Vol.18 No.2, 1997, Fall/ Automne



This article traces the development of Toronto's Nightwood Theatre from its origins as a collective in the late 1970s to its current, more conventional, structure. Nightwood is placed within the context of both feminist theatre and the Canadian collective creation tradition. Its development is charted through examples from its production history and changes in leadership.

Cet article retrace l'évolution du théâtre Nightwood de Toronto depuis ses origines comme groupe collectif vers la fin des années 1970 jusqu'à sa structure actuelle qui est plus conventionnelle. Le théâtre Nightwood se situe à la fois dans le contexte du théâtre féministe et celui de la création collective canadienne. L'article illustre son évolution par des exemples tirés de l'historique de sa production et les changements dans sa gestion.

Nightwood Theatre is the longest running feminist theatre company in Canada and "the most influential feminist theatre company in Toronto" (Forsyth 206). In her review of the 1990 collection Fair Play: Twelve Women Speak: Conversations with Canadian Playwrights, Maria Dicenzo writes "it becomes clear from reading this collection that Nightwood has played a critical role in getting women's plays produced" (219). In addition to its importance within Toronto, Nightwood has played a national role by soliciting projects for its annual Groundswell festival of new works. Since Nightwood's inception in 1979, the company has produced collective creations and plays by single authors, mounted tours, collaborated with other companies, and sought out many ways to encourage new work by women; an on-line chronology, available in this journal's website publication of volume 18:2, provides dates and details for selected productions.(1)

Nightwood grew out of the alternative, collective theatre scene in Toronto and the international avant-garde and was initially committed to an experimental aesthetic. While not specifically intended as a feminist company by its four founders, Nightwood gradually became identified as feminist, largely because of external perceptions.(2) Over the years, the company presented itself as a producer of new works by Canadian women, as a provider of opportunities for women theatre artists, and, most recently, as an inclusive theatre company committed to producing work by women of colour; these variations have reflected the interests of artists and Board members at different stages.

For many years Nightwood also defined itself as a producer of collective work, although the creations were sometimes assigned to a main author. The company was also run, administratively, as a collective, although individuals always had separate titles and responsibilities. At different points, Nightwood's committment to collectivity shifted emphasis between the works produced and the company's inclusive structure. Even as Nightwood moved steadily towards a more traditional structure throughout the 1980s, with a single Artistic Director and productions of plays by single authors becoming the norm, some of the collective spirit was retained in the existence of an Artistic Advisory group.(3) Perhaps for this reason, the collective way of working has continued to be identified with Nightwood's productions and administration, even though the company's mainstage productions have been scripted works by single authors and it has officially dissociated itself from the collective organizational model since the late 1980s. Just as Nightwood's feminist mandate has developed through a dialectic of external perceptions and internal process, so too has its relationship with collective creation; this dialectic has operated throughout its history in defining Nightwood as a company. It will be the purpose of this paper to chart Nightwood's movement from a collectively-run group that created theatre pieces collectively, to a more traditionally-structured company that produces scripted works by women. This movement has involved both ideological motivations and aesthetic aspirations, consistent with Nightwood's historical place within Canadian political theatre, and within the tradition of feminist theatre.

Theatre historian Denis Johnston refers to the late 1960s and early 1970s as the golden age of Canadian theatre [see Duchesne in this issue. Ed.], a time when a new and exciting wave of alternative theatres sprang up across Canada, especially in Toronto (3-4). These small, experimental companies, such as Theatre Passe Muraille, were reacting against the domination of the established regional theatre system by foreign productions. While the initial inspiration for the new companies came from the international avant-garde--companies like the Living Theatre in New York, for example--their motivation quickly came to include Canadian nationalism. Internationally and locally, alternative experimental theatre was co-existing with women's theatre: in 1968, Winnipeg's feminist Nellie McClung Theatre was formed; in 1969, new feminist theatres were founded in New York and Los Angeles; in 1972 the Women's Theatre Council was formed in New York; in 1977 Sistren was founded in Jamaica and, in England, Monstrous Regiment was collaborating with Caryl Churchill. Toronto got its first feminist theatre company in 1974, when Diane Grant and Marcella Lustig founded Redlight Theatre.(4)

Because Nightwood came into existence at the end of the seventies, it missed the period ten years earlier when the collective was most revolutionary in Canada, when the collective creation, the alternative theatre, the influence of an international avant-garde, and a passionate nationalism were all coming together in Canadian theatre. Nightwood also followed the initial period when many early women's theatre collectives were created as splinters from other groups, either experimental theatre companies or political associations, formed so that female members could work together on their own issues. In many ways, Nightwood reflected all that had gone on a short while before and yet developed in its own unique direction, learning from the theatre explosion of the late sixties and early seventies, and moving into the eighties. I would suggest that Nightwood's historical placement partly explains its longevity, in that its founders had a variety of successful models to emulate. For example, Cynthia Grant apprenticed in New York with Mabou Mines, an influential experimental company, just before Nightwood's first production, The True Story of Ida Johnson, was produced at the Annex Theatre in the fall of 1979; Kim Renders was a cast member in the Theatre Passe Muraille collective creation Staller's Farm in 1980. Their experiences with the international avant-garde and Canadian collective creation were reflected in Nightwood's early productions and in how the fledgling company positioned itself within the Toronto theatre community. On the other hand, the growing feminist movement meant that more and more women were feeling confident about finding their own voices in the theatre and creating new roles for themselves both on and off stage, and Nightwood became a focal point around which a number of projects could revolve; Nightwood's commitment to an inclusive, collective structure meant that many women could be accommodated. While the collective structure and the focus on producing collective work has altered considerably over the years, the need for a place where women's work is produced and women theatre artists can find jobs has (unfortunately) not disappeared; Nightwood has therefore remained relevant.

If we were to compare Nightwood to other Canadian feminist companies past and present, such as Nellie McClung, Redlight, Le Théâtre Expérimental des Femmes (founded in 1979), the Company of Sirens (founded in 1986), and Maenad Theatre (incorporated in 1989) for example, we would find similar struggles around obtaining funding, defining a mandate, developing an organizational structure and communicating with a desired audience.(5) The different kinds of feminist philosophy (cultural, materialist, postmodern, and so on) that individual theatre practitioners advocate will be reflected in the work they produce within these companies; at Nightwood, individuals have produced work that reflect a wide range of different types or approaches to feminism.(6) A commitment to any type of feminism will also influence how a piece of theatre is created, and each of the companies mentioned above have attempted to develop an appropriate, collaborative working model. As founder Maureen White wrote in reference to the Anna Project, "it is not coincidence that a lot of feminists are choosing to work collectively: in exploring new material and breaking down old structures, a new process also should be explored" (Anna Project 173). Nightwood has always encouraged diverse perspectives and provided opportunities for women who might not find them elsewhere, and collective creation is in many ways an ideal model for empowerment; the process by which a project is organized can be as important as the finished product, and a collaborative model in which credit, creativity and responsibility are shared, as opposed to a strictly hierarchical structure, is a choice philosophically consistent with such goals.

Collective creation has come to connote a particular kind of theatre piece: episodic in structure, presentational, and made up of a number of stories that all contribute to some overarching theme or purpose. But collective creation is perhaps more accurately described as a process, a method of working in which authority is shared and each participant contributes in a significant way to the content of the work at hand. A collective might include one person who is designated as director or even playwright, but the other participants--actors, designers and so on--are understood to have more direct input than within a traditional, hierarchical situation, where everyone works towards realizing the playwright's vision. The end result of the collective creation process might be a play about a specific community or historical event (something like Nightwood's 1984 collective creation about pioneer women, Love and Work Enough, for example), and it might include an overt political motivation (such as the anti-nuclear weapons show Peace Banquet in 1983, or the work of companies inspired by Augusto Boal, for example ). The collective process might also result in a piece like Nightwood's Glazed Tempera in 1980, which was intended to explore an interdisciplinary aesthetic rather than offer social commentary.

