Friday, October 31, 2008

The unofficial white paper: North York

Ian Mackenzie at Theatre is Territory asked me to do a survey of the Toronto theatre industry. I turned it into a SWOT analysis, so please go check it out.

Back? In the comments, Ian mentioned that commissioning a white paper on this would be valuable. While I think it's a good idea it may be a while in coming, so I'd like to go into further depth in a series of posts here. My white paper. With hopefully other voices chiming in. That means you.

Concentration of condo development along the subway lines has created a new potential theatre audience, especially in North York.


Today I'm going to touch upon this. A few years ago, when David Miller was first running for mayor of Toronto, he talked about having theatre less concentrated in the downtown core, serving all communities. At the time my comment was that it made sense, the problem was that companies who had tried it had trouble getting audiences and critics to follow them. For companies trying to establish themselves, this wasn't practical.

Fast forward a few years. The Sheppard subway has opened, sparking all kinds of condo development along the subway line on both the Yonge and Sheppard lines. And right in the middle of it all, at the North York Centre subway station, is the Toronto Centre for the Arts and its 200-seat Studio Theatre. It has a resident community company, Encore Entertainment, who has been producing there since 1997. Tribal Productions was the resident professional company from 1997 to 2004 and has since decided to focus on touring.

Both companies have started a tradition of theatre in the venue and with the new influx of people who most likely will not want to travel too far for entertainment, I believe the time is ripe for a few established independent companies to try to expand their audiences there. Once they get people in the habit of coming to see quality theatre, newer companies could try their luck there too. Or conversely, the Studio Theatre could become our small transfer house.

North York seems psychologically far away for the theatre community but I truly feel there is a great opportunity there we should be exploring - especially because we keep losing venues in the core.

2 comments:

Obsidian Theatre said...

We always talk about condo development without trying to change the kind of development it is. I mean why not make it a part of any condo development in certain sections of town to have a low cost space as a required part of getting developed. ie rehearsal spaces or 100 - 200 seat theatre etc. If that happened we would be creating our own new areas of theatre density, relieving the terrible shortage of space getting the indies out from under the thumb of the venued theatres.

MK Piatkowski said...

Great idea! When I was thinking about condo development, I was wondering myself about the feasibility of using some of the street-level space developers are now required to include to use as theatre space. And this is something that we could work on doing right now.

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