World Theatre Day

Deb Harvey and Dennis Garnhum smile as they sit in the Grand Theatre's balcony. Seats behind them are covered in plastic, a safeguard during the roof's renovation.

Pictured (L-R) Deb Harvey, Executive Director and Dennis Garnhum, Artistic Director. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

Conversations on World Theatre Day

Happy World Theatre Day!

This day is another wonderful opportunity to reach out to you, our friends and patrons, and share with you an update on a special staff-centred program we’ve been engaged in over the past few months. As you know, we are well into our stunning renovation which will provide a refreshed audience experience, and we cannot wait to show it to you. However, until that date comes, we have been focusing on how we can work as a team to create even more engaging and respectful art.

This past February, the Grand embarked upon a new project called Company Conversations, with the goal of better preparing everyone to produce the plays that appear on our stage. Set as a series of discussions, one for each of six chosen plays, Company Conversations encourages our entire staff team to share and articulate their experiences and viewpoints after reading each of the plays.

The most unique component is that the entire company is participating and contributing from their own perspective, both personally and professionally. It is inspiring to see everyone in attendance for each session. For some of the staff, reading a play was not part of their usual job description, so our initial Conversation focused on the basics such as reading character descriptions, stage directions, and the benefits of setting aside a block of time to read the text in its entirety.

Company Conversations is facilitated by the Grand’s Meghan O’Hara and Megan Watson, and the discussions of the various works are anchored by the anti-oppression lens which the Grand has been developing over the past year.

We integrate that lens within dynamic discussions which will have a direct impact on how we present productions in the future. We discuss the social and historical contexts of the plays, to gain a fuller understanding of the material.

We read, we question, we discuss, we share, and we debate. We come away with new thoughts, ideas, language, context – it’s extraordinary to be a part of.

We’ve welcomed some special guests to each Conversation. Playwright Andrea Scott, who grew up in London and attended H.B. Beal Secondary School, joined us to discuss her play Controlled Damage that centres on the life of Viola Desmond. Reflecting on the play’s incredible run at Halifax’s Neptune Theatre just prior to last year’s Covid shutdowns, Scott shared with the team her experience having Controlled Damage appear on a stage in Desmond’s home province of Nova Scotia.

Andrea Scott

Photo by Helen Tansey

Pictured above – Andrea Scott, playwright Controlled Damage

Learn more about Andrea here

Viola Desmond

Pictured above – Viola Desmond, central character in Andrea Scott's Controlled Damage

Controlled Damage Available to Order

During the discussion of Hannah’s Moscovitch’s take on power and control in Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes, actors Matthew Edison and Ellen Denny participated in a reading for the company and allowed the staff to hear the words that they had just read. Matthew had played the role of Jon at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre in early 2020 and was able to weigh in with his experienced perspective.

This past week, we were honoured to welcome Tazewell Thompson to our conversation of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. His insight into both seeing and directing some of the work of August Wilson was enlightening and thought-provoking. Megan Watson had just begun an internship at Arena Stage in Washington DC as the pandemic hit last March where Tazewell was directing another August Wilson play Seven Guitars. The standing invitation for Taz to join us in the future has been issued. He noted his love for beautiful theatres and was awestruck by our stunning Grand!

Hannah Moscovitch

Pictured above – playwright Hannah Moscovitch, Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes

A 2020 CBC interview with Hannah on finding success in a male-dominated industry

August Wilson

Pictured above – playwright August Wilson

Listen to an interview with August Wilson on Race and Culture from 1998

You may be asking yourselves if the plays we are examining will eventually be presented on our stages. Possibly, but that is not our motivation for Company Conversations. We are rehearsing this way of looking at work and will be incorporating these Conversations as a way of doing our work in the future.

So on this World Theatre Day, as we sit at the half-way point of our planned Company Conversations and await the time when we can share stories on our stages, we would like to encourage everyone to experience theatre in a different way.

Read a play, watch a movie based on a play - but more importantly talk about it - share your voice!

Because, as we get ready to return to the theatre, we will be engaging with our audiences differently through in-depth, honest, beautiful, and surprising discussions. It’s been an incredible discovery to do this with our awesome staff and so we look forward to engaging with you in this deeper, more powerful way.

Happy World Theatre Day!

Dennis and Deb

A pre-renovation shot of the Grand Theatre building during the 2020 lockdown, taken from across the street.

Photo by Mallory Brown

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London, ON N6A 3E4