The work that is created through collective creation can be especially rich and powerful, benefitting from the combined efforts and gifts of a number of people, rather than the vision of a single individual. To quote Maureen White again:

For me the greatest reward of working collectively is seeing a vision emerge that could never have come from just one person. A constant criticism of this method of working seems to be that it is a compromised vision. Yet I do not begin working collectively on a show with my vision in mind--that would certainly lead to compromise. Instead, ideas feed off one another to develop into a vision. (Anna Project 173)

On the other hand, working collectively can be difficult and time consuming, particularly if all the participants are not equally committed or comfortable with the process; as Mary Vingoe wrote, "the joys and frustrations of working collectively so often nearly cancel each other out" (Nightwood 48). Ann-Marie MacDonald acknowledged some of the hazards in her description of the Anna Project:

the collective process has been fraught with more challenges and obstacles than any other I have known; struggles such as fund-raising and administration of one's own work, not to mention the constant striving for consensus in a process which is also a commitment to respect each artist's creative input. (Anna Project 170)

MacDonald concludes, however, that This is For You, Anna was "worth hanging in for" (170), and Vingoe writes that a collective creation is "distinct: it looks, tastes and feels different from script-based conventional theatre," and that each time a collectively created work challenges the audience's notions of a play, it has achieved a "tiny victory" (Nightwood 49). Because of this sympathy between feminism and collectivity, a collaborative, if not necessarily collective, method of working has continued to be associated with Nightwood and all other Canadian feminist theatre companies.

Theatre is naturally a collaborative art form, and in some cases the notion of "collectivity" is perhaps more accurately described as a kind of heightened and consciously implemented collaboration. Bauta Rubess, a former Board member who has participated in a number of Nightwood productions as an actor, director and playwright, has done most of her directing in collectives and/or in situations where she is directing her own work. Rubess says that it is often painful and difficult for women to come into positions of power and that the collective process allows women to begin thinking of themselves in positions of authority.(7) Rubess outlines three different collective models in which she has worked: in the first model, there is no director, but there is a splitting up of responsibility in advance, with each person taking some authority in some area. In the second model, the collective has an outside director, but Rubess cautions that this can lead to conflict over who has final say and the collective members may end up experiencing a sense of aesthetic powerlessness. In the third model, the director is part of the collective and serves to translate the collective process by inspiring the actors to be concerned for each other onstage and to understand the larger context of what they are doing.

Rubess observes that two realizations are important for a collective to function effectively; first, it must be acknowledged that not everyone can do everything, so people should be encouraged to do what they are best at and also to discover other things they can do along the way. Second, each collective member must be committed to and understand why they are working as a collective. The first point explains why, even with the collective creations, the programs from Nightwood productions generally list certain people as being responsible for particular functions, while the show itself is credited to the group as a whole. The second point signals the greatest potential danger of working collectively, which is the question of "ownership." Part of the problem may be inherent in the process of collective creation itself, in that "job descriptions" may be largely self-defined and therefore easily subject to dispute. Individuals who put a lot of time and effort into a project are not always able to give up a sense of personal "ownership" of that work for the greater good of the company, and there are many who argue that they should not have to. But the issues can be further complicated when the collective members are assumed to share the same feminist principles; unspoken assumptions can be made that everyone is more in agreement than they really are, and individuals can be afraid of voicing dissenting views for fear of looking "not feminist enough." Apparently, collective creation may involve a discrepancy between process and product; in some cases a beneficial feminist workshopping process (as in the annual Groundswell festival, for example) may not necessarily result in a written script, while in the case of an example like Smoke Damage, an extremely troubled collective process still resulted in a valuable feminist play.(8) It is the combined efforts and enthusiasms (or lack thereof) which spark the creative process in a collective; individual moments of genius may not add up to an overall production, but the multifaceted result of collective effort may convey something about the process and the feminism of its participants which is valuable on its own terms.

In the beginning, collectivity, as a philosophy and working method, was ideal for the founders of Nightwood, who were searching for an opportunity for theatrical exploration. Kim Renders later explained: "I wanted to develop my own performance vocabulary with a group of people; I thought that would be more useful than roaming the streets as a freelance actor" (Renders "Interview"). Being part of a collective allowed Renders the opportunity, not only to act, but also to write, direct, and to exercise her artistic skills through design work, a range of input unavailable to an actor hired by a conventional company. Besides providing opportunities for personal growth, the collective experience fosters a sense of group identity. As Alan Filewod explains:

in collective creation, the group mind must reconcile its differences to create a community statement. This can begin in one of two ways: either the cast is united by ideological consensus in the analysis of the subject . . . or the circumstances of making the play become a shared experience which becomes part of the substance of the play itself. (35)

In Nightwood's case, both elements were present simultaneously. The members of each collective creation were united through a common ideology (usually feminist, but in the case of a project like Peace Banquet, an anti-nuclear weapons stance), and a shared interest in a particular kind of experimental, multi-media aesthetic. Furthermore, financial constraints and a sense of being marginalized and avant-garde, gave them a feeling of group unity and common purpose.

Nightwood was very much associated with the artist-run Theatre Centre, its home for many years, and this status as a collective within a collective helped to define its place within the theatre community.(9) Nightwood was also associated with a number of feminist collectives, such as Women's Cultural Building which organized the first Five Minute Feminist Cabaret and the interdisciplinary Women's Perspectives series in 1983. As part of Nightwood's involvement in Women's Perspectives, the Anna Project formed to collectively create This is For You, Anna, a show that would identify Nightwood in the public eye for years to come.(10) Many of the women involved with Women's Cultural Building continued their involvement with Nightwood, such as Tori Smith, who became the stage manager for This is For You, Anna, and Kate Lushington, who became Nightwood's Artistic Coordinator in 1988. These examples illustrate how collectivity as a process serves to bring many women together who might otherwise never meet; the free flow of ideas, resources, and individuals is facilitated by the spirit of collaboration and a sense of common purpose. Also suggested is the important role of the audience to a feminist collective, as a spectator may well become a participant on future projects and the nurturing of a mutually supportive artist/audience relationship strengthens both the theatre company and the feminist community.

As the company continued to expand and include more artists, a structure was required to provide the necessary administrative and organizational support. By 1983, Cynthia Grant was consistently referred to as the Artistic Director in media coverage and on funding applications, and there was a Board of Directors in place. The definition of collectivity became a contentious issue over the years, as subsequent leaders struggled to balance their sense of individual responsibility with a desire to retain the company's collective spirit. There were adjustments to the title of Artistic Director, for example; during Mary Vingoe and Maureen White's terms of leadership (1985-1988), the position was re-named Artistic Coordinator. In a letter to the Canada Council dated March 17, 1986, Mary Vingoe described the reasons for the new title:

For this season at least, we have created the position of artistic coordinator, as an alternative to artistic director, in order that the day to day artistic concerns of the company can be efficiently handled, while allowing more 'collective' input on major decisions such as company programming.(11)

When Kate Lushington was hired in 1988, she was initially called Artistic Coordinator, but in 1990 the title changed to Artistic Director and remained so under the subsequent management team. The title adjustments reflect an on-going attempt to balance different agendas: the desire to be taken seriously within the theatre community, which demands artistic leadership; the desire to retain the support of the feminist community, which prefers alternative approaches to organization; and the desire for a clear working relationship between the Board and the staff, which is an issue for any theatre company.

