Winter's The Tallis Bag. Toronto: Oberon, 2012.

Last updated 2018-07-03