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Toronto Workshop Productions/TWP

Company in Toronto, Ontario, one of the first important Alternative and Experimental Theatre troupes, founded by George Luscombe in 1959.

The professional company was the result of the amalgamation of Basya Hunter's Arts Club Theatre and Luscombe's own Workshop Productions. In 1961, Luscombe was appointed director. Its first production, Hey, Rube!, was an immediate success and established the group's penchant for exploration and collective creation. The company performed in a 90-seat factory basement before moving in 1967 to a new 300-seat auditorium built in a converted tram-shed off Yonge Street.

Under Luscombe, the emphasis of the company was on training and ensemble performing. Plays evolved with each production, with contributions from everyone involved. The settings were typically minimal and innovative, and the plays politically oriented. Jack Winter was writer-in-residence from 1961-67 and 1974-76, and TWP later worked with writers such as Len Peterson and Rick Salutin. The company is perhaps best known for its work about the Depression, Ten Lost Years.

The theatre was gutted by fire in 1974, just before the opening of Winter's You Can't Get Here From There about the immigration attempts of Chilean refugees after the coup. Although rebuilt, in the late 80s, the company experienced serious financial difficulty. Robert Rooney replaced Luscombe as artistic director. Leon Pownall took over the position in 1988, and announced a redevelopment project for the site, which included a retirement home.

The theatre space is now the home of Buddies in Bad Times.

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

Further reading: Neil Carson. Harlequin in Hogtown: George Luscombe and Toronto Workshop Productions. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995.

Profile by Gaetan Charlebois. Additional information by Cynthia Zimmerman and Jack Winter.

Last updated 2024-05-07