Nightwood's Board of Directors has also changed its structure and purpose over the years. While initially an artist-run Board, emulating the Theatre Centre model, under Kate Lushington there was an emphasis on attracting women with certain skills, such as legal expertise and fundraising experience, to make the Board more "community-based."(12) The artistic decisions were taken over by the Play Group, a collective of artists working in conjunction with the Board and staff. At a meeting of an Ad Hoc Structure Committee in November of 1988, it was decided that the Board should be balanced between community and artist members. The Artistic Coordinator and General Manager were to be informed of all meetings and could attend with "a voice but no vote." The Play Group was to include the Artistic Coordinator and one or two Board members, plus four to six artists appointed by the Board. There is an amalgam of these approaches at present, with the Board of Directors taking on administrative tasks and a separate Artistic Advisory group in place, but with considerable overlap between the two (see endnote 3).

Throughout the changes in leadership and Board structure, Nightwood continued to identify itself as a collective, although it might be more accurate to say that it was a producing company that supported the creation of collective projects. Nightwood produced all their plays collectively in the early years, beginning with The True Story of Ida Johnson in 1979. The project began in 1976 with the Editing Group of the Women's Press, which included Cynthia Grant; she organized a dramatized reading of Sharon Riis' novel in March of 1977 with members of the Editing Group, and then a workshop production in 1978 which involved Maureen White, Kim Renders and Mary Vingoe. It played September 6 to 15 at the NDWT Side-Door Theatre (now the Annex Theatre) and later at the Adelaide Court Theatre (which no longer exists). The 1979 production listed Kim Renders, Mary Vingoe and Maureen White as actors and Cynthia Grant as the director; Renders also did the design. These four women, who came to be considered the founders of Nightwood, and six others, were listed on the program as the "Theatre Collective and Associate Members."

In terms of its formal qualities, the production was described as "a highly innovative and fascinating social document" by McKenzie Porter in the Toronto Star, and Kate Lushington wrote: "using slides and non-linear text to illuminate the relationship between two women and their worlds, a new style of feminist theatre was born" (Lushington 1989). According to Cynthia Grant, "'the work didn't abandon but rethought plot and character. The style wove a fabric of sense impressions through music, dance, mime, mask and visual images'" (qtd. in Kaplan 1982).

These two features--a collective structure with the four founders and others taking on different functions in each project, and a commitment to a multi-media, imagistic experimental aesthetic--continued to define Nightwood for several years, throughout their early productions. When Nightwood became involved with Buddies in Bad Times' Rhubarb! Festival in 1980, their mandate statement for the program read: "Nightwood Theatre operates as a collective to produce original or adapted material in a style which emphasizes the visual, musical and literary elements of the presentation." The earliest Nightwood shows demonstrated a consistent aesthetic vision: from The True Story of Ida Johnson, Glazed Tempera, Flashbacks of Tomorrow and Mass/Age, the reviewers always commented on the innovative use of multi-media techniques and the fragmented, nonlinear structure. By 1984, with other women like Bauta Rubess having a strong presence at Nightwood, there was a corresponding diffusion of the "Nightwood show." In fact, one reviewer of Rubess' Pope Joan (1984) commented that the plot is unusually linear for a Nightwood production, indicating that there had been a certain loosening of the established model for the company's work;(13) the obvious difference, of course, is that Pope Joan is not a collective creation.

In 1986 Cynthia Grant left Nightwood to form the Company of Sirens, a feminist collective which works at a much more grass roots level than Nightwood, most often outside the framework of traditional theatre. In Theatre Audiences, Susan Bennett uses Cynthia Grant and the Company of Sirens as an example of theatre-makers who want to work directly with the audience:

Cynthia Grant made it clear that her decision to leave her post as artistic director of the successful Nightwood Theatre in Toronto was the result of a growing dissatisfaction in working within an established institution. Her present participation in a co-operative venture, the Company of Sirens, permits a more direct and important contact between actors and audience without the constraints of the conventional theatre system. (62)

In a 1990 article in FUSE magazine, Susan G. Cole suggested that the creation of the collectively-based Sirens freed Nightwood to concentrate less on collective work and more on developing individual writing talents. Nightwood was moving more towards the mainstream at this point, in what could be seen as the second phase of its development. In their February 13, 1986 funding application to the Municipality of Metro Toronto, Mary Vingoe introduced herself as the new Artistic Coordinator of Nightwood and Linda Brown as the first full-time office person. Their application emphasized events that traditionally define success: a fundraising production by the American company Plutonium Players made $8,000 in one week; Nightwood's collective creation Love and Work Enough won a Dora award; the tour of This is For You, Anna sold out in England, was voted one of the top fifteen shows in London, and was also invited to the DuMaurier World Theatre Festival in Toronto. Upcoming projects included the English-language premiere of The Edge of the Earth is too Near, Violette Leduc by Jovette Marchessault and a 1987 production of War Babies by Margaret Hollingsworth, two very literary scripts by individual authors with little previous contact with Nightwood. However, Nightwood was not ready to give up its more community-based objectives completely; in the application letter, Mary Vingoe explained:

While we have begun seriously to work with writers and scripts, we have not abandoned our commitment to the more innovative, collaborative way of play-making which has been our strength in the past. Both This is For You, Anna and Love and Work Enough were created through painstaking collective work, refined over a number of workshops and productions.

Their commitment was centred in plans for "a collective, comic collaboration on the theme of female eroticism, inspired by photography by Marcia Resnick." The creative team working on the project included Bauta Rubess, Maureen White, Louise Garfield (a member of the lip synch trio the Clichettes) and playwright Peggy Thompson; collectively named the Humbert Humbert Project, their collaborative effort became The Last Will and Testament of Lolita (1987), Nightwood's last mainstage collective creation.(14)

The founding members were well aware that the introduction of single-author texts was a new direction for the company. In an article published in 1987, Kim Renders acknowledged that the production of scripted works was a new development for Nightwood:

The promotion of female talent is still one of the company's strongest features. But in the past two and a half years, Nightwood has been putting on fewer collectives and become more script-oriented. This is a broadening of the group's method, since previously it had been adamantly opposed to scripted material. (qtd. in Kaplan 1987)

And in a later article, Maureen White and Mary Vingoe commented on their working relationship as director and playwright for the production of Vingoe's play The Herring Gull's Egg: "'This is the first time we've worked together in this configuration,' says White. 'In our earlier days at Nightwood, collective creations were more common. It's exciting to see Nightwood now, at a time when more input is coming from outside people, those who weren't founders. It's good,' she smiles, 'that the company can exist without its mothers'" (qtd. in Kaplan 1989). We can see the dialectic of accident and intention at work here: when the founders and their colleagues were interested in creating collectively, this was defined as part of Nightwood's mandate, but as company members became more interested in writing and directing conventionally scripted plays, the mandate changed to emphasize the production of Canadian work and the creation of opportunities for women, while shifting the collective ideal to the company's administration. In an October 22, 1986 application to the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture, Internship Training Program, Vingoe explained that: "Major decisions such as programming, are made in conjunction with a programme committee from the Board. The new structure has allowed Nightwood to retain a functioning collective sensibility while evolving an efficient management structure."

In 1988, however, Nightwood moved into its third phase as a company with the hiring of Kate Lushington as Artistic Coordinator. In a July 1989 application to the Ministry of Culture and Communications for money to hold a Board retreat, Lushington wrote:

Since I joined Nightwood last September as the first Artistic Coordinator from outside the group of founding members, the Board has been under-going a year of structural transition, from an open ended collective approach to a more traditional structure, with the establishment of standing committees to handle tasks, intensive Board recruitment, and the setting up of terms for Board Members.

