Here’s more evidence that the city cares about the arts. Last week Toronto’s city council voted in favour of purchasing the building that’s home to Theatre Passe Muraille (TPM), allowing the theatre to retire its accumulated deficit and set up a reserve fund for capital works.
The company will continue the daily running of the venue, though it’s now a long-term tenant rather than owner.
The deal sets up a three-way partnership with TPM, the city and Artscape, a non-profit organization involved with creative communities and spaces; Artscape’s been involved in the revitalization of Queen West, Liberty Village, the Distillery District and the Green Arts Barns.
The purchase is an important statement of trust in a sometimes financially troubled company that’s been around since 1968. Founded by Jim Garrard, TPM was one of the driving forces in the establishment of an indigenous Toronto – which at the time pretty well meant an indigenous Canadian – theatre. Those who led the company over the years include Martin Kinch, Paul Thompson, Clarke Rogers and Layne Coleman.
It’s premiered ground-breaking collectives such as The Farm Show and I Love You, Baby Blue; the furor around the latter (nudity onstage in the 70s!) and resulting success allowed the company to buy the building, a former bakery and stable, at 16 Ryerson. Linda Griffiths’ Maggie And Pierre played here, as did early works by Brad Fraser, John Mighton, Sally Clark and Michael Healey’s The Drawer Boy. TPM has also played host to dozens of local and national companies.
The purchase is in part a vote of confidence for incoming artistic director Andy McKim, who brings to TPM a great passion for new works; he’ll be collaborating with recently appointed general manager Hugh Neilson on the upcoming season.
And what’s up first for the company’s 40th anniversary season? A revival of the 1999 hit The Drawer Boy, which has played in theatres across North America and, a few years ago, was the most-produced play in regional theatres in the States. Who says that we don’t export our art?
Nicely, the October production at TPM looks both to the past and to the future. Ruth Madoc-Jones directs, with established artists Randy Hughson and John Jarvis performing working with up-and-comer Frank Cox O’Connell, a grad of the National Theatre School, member of One Reed Theatre and a talent I’m looking forward to seeing onstage more often.