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.
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.
WeeFestival, a children’s festival dedicated to early years, was launched in 2014 and has since become an annual event. The festival is now operating as its own incorporated entity under the Artistic Direction of Lynda Hill with support from Theatre Direct.
Theatre Direct hosted its first Forward March Festival, a celebration of form-breaking work by emerging artists, in 2019. Since then, the festival has grown into a week-long festival over the course of March Break
In January 2019, Lisa Marie DiLiberto was appointed Theatre Direct’s new Artistic Director. The start of her tenure included the launch of the Creation Warehouse, an arm of the company which oversees the education and enrichment programs, 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 the ongoing global health crisis, the company more than ever continues to innovate theatre for young audiences including such creations as 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, commissioned to help support kids through the pandemic; and, Wishes in the Wind, a soulful parade capturing the struggles and resilience of children – commissioned by the National Arts Centre of Canada.
Other new and ongoing programs at Theatre Direct include Next Draft, a creation based program for teens, Coffee & Collaborations, a weekly meet up for emerging artists to pitch new work and talk about ideas, and Hack Lab an intergenerational process-driven workshop series.
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