The Mission Statement had also been re-written to read:

To provide opportunities for all women to create and explore new visions of the world, stretching the concept of what is theatrical, and to hone their skills as artists, so that more of us may see our reality reflected on this country's stages, thus offering theatre goers the full diversity of the Canadian experience.

By the fall of 1989, in the first issue of the Nightwood newsletter Nightwords (vol.1 no.1), Lushington explicitly charted what she saw as the company's new identity in a column entitled "A Word, or two, from the Artistic Coordinator." The 1989/90 season was celebrated as Nightwood's tenth anniversary, and in her column Lushington recounted Nightwood's origins with The True Story of Ida Johnson and expressed the opinion that Nightwood had grown beyond the wildest dreams of its founders: "No longer a collective, the collaborative spirit lives on in the artistic heart of the company, The Play Group. . . ." With this statement, Lushington redefined the way Nightwood would present itself. There would be a stronger focus on administration, on having adequate office staff and large enough budgets to mount higher profile shows (although these intentions were undermined by government funding cuts to the arts). The Board was increasingly made up of professional women, lawyers, accountants and executives, and there were more fundraising events. The "collaborative spirit" shifted to the Play Group, a collective of women who formed the selection committee for Groundswell and planned each season. Instead of sponsoring co-productions with collectives, Nightwood supported its own playwrights-in-residence; for the 1989/90 season, Sally Clark worked on Life Without Instruction.

A further development in Nightwood's structure was announced in the Winter 1991 newsletter (vol. 2 no. 2, re-named Night Talk). In a report on board news, Phyllis Berck explained that there had been another Board retreat in October of 1990: "During a special meeting about the artistic vision of Nightwood, it was agreed that the title Artistic Coordinator should be changed to Artistic Director, to better reflect the duties of the position." Accordingly, Lushington's regular column is re-titled in this issue to read "A Word, or two, from the Artistic Director." In her FUSE article about Nightwood the previous year, Susan Cole had suggested that the absence of a traditional Artistic Director may have lost Nightwood some support in the theatre community and may also have confused potential funders. While these issues may have been part of the reason for the change, the predominant consideration seems to have been a desire to reflect Nightwood's new identity as a traditionally structured theatre company, no longer a collective.

However, another very telling document from this period is an article in eye Magazine, reporting on Charming and Rose: True Love (1993), Lushington's final directing project at Nightwood before she left the position of Artistic Director. The reviewer described Lushington as directing a farewell show for "the feminist theatre collective she helped start five years ago" (Zeitoun 24). Of course, on one level this is merely bad reporting, mistaking the date when Lushington began working for the company with the date when the company was founded. But it also points to the fact that, even though Lushington had been consistently disassociating Nightwood from the collective label in those five years, it was still being considered as such by that theatre reviewer.

Nightwood continues to be thought of as a collectively-run organization, perhaps because of the existence of the Artistic Advisory and the presence of artists on its Board, and perhaps because it is perceived by some as a "community theatre." This was reinforced when a leadership team of three women took over from Lushington in 1994, even though each had a title and separate responsibilities. Since Diane Roberts left her position with Nightwood in the spring of 1996, Alisa Palmer is the sole Artistic Director, Leslie Lester has continued as Producer, and two other women, Soraya Peerbaye and Jay Pitter, have worked as their associates. Palmer may succeed in shaking the collective label because of her strong profile within the theatre community as an award-winning playwright, director and actor; she has been associated with other companies, and this may actually help her to establish Nightwood's identity, as will the critical success of their most recent production, Djanet Sears' Harlem Duet. Nightwood does retain its collective spirit, however, in the sense that it strives to be inclusive and accessible, and continues to be part of a long tradition of political theatre in Canada, the legacy of socially-conscious collective creation of the 1960s and 1970s, and also the on-going development of models for feminist theatre. Particularly for feminist groups, the value of collective creation lies in both the process and the product. How this balance is achieved, however, can take different turns, and the element of risk involved seems appropriate to theatre-makers defining themselves as alternative and socially-conscious. In Nightwood's case, however, the external perception of the company's commitment to collectivity has been greater than the internal development, in which collective creation has been only one means to evolve a feminist mandate.


1. A complete chronology of Nightwood's activities (1979-1998) is available in searchable format and appended to the electronic version of this article at this journal's website [http://www.lib.unb.ca/Texts/TRIC]. This chonology also appears in the author's unpublished dissertation "Feminist Theory and Nightwood Theatre." See also Glen, Hunt, Ives, Keeney Smith, Levine, Lushington 1983 and 1985, Peerbaye, Roberts, and Wilson for further information on Nightwood Theatre.
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2. For example, Mary Vingoe writes: "Feminism was not the primary reason for starting the company. Only later did it become a significant factor when we began to be identified as a group of four women running a theatre company" (Nightwood 48).
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3. The Board of Directors takes on administrative tasks while a separate collective called the Artistic Advisory assists the Artistic Director with programming the season and reading scripts for Groundswell (during Kate Lushington's tenure they were referred to as the Play Group). For 1997/98, the Nightwood Board of Directors is Sierra Bacquie (Co-Chair), Shirlie Barrie, Diane Flacks, Jennifer Kawaja, Danielle LiChong, Ann-Marie MacDonald (Co-Chair), Dawn Obakata, Angela Robertson and Eiko Shaul, and the Artistic Advisory is Alex Bulmer, Karen Glave, ahdri zhina mandiela, Erin McMurtry, Sonja Mills, Melanie Nicholls-King, Dawn Obakata, and Sheyfali Saujani. Jacquie Carpenter is apprentice producer and M.J. Kang is playwright in residence.
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4. Redlight's first production was What Glorious Times They Had, written by Diane Grant. A humorous and episodic portrait of Canadian suffragette Nellie McClung, it was originally produced at Bathurst Street United Church on May 8, 1974, directed by and starring Diane Grant as Nellie and also featuring Francine Volker, who would later go on to develop her play The Paraskeva Principle with Nightwood.
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5. For example, "Bad Girls Looking for Money," Bennett and Patience write: "What Maenad is exploring is an administrative and artistic structure that makes possible a wide range of work by a diversity of women who do not or cannot, for a number of reasons, produce their theatre in more traditional structures" (12).
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6. For an early categorization of different schools of feminist thought as they relate to theatre, see Case.
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7. Rubess speaking to Canadian Theatre and Drama class. Graduate Centre for Study of Drama, University of Toronto. 11 March 1993.
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8. Smoke Damage, which was produced by Nightwood in 1983, was created collectively but assigned to Bauta Rubess as the principal author and grew out of an earlier collective piece called Burning Times. It was the subject of a legal dispute that revolved around the question of who had copyright over the play.
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9. In Sheehan, the Theatre Centre is depicted as the product of a younger generation, set up in opposition to the "establishment alternative theatre" of the 1960s, represented by Passe Muraille. Grant is quoted as saying: "Yes, the 60's have passed, but that spirit of collective effort in which new work can develop still exists . . . there is a whole generation below us anxious to get space to work in, to develop even newer ways of communicating. I really feel we should do something to make sure that opportunity is there." The model of collectivity being espoused here is mainly about access, with less focus on an aesthetic type than on a policy of inclusiveness; the discussion is situated in a discourse of youth versus age, new versus established theatre artists.
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10. Of the Anna Project members, only Maureen White was also a Nightwood member, but two others, Bauta Rubess and Ann-Marie MacDonald, went on to extensive involvement, including sitting on the Board of Directors.
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11. The author wishes to thank Nightwood Theatre for granting her access to their private archives. All Nightwood correspondence (including grant applications) and theatre programs cited in this article can be found in these archives.
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12. In Green and Buck, a community-based board of directors is defined as one made up of non-artists, people in the patron and business communities. They have final legal responsibility and the authority to approve or disapprove anything. Funding agencies require that publicly funded institutions have a board.
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13. Kate Lazier, the reviewer in questions, writes: "Rubess' linear plot is a departure for Nightwood, whose work is usually more associative. But in typical Nightwood fashion, the transitions between scenes are smooth. . . ."
Return to article

14. Some presentations at subsequent Groundswell Festivals have been by collectives. For example, the 8th annual Groundswell, "Making Waves," held at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace, in October and November of 1992, featured three collective creations: A Savage Equilibrium by Monique Mojica, Fernando Hernandez Perez, Jani Lauzon and Floyd Favel; Coming from the Womb by the Red Sister/Black Sister Collective; and Girls in the 'Hood by Catherine Glen with young women from Metro Housing.
Return to article


Anna Project, The. "Fragments." Canadian Theatre Review 43 (Fall 1985):167-173.

