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Province of Canada, in population its largest at 14,789,778 (Statistics Canada, 2021), with a thriving commercial and government subsidized theatre scene.

Like much of the rest of Canada, the professional theatre in Ontario was born from the confluence of several events: the arrival of Europeans (especially garrison soldiers) with their entertainments (which got them through the winter), the burgeoning of grassroots amateur theatre both in the education system and the communities themselves (like the Ottawa Little Theatre), and a reaction to the success of touring companies from the United States and across the Atlantic in the 1800s and well into the 1900s.

The hub of English-language theatre in Canada is Toronto, and although there was a boom in the creation of professional companies in the late 1960s and early 70s (especially Theatre Passe Muraille, Factory Theatre, Toronto Free Theatre and Tarragon Theatre), it is with the formation of Dora Mavor Moore's New Play Society in 1946, and the continuing output of above-the-norm amateur talent of organizations such as the companies which performed at Hart House Theatre that professional theatre truly worthy of note was born.

Soon after the formation of the New Play Society, professional companies began to crop up all over the province: Canadian Repertory Theatre (1949, Ottawa), Jupiter Theatre (1951, Toronto), and Crest Theatre (1954, Toronto). But it was with the formations of the Stratford Festival (1953, Stratford), Shaw Festival (1962, Niagara-on-the-Lake), the building of the O'Keefe Centre (1960, Toronto), National Arts Centre (1969) and renovation of the Royal Alexandra Theatre that professional theatre began an ongoing process of growth and reaching wider audiences.

In the regions, the torch was being taken up by theatre companies like Magnus Theatre in Thunder Bay and Grand Theatre in London.

What separates the boom of the late 60s to the early 70s from the rest of the history of theatre in this province, if not in the country, was the exploration of the works of Canadian playwrights. Bill Glassco's Tarragon brought David French and David Freeman to national attention. Soon the country was also recognizing the works of George F. Walker and then Judith Thompson (both of whom were making Canadian drama a succinct reflection of urban realities).

As theatre in Ontario became broadly defined by the commercial activity in Toronto (especially after the Canadian production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats in 1985 and subsequent musical theatre presented by producers Edwin Mirvish, David Mirvish and Garth Drabinsky), Alternative and Experimental Theatre (sometimes fly-by-night) was springing up all over the metropolis; one of the most important of these companies has been Buddies in Bad Times.

Small, independent theatres in Ontario continue to proliferate, addressing issues of inclusivity and diversity in their organizations and productions.

Other articles in the Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia: 4th Line Theatre Alumnae Theatre Canadian Stage Cahoots Theatre Projects Chalmers Award da da kamera Dora Mavor Moore Award Great Canadian Theatre Company Gryphon Theatre Livent Necessary Angel Princess of Wales Theatre Red Barn Theatre Regent Theatre Sudbury Theatre Centre SummerWorks Theatre Aquarius Théâtre de la Vieille 17 Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario Théâtre Français de Toronto Theatre Kingston Thousand Islands Playhouse Urge Young People's Theatre

See also the article: Canadian Theatre History.

Profile by Gaetan Charlebois

Last updated 2021-07-13