Theatre Direct was founded by playwright, David S. Craig, in 1976 and continues to create, produce and disseminate innovative work for, with and by young people.
Theatre Direct has received numerous Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations and awards, 10 Chalmers Canadian Play Awards as well as the Canada Council Theatre for Young Audiences Prize.
In January 2019, Lisa Marie DiLiberto was appointed Theatre Direct’s new Executive Artistic Director. During her tenure the company has launched the Creation Warehouse, Next Draft, a theatre creation program for teenagers, and Balancing Act, a national initiative that aims to create increased accessibility for caregivers in the performing arts.
Highlights from the 2019/2020 season include what remains, a participatory dance theatre experience that toured to elementary and high schools and was slated to be presented at Harbourfront Centre’s Junior Festival; What Was My Backyard?, an Indigenous-led interactive play produced in partnership with Jumblies Theatre and The Community Arts Guild; and, Eraser, an immersive production created by Eraser Theatre and developed in partnership with Young People’s Theatre and Roseneath Theatre.
In spite of the pandemic, the company continued to innovate theatre for young audiences during our 2020/21 season. Our signature production involving over 100 children in our community, Wishes in the Wind took the form of a soulful parade capturing the struggles and resilience of children, commissioned by the National Arts Centre of Canada. Other productions during the pandemic include Through The Wall, a nation-wide audio pen pal project; Mundane Mysteries: Playdate, an adaptation for young audiences of the internationally-acclaimed telephone-based experience by Outside the March; Halloween Hullabaloo, a community-crafted haunted castle art installation in Earlscourt Park; and, the virtual tour of ERASER: A New Normal which toured virtually to over 200 elementary school classrooms.
In 2021/22, Theatre Direct went on to present a series of exciting co-productions in our neighbourhood parks. Doorstop Theatre Project’s Justin Eddy and the Great Cosmic Crisis was presented for one family at a time featuring AR technology, and Finding Home: A Salmon Journey up the Humber River an outdoor production that safely welcomed school kids back to enjoy theatre once again. Later in this season we produced the first outdoor edition of our annual Forward March Festival. Our season wrapped with a presentation Wishes in the Wind at Harbourfront Centre’s JUNIOR Festival. To support artists during the ongoing pandemic, Theatre Direct formed the Class of 2022, a cohort of emerging artist producers to collaborate with the company on various projects. Also during this season, Balancing Act formed a steering committee and began work on a three year project: Level UP!, funded by the Feminist Response and Recovery Fund which pilots strategies of support for parents and caregivers in the performing arts in partnership with organizations across the country.
Our 2022/23 season saw the return of our outdoor production Finding Home: A Salmon Journey up the Humber River which received Dora Award nominations for Outstanding Production, Outstanding Ensemble and was the recipient of the award for Outstanding New Play. As part of Aluna Theatre’s RUTAS festival, we presented Brazilian puppet master Nina Vogel’s Peter and the Wolf | Pedro e o Lobo accompanied by the EUPHONIA chamber orchestra. We welcomed the community to join in outdoor events including the third edition of Hallowe’en Hullabaloo and the inaugural Wintertide, a solstice parade featuring a giant community-crafted dragon puppet. Forward March returned to Earlscourt Park to present four new works by emerging artists including one performance presented in ASL. In the spring, Theatre Direct supported the pilot tour of Colouring Book Theatre’s 2022 Forward March show The Assembly, an interactive theatre-meets-board game experience. During this season Balancing Act continued to pilot strategies of support for parents and caregivers and hosted its first conference in Toronto for artists and organizations which offered on-site childcare and simultaneous programming for school-aged children.
Theatre Direct kicked off its 2023/24 season with Give ‘em Hell, written by our very own Company Producer Madeleine Brown featuring a cast of eight local teenagers alongside professional actors. Featured on CBC, CTV and Classical FM, this play, described by Intermission Magazine as a “fast-talking window into a tenacious teen protest,” highlights the power of student activism played for high school and public audiences inside a decommissioned school in Peterborough, Ontario reaching thousands over its two-week run.
1990 – 2019
The company’s milestone productions between 1990 and 2002 include: Thin Ice (1987) by Banuta Rubess and Beverly Cooper addressing sexual violence; A Secret Life (1993) by Ed Roy about hidden poverty; and Toronto at Dreamers Rock (1991) by Drew Hayden Taylor exploring the perspective of Indigenous youth which toured across Canada.
From 2001 until 2018, under the leadership of Lynda Hill, the company broke new artistic ground with the production of And by the Way Miss… (2004) by the interdisciplinary collective, URGE, for girls between twelve- and fourteen-years-old; Beneath the Banyan Tree (2005) by Emil Sher exploring the immigration experience of a South Asian child; Sanctuary Song (2009) an opera by Marjorie Chan and Abigail Richardson; and Binti’s Journey (2005) adapted by Marcia Johnson from the novel The Heaven Shop by Deborah Ellis addressing the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Starting in 2011, Theatre Direct initiated research, development and creation projects for children in their early years with the production of Old Man and the River (2013 to 2019), which has toured extensively across the country, and Flying Hearts (2018), an inclusive Relaxed Performance dance and theatre production engaging children two-years-old and up and with autism and developmental disabilities.
In 2014, Theatre Direct launched WeeFestival, a children’s festival dedicated to early years which has since become an annual event operating as its own incorporated entity under the Artistic Direction of Lynda Hill.
In 2019, Theatre Direct hosted its first Forward March Festival, a celebration of form-breaking work by emerging artists. Since then, the festival has grown into a week-long festival over the course of March Break.
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