---. "This is For You, Anna: A spectacle of revenge." Canadian Theatre Review 43 (Fall 1985): 127-166.

Bennett, Susan. Theatre Audiences. London: Routledge, 1990.

Bennett, Susan and Alexandria Patience. "Bad Girls Looking for Money - Maenad Making Feminist Theatre in Alberta." Canadian Theatre Review 82 (Spring 1995): 10-13.

Burke, Kelley Jo. "Charming and Rose: True Love." Amazing Plays: 3 from the '92 Winnipeg Fringe. Winnipeg: Blizzard, 1992, 31-62.

Case, Sue-Ellen. Feminism and Theatre. London: MacMillan, 1988.

Cole, Susan G. . "Ten Years and Five Minutes: Nightwood Celebrates a Decade of Feminist Theatre." FUSE (Spring 1990): 12-15.

Dicenzo, Maria. Rev. of Fair Play by Much and Rudakoff, Theatre History in Canada/Histoire du théâtre au Canada 12.2 (Fall 1991): 219.

Filewod, Alan. Collective Encounters: Documentary Theatre in English Canada. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1987.

Forsyth, Louise H. "Feminist Theatre." Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre. Eds. Eugene Benson and Conolly, L.W. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1989. 206.

Glen, Catherine. "On the Edge: Revisioning Nightwood." Canadian Theatre Review 82 (Spring 1995): 36-39.

Grant, Diane. What Glorious Times They Had : a satire. Can Play Series. Toronto: Simon and Pierre, 1974.

Green, Joseph and Douglas Buck. "Responsibility and Leadership in Canadian Theatre." Canadian Theatre Review 40 (Fall 1984): 4-8.

Hunt, Nigel. "Bringing the Heroine Back to Life." Performing Arts (March/Spring 1990): 27.

Ives, L. Patricia. "The Very Best Bad Girls Create..." Canadian Theatre Review 50 (Spring 1987): 30-33.

Johnston, Denis W. Up the Mainstream: The Rise of Toronto's Alternative Theatres. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1991.

Kaplan, Jon. "Cynthia Grant Builds Images," NOW Aug. 1982: 13.

---. "Renders goes solo in noisy kids' show," NOW 17-23 Dec. 1987: 19.

---. "Bearing the fruit of a polluted world," NOW 4-10 May 1989: 47.

Keeney Smith, Patricia. "Living with Risk." Canadian Theatre Review 38 (Fall 1983): 34-43.

Lazier, Kate. "Pope Joan's Infallible Wit." The Varsity 10 Sept. 1984: 16.

Levine, Meredith. "Feminist Theatre - Toronto 87." Theatrum: A Theatre Journal (Spring 1987): 5-10.Lushington, Kate. "The Changing Body of Women's Work," Broadside Aug./Sept. 1989: 20-21.

---. "Fear of Feminism." Canadian Theatre Review 43 (Summer 1985): 5-11.

---. Letter to Ministry of Culture and Communications. July 1989.

---. "The Possibility and the Habit." FUSE (Summer 1983): 62-63.

Much, Rita and Judith Rudakoff, eds. Fair Play: Twelve Women Speak: Conversations with Canadian Playwrights. Toronto: Simon and Pierre, 1990.

Nightwood Theatre. "Notes from the Front Lines." Canadian Theatre Review 43 (Summer 1985): 44-51.

Peerbaye, Soraya. "Look to the Lady: Re-examining Women's Theatre." Canadian Theatre Review 84 (Fall 1995): 22-25.

Porter, McKenzie. "Ida: postgraduate study in wasted intelligence." Toronto Star 26 Oct. 1979: 101.

Renders, Kim. Personal Interview. 11 May 1996.

Riis, Sharon. The True Story of Ida Johnson. Toronto: The Women's Press, 1976.

Roberts, Diane. "Dramaturgy: A Nightwood Conversation." Canadian Theatre Review 87 (Summer 1996): 22-24.

Rubess, Bauta. Address. Canadian Theatre and Drama class. Graduate Centre for Study of Drama, University of Toronto, 11 March 1993.

---. Pope Joan: a non-historical comedy. Toronto: Playwrights Union, 1984.

Rubess, Bauta with Peggy Christopherson, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Mary Marzo, Kim Renders, and Maureen White. Smoke Damage: A story of the witch hunts. Toronto: Playwrights Canada, 1985.

Scott, Shelley. "Feminist Theory and Nightwood Theatre." Diss. U of Toronto, 1997.

Sheehan, Nick. "Theatre Centre's collective core." NOW 15-21 March, 1984: 7.

Vingoe, Mary. "Internship Training Program Application." Ministry of Culture and Communication. 22 Oct. 1986.

---. Letter to Jeremy Long, Theatre Officer, Canada Council. 17 March 1986.

Wilson, Ann. "The Politics of the Script." Canadian Theatre Review 43 (Summer 1985): 174-179.

Zeitoun, Mary Lou. "Sex and the working theatre girls." eye Magazine 14 Oct. 1993: 24.

Nightwood Chronology


Dr. Shelley Scott


The Theatre Centre established by Nightwood, Buddies in Bad Times, Necessary Angel, Actors Lab, AKA Performance Interface, and Theatre Autumn Leaf.

Sept. 6-15, 1979

The True Story of Ida Johnson, at the NDWT Side-Door Theatre and later at the Adelaide Court Theatre. A Nightwood Theatre production adapted from the novel by Sharon Riis. A project of the Explorations Program of Canada Council, with supplementary funding from the Ontario Arts Council. Kim Renders, Mary Vingoe and Maureen White in the cast, (with Lee Wildgen), Cynthia Grant the director. Nightwood Theatre Collective and Associate Members: the four founders, plus Marie Black, Kit Goldfarb, Karen Rodd, Christa Van Daele, Erna Van Daele and Rose Zoltek.


APRIL 1980

Self-Accusation by Peter Handke, with Cynthia Grant and Richard Shoichet, at the Theatre Centre, co-produced by Nightwood.

May 1980

Nightwood's first involvement with the Rhubarb! Festival. Nightwood's contributions:
1. Psycho-Nuclear Breakdown by Cynthia Grant;
2. Gently Down the Stream by Kim Renders;
3. Soft Boiled by Renders, performed by Renders and White

June 19 - 28, 1980

Glazed Tempera, inspired by the works of Alex Colville, presented by Nightwood at the Passe Muraille Backspace. The performers were Renders, White and Peter Van Wart, with taped reading by Jack Messinger; Grant was the director and the production was said to be “conceived by” the three women.

November 1980

second Rhubarb! that year, part of the 80/81 season at the Theatre Centre. Nightwood's contributions:
1. The Best of Myles by Flann O'Brien, adapted by Maureen White and Mary Durkan;
2. Soft Boiled #2 by White and Renders;
3. G adapted from the novel by John Berger, directed by Renders and Grant;
4. Ten Seconds After Closing by Mary Vingoe, directed by Grant;
5. Object/Subject Nausea a video and live performance piece by Grant.


Jan. 28-Feb. 8, 1981

Theatre Autumn Leaf and Nightwood present in repertory at the Theatre Centre: The Audition and Specimens, and For Rachel directed by Renders; the piece had been workshopped at the Factory Theatre Lab, the performers were Shelley Thompson and Maureen White. In second week of performance it was accompanied by Epilogue, directed by Grant, written and performed by Lindsay Holton and Barbara Wright.

May 1981

Flashbacks of Tomorrow (Memorias del Mañana), a collective presentation by Nightwood and the Open Experience Hispanic-Canadian Theatre, as part of the Toronto Theatre Festival's Open Stage. Grant was the director and White and Renders were in the cast. Music by Compaeros.

Summer 1981

Theatre Centre moved to 666 King ST. West.

October 1-18, 1981

The Yellow Wallpaper produced by Nightwood at the Theatre Centre, adapted from the story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and with additional text by Cynthia Grant and Mary Vingoe; performed by Vingoe and directed by Grant, music by Marsha Coffey. Later adapted for radio.


March 5-21, 1982

Hooligans produced by Nightwood Theatre at the Theatre Centre, written by Jan Kudelka and Mary Vingoe in collaboration with the company (Ian A. Black, Jay Bowen, Cynthia Grant, Irene Pauzer, Kim Renders, Linda Stephen, Bruce Vavrina), from an idea by Irene Pauzer (who played Isadora) and from the diaries and writings of Isadora Duncan, Edward Gordon Craig, Sergei Esenin, Kathleen Bruce and Robert Falcon Scott. Directed by Grant.

August 25-29, 1982

Mass/Age, a collective, multi-media spectacle of life in a nuclear age, performed by Jay Bowen, Kim Renders, Daniel Brooks, Allan Risdill, Gordon Masten, and Maureen White, directed by Grant, presented at Harbourfront Centre.

November 1982

Rhubarb! at the Theatre Centre, included Soft Boiled #3


March 1982

Women's Cultural Building presents a Festival of Women Building Culture: March 8, the first Five Minute Feminist Cabaret was held at the Horseshoe Tavern; May 26-29, Women's Perspective Festival, an art exhibit sponsored by Partisan Gallery, included "Caution: Women at Work." The three pieces by Nightwood were:
1. Four Part Discord, performed by Mary Durkan, Cynthia Grant, Kim Renders, and Maureen White;
2. Psycho-Nuclear Breakdown;
3. This is For You, Anna: a spectacle of revenge collectively written and performed by Suzanne Odette Khuri, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Patricia Nichols, Banuta Rubess, Aida Jordão and Maureen White.

June 1983

Nightwood presents Antigone by Sophocles, adapted by Patricia Keeney-Smith, directed by Cynthia Grant, with a chorus of 40 actors and musicians, at St. Paul's Square.

August 18-28, 1983

Midnight Hags presents Burning Times, at the Theatre Centre, written by Banuta Rubess with the cast and the director, Mary Anne Lambooy.

September 30 - October 23, 1983

Nightwood presents Smoke Damage: A story of the witch hunts at St. Paul's Square, 121 Avenue Road. Written by Banuta Rubess with the cast: Peggy Christopherson, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Mary Marzo, Kim Renders and Maureen White. Rubess and Cynthia Grant are “direction consultants.”

November 3-19, 1983

Peace Banquet- Ancient Greece Meets the Atomic Age , collectively written by Micah Barnes, Sky Gilbert, Dean Gilmour, Cynthia Grant, Charis Polatos, Kim Renders, Judith Rudakoff, Philip Shepherd, and Maureen White. Produced and directed by Grant. Presented by Nightwood at St. Paul's Square.

1983/84 Board of Directors: David Heath, Rosemary Sullivan, Grant and White.


January 1984

Rhubarb! at the Theatre Centre: White, Vingoe and Grant appeared in Nancy Drew Goes in Search of Her Missing Mother, by Ann-Marie MacDonald and Beverley Cooper, which became part of a late night series at Theatre Passe Muraille in 1984, then was given a full production in 1985, called Clue in the Fast Lane, directed by Maureen White.

June 1984

The Theatre Centre moved to the Poor Alex Theatre on Brunswick Street; tenants were Crow's Theatre, Nightwood and Theatre Smith-Gilmour.

Spring 1984

The Anna Project toured Southern Ontario (Aida Jordao was no longer involved), funded by Canada Council Explorations, Ontario Arts Council and Floyd S. Chalmers Fund. This is For You, Anna was nominated in 1984 for a Dora Mavor Moore award for artistic excellence and theatrical innovation.

Summer 1984

Love and Work Enough ("A celebration of Ontario's pioneer women"), created collectively by its five actors -- Kate Lazier, Eva Mackey, Peggy Sample, Heather D. Swain and Cathy Wendt -- directed by Mary Vingoe with Cynthia Grant, musical director Anne Lederman. Toured for 5 weeks, then toured again in fall 1984 and into '85 to 150 schools across Ontario, co-produced with Theatre Direct Canada. Funded by Summer Canada Works, Theatre Ontario’s Youth Theatre Training program (OAC), and the Department of the Secretary of State. Winner of a Dora Mavor Moore award as best production in the children's category.

September 5 - 23, 1984

Nightwood presents Pope Joan ("A non-historical comedy") by Ba à uta Rubess, produced and directed by Cynthia Grant at Theatre Centre. Cast included Maureen White, Mary Durkan, Mary Vingoe, Dean Gilmour, Andy Jones, and Charles Tomlinson. Nominated for a Chalmers award.

Fall 1984

The Theatre Centre R&D Festival. Nightwood contributions were: The Woman Who Slept With Men to Take the War Out of Them by Deena Metzger; and The Medical Show by Amanda Hale.


February 1985

Re-Production by Amanda Hale, presented by Nightwood in Ottawa at a conference of the National Association of Women and the Law.

April 1985

Nightwood and Factory Theatre sponsored a reading of The Edge of the Earth is Too Near, Violette Leduc by Jovette Marchessault.

May 1985

Plutonium Players from San Francisco presented Ladies Against Women at the Theatre Centre as a fundraiser for Nightwood.

May - June 1985

The Next Stage: Women Transforming the Theatre, at Festival of Theatre of the Americas in Montreal; Grant was a panellist.

Summer 1985

Canadian Theatre Review 43: special issue on Women in Theatre included "Notes from the Front Line" with photos and short statements by each of Nightwood's founding four, as well as a script for and articles about This is For You, Anna.

September 1985

Nightwood restructured and hired a General Manager, Linda Brown. Mary Vingoe was appointed the Interim Artistic Coordinator. The 1985/86 Board: Susan G. Cole, Mary Durkan, Maureen FitzGerald, Rina Fraticelli, Rubess, Grant, Renders and White.

October 3 - 6, 1985

Nightwood presents Penelope, a re-telling of Homer's Ulysses with the poetry of Margaret Atwood, adapted by Cynthia Grant, Peggy Sample and Susan Seagrove at the Theatre Centre. Later developed by the Company of Sirens.

October - November 1985

Transformations, staged readings at the Theatre Centre: Oct. 24-25 - War Babies by Margaret Hollingsworth, directed by Mary Vingoe; Oct. 26-27 - Portrait of Dora by Hélène Cixous, directed by uta Rubess; Oct. 31-Nov. 1 - Signs of Life by Joan Schenkar, directed by Svetlana Zylin; Nov.2-3 - Masterpieces by Sarah Daniels, directed by Mary Durkan.

November 1985

This is For You, Anna tours England; at this point, Patricia Nichols is no longer involved.


Cynthia Grant left Nightwood to co-found the Company of Sirens.

January 14-16, 1986

This is For You, Anna returns to Toronto after its English tour for a run at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace.

March 10, 1986

4th annual Five Minute Feminist Cabaret at Lee's Palace, presented by Nightwood and Women's Cultural Building: Djanet Sears presented the earliest version of Afrika Solo.

March 13-17, 1986

First annual Groundswell Festival includes To Humbert Humbert (which later became The Last Will and Testament of Lolita); The Paraskeva Principle by Francine Volker, directed by JoAnn McIntyre, performed by Volker and Annie-Lou Chester, which Nightwood later produced; and A Classical Education, written by Helen Weinzweig, (playwright-in-residence).

May 14-June 1, 1986

Nightwood presents The Edge of the Earth is Too Near, Violette Leduc by Jovette Marchessault, translated by Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood, directed by Cynthia Grant, at the Theatre Centre. Kim Renders starred as Violette, with John Blackwood, Martha Cronyn, Sky Gilbert (who was nominated for a Dora award), Joan Heney, Shirley Josephs and Ian Wallace.

June 1986

DuMaurier World Stage Festival production of This is For You, Anna.


Linda Brown is the general manager (full-time, 8 months/year). The Board : Susan Cole, Mary Durkan, Maureen FitzGerald, Rina Fraticelli, Carlyn Moulton, Rubess, Renders, Vingoe and White. The playwright in residence was Peggy Thompson, through the Ontario Arts Council playwright residency program.


January 22-30, 1987

Nightwood presents My Boyfriend's Back and There's Gonna Be Laundry - A Lone Woman Show written and performed by Sandra Shamas at the Factory Theatre Studio Cafe.

January 22 - February 1, 1987

at the Annex Theatre, Second annual Groundswell includes. Afrika Solo a staged reading by Djanet Sears, directed by Annie Szamosi; and A Particular Class of Women by Janet Feindel, a workshop directed and dramaturged by Mary Durkan.

February - March 1987

Nightwood presents in association with Toronto Free Theatre, War Babies by Margaret Hollingsworth, directed by Mary Vingoe. The cast: Duncan Fraser, Bridget O’Sullivan, Don Allison, Richard Liptrot, Thomas Hauff, Nicola Lipman, Linda Goranson. Nominated for a Dora award for Best New Play.

March 9 1987

at Theatre Passe Muraille, Nightwood, with the Women's Cultural Building, presents the 5th Annual 5 Minute Feminist Cabaret. A Fertile Imagination by Susan Cole, was first presented as a monologue.

May 1987

Nightwood is still at the Poor Alex but is no longer part of the Theatre Centre.

June 2 - 21, 1987

Nightwood and The Humbert Humbert Project (Project) in association with Theatre Passe Muraille present The Last Will and Testament of Lolita. Subtitled “a vile pink comedy,” created and performed by Louise Garfield, Ba uta Rubess, Peggy Thompson, and Maureen White, with Jim Warren as the Sandman and a film by Peter Mettler featuring Jackie Burroughs.

August 1987

Maureen White began work as Artistic Coordinator.

November 1987

at the Annex Theatre, 3rd annual Groundswell included Let's Go to Your Place by Kate Lushington and The Clichettes, directed by Maureen White; another version of The Paraskeva Principle by Francine Volker, directed by Jo Ann McIntyre; The Herring Gull's Egg by Mary Vingoe, dramaturged by Maureen Labonte; My Boyfriend's Back and There's Gonna be Laundry by Sandra Shamas; and The Kingdom of LoudAsCanBe written and directed by Kim Renders.

December 1987

Nightwood and Theatre Direct present a School Tour of The Kingdom of LoudAsCanBe, written and directed by Renders. Cast: Ida Carnevali, Mary Hawkins, James Kirchner, with live music by Paul Cram.

1987/88 Board: Mary Durkan (President), Renders, White , Vingoe, Rubess, Susan Cole, Maureen FitzGerald, Rina Fraticelli, Carlyn Moulton and Peggy Thompson.


January 16 - 31, 1988

at the Factory Theatre Studio Cafe, Nightwood presents the Clichettes in Up Against the Wallpaper, written by Kate Lushington and the Clichettes (Johanna Householder, Louise Garfield, Janice Hladki), directed by Maureen White. Special added attraction, Too Close to Home, written and performed by Kim Renders. Nominated for Dora Mavor Moore Awards for outstanding costume design.

March 1988

Maureen White was laid off.

March 31 - April 23, 1988

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) “a comical Shakespearean romance” by Ann-Marie MacDonald, commissioned and presented by Nightwood, directed and dramaturged by Banuta Rubess, at the Annex Theatre. Cast included Derek Boyes, Beverley Cooper, Diana Fajrajsl, Tanja Jacobs, and Martin Julien. Nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore award, won the 1990 Governor General’s Award for Drama, a Chalmers Canadian Play award and the Canadian Author’s Association Award. Re-mounted and toured in 1990.

September 1988

Kate Lushington was hired in July and began work as Artistic Director in September. Linda Brown was still the General Manager, and the Board for 1988/89 was: Susan Cole, Lesley Currie, Mary Durkan, Martha Leary, Kim Renders, Wendy Elliot, Djanet Sears, Sophia Sperdakos and Mary Vingoe.

December 1988

Fourth annual Groundswell.


March 23 to April 16, 1989

Nightwood presents The Paraskeva Principle ("A slightly red comedy celebrating the life and art of Paraskeva Clark") written and performed by Francine Volker, directed by Jo Ann McIntyre, at the Annex Theatre.

May 4 - 28, 1989

Nightwood presents The Herring Gull's Egg, written by Mary Vingoe and directed by Maureen White, at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. The cast was Donna Goodhand, David Kinsman, Kate Lynch, Simon Richards and Alan Williams.

Fall 1989

First issue of Nightwords Newsletter.

November 16-26 1989

at the Annex Theatre, Groundswell included A Fertile Imagination by Susan G. Cole, directed by Kate Lushington; and Princess Pocahontas and the Blue Spots by Monique Mojica directed by Djanet Sears.

1989/90 Board of Directors : Phyllis Berck, Pat Idlette, Lesley Currie, Wendy J. Elliot, Linda Brown, Andrea Williams, Astrid Janson, Martha R. Leary, Djanet Sears, Sophia Sperdakos. The general manager is now Pegi McGillivray and Jennifer Trant is the Administrator. The playwright in residence for 1989/90 is Sally Clark.


Cole, Susan G. . “Ten Years and Five Minutes: Nightwood Celebrates a Decade of Feminist Theatre.” FUSE (Spring 1990): 12-15.

January 1990

Nightwood toured Goodnight Desdemona to the Great Canadian Theatre Company (Ottawa), Vancouver East Cultural Centre, Northern Light Theatre (Edmonton), and then opened at the Canadian Stage Company's Berkeley St. Theatre on March 28, 1990. The cast was the same as the 1988 production, except Tanja Jacobs was replaced by Kate Lynch.

February 9 - March 4 1990

Princess Pocahontas and the Blue Spots by Monique Mojica, a co-production with Nightwood, directed by Muriel Miguel, at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. Performed by Mojica and Alejandra Nunez, with music by Nunez.

Fall 1990

Newsletter is re-titled Night Talk; Nightwood moved to Adelaide Street; Diana Braithwaite is the Playwright in Residence for 1990/91. The Play Group includes Martha Burns, Jennie Dean, Djanet Sears, Pat Idlette, Kate Lushington, Sally Clark and Astrid Janson. The Board for 1990/91: Kay Armatage, Berck, Elliott, Idlette, Janson, Marion MacKenzie, Shirley Netten, Judith Ramirez, Sears, Jo Anne Sommers, Sperdakos and Teresa Przybylski. Kate Tucker is the Business Manager and Jennifer Trant continues as Administrator; Lynda Hill is Associate Artistic Coordinator.

November 15-25, 1990

"Blood and Power" 6th annual Groundswell included Martha and Elvira by Diana Braithwaite; and dark diaspora in...DUB by ahdri zhina mandiela.


February 1-24, 1991

Nightwood presents A Fertile Imagination by Susan G. Cole, directed by Kate Lushington, at the Poor Alex. Cast: Kate Lynch, Robin Craig, Patricia Idlette. Nominated for 2 Dora Awards and remounted at Theatre Passe Muraille, Jan.- Feb. 1992, directed by Layne Coleman, and with Yanna McIntosh replacing Idlette.

Summer 1991

Sister Reach: Nightwood's anti-racist outreach project was run by Annette Clough, Coordinator. Other staff were included Pauline Peters, associate artist, and Lynda Hill, associate director.

June 28 - July 7, 1991

Nightwood Theatre presents the b current production of dark diaspora in... DUB by ahdri zhina mandiela, a Fringe Festival show at the Poor Alex. Co-directed by mandiela and Djanet Sears, cast is Deborah Castello, Vernita de Lis Leece, Charmaine Headley, mandiela, Junia Mason, Kim Roberts and Vivine Scarlett.

October 24 to November 3, 1991

at the Tarragon Extra Space,"Hot Flashes" Seventh annual Groundswell.

Fall 1991

Monique Mojica is the playwright-in-residence for 1991/92.


January/February 1992

at the Poor Alex, Nightwood Theatre presents Diana Braithwaite's The Wonder Quartet:
1. The Wonder of Man: A Black Woman's Trip Through the Galaxy, directed by Djanet Sears (with assistant Diane Roberts), (Jan. 21-Feb.9) with Melissa Adamson, Lili Francks, Rosemary Galloway, Taborah Johnson, Dawn Roach, Alison Sealy-Smith and Jean Small.;
2. Martha and Elvira directed by Alison Sealy-Smith (Feb. 11-16) with Taborah Johnson and Lili Francks;
3. Do Not Adjust Your Sets directed by ahdri zhina mandiela, (Feb.11-16) with Dawn Roach, Jean Small, Luther Hansraj, and Michael Malcolm;
4. Time to Forget directed by Braithwaite, in a late night reading of a play originated at the Write Off! fundraiser, about a family Christmas.

October 1992

Diane Roberts becomes Associate Artistic Director. The general manager is now Heather Young. The Board of Directors: Joanne Abbensatts, Clare Barclay, Carol Bolt, Rita Deverell, Sally Han, Teresa Przybylski, Djanet Sears and Elizabeth Shepherd.

October - November 1992

Tarragon Theatre, "Making Waves," 8th annual Groundswell included Dryland by Pauline Peters; and Charming and Rose by Kelley Jo Burke.


February - March, 1993

Nightwood Studio, Dryland: A Story Cycle written and performed by Pauline Peters, directed by Diane Roberts.

March 15, 1993

Young People's Theatre, 11th annual Feminist Cabaret. Diane Roberts is the artistic director and Alisa Palmer the assistant director of FemCab.

May 14-16, 1993

at the Nightwood Studio, Untitled, a workshop exploration of issues of race and friendship with Kate Lushington, Djanet Sears and Monique Mojica.

June 13 and 14, 1993

Young People's Theatre, Love and Other Strange Things by Lillian Allen.

July 1993

Kate Lushington resigns as artistic director as of Dec. 1. and Diane Roberts continues as Associate Artistic Director. Kate Tucker is the financial manager and Vanessa Gold Schiff is administrative assistant; the Board is Joanne Abbensetts, Clare Barclay, Carol Bolt, Sally Han, Teresa Przybylski, Elizabeth Shepherd.

October 9-30, 1993

Charming and Rose: True Love by Kelley Jo Burke, directed by Kate Lushington, at the Theatre Centre. The cast is Kristina Nicoll, Rick Roberts and Djanet Sears.


March 1994

the new artistic team is announced : Leslie Lester is Producer, Diane Roberts and Alisa Palmer are Artistic Co-Directors.

March 29 to April 3, 1994

Poor Alex Theatre, 9th annual Groundswell included Mango Chutney by Dilara Ally, directed by Diane Roberts.

August 1994

Die in Debt presents in association with Nightwood Theatre, Oedipus by Ned Dickens, directed by Sarah Stanley.

Fall 1994

Nighttalk newsletter in new, one page format; Djanet Sears is playwright in residence for 1994/95 season. Kate Tucker is still financial manager. The Board: Abbensetts, Barclay, Florence Gibson, Catherine Glen, Bev John, Ann-Marie MacDonald, ahdri zhina mandiela, Amanda Mills and Elizabeth Shepherd, with Shara Stone and Linda Brown as advisors. The Artistic Advisory Group is formed to select Groundswell scripts and plan events: Dilara Ally, Sarah Stanley, Dawn Obakata, Jani Lauzon, Nadia Ross, Marium Carvell, and ahdri zhina mandiela.

November 15-December 4, 1994

Wearing the Bone , subtitled "A revolution in paradise," written and directed by Alisa Palmer, presented by Nightwood at the Theatre Centre West. Cast: Anne Anglin, Susan Coyne and Sandra Oh. Nominated for Dora awards for lighting and sound design.


Glen, Catherine. “On the Edge: Revisioning Nightwood.” Canadian Theatre Review 82 (Spring 1995): 36-39.
1994/95 Board added Anita Lee and Soraya Peerbaye became the Administrator.

March 24-April 2, 1995

Theatre Centre West, 10th Groundswell included Green is the Colour of Spring by Jay Pitter, directed by adhri zhina mandiela; and Mango Chutney by Dilara Ally, directed by Diane Roberts.

March 29, 1995

10th Anniversary Groundswell Panel Presentation, hosted by Diane Roberts and Alisa Palmer: discussion on the topic "Art in Your Face: what is women's theatre development and what should it be?". The moderator was Sally Han and panellists were Diana Leblanc, Sandra Laronde, ahdri zhina mandiela, Ba à uta Rubess, Judith Thompson, and Jean Yoon; Alison Sealy-Smith and Kim Renders also participated.
Documented in Peerbaye, Soraya. “Look to the Lady: Re-examining Women’s Theatre.” Canadian Theatre Review 84 (Fall 1995): 22-25.

May 1995

Nightwood Studio, The Coloured Girls Project, a workshop written and directed by Diane Roberts. Participants: Carol Anderson, Michelle Martin, Shakura Saida, Alison Sealy-Smith, and Jane Spidell.

Fall 1995

Soraya Peerbaye is an Associate Artist and the Groundswell Coordinator; Playwrite in residence for 1995/96 is Kim Renders. The 1995/96 Board: Abbensetts, Barclay, Bev John, Anita Lee, Ann-Marie MacDonald and Elizabeth Shepherd, with Amanda Mills as advisor. The Artistic Advisory Group is Alex Bulmer, Marium Carvell, Jani Lauzon, mandiela, Obakata, Pauline Peters, Sarah Stanley and Jean Yoon.

November 1995 to March 1996

The Female Body series - a series of workshops on voice, movement, dance, and performance.


Roberts, Diane. “Dramaturgy: A Nightwood Conversation.” Canadian Theatre Review 87 (Summer 1996): 22-24.

Winter 1996

Diane Roberts announces that she is leaving her position as Artistic Co-Director. The associate artists are now Soraya Peerbaye and Jay Pitter.

March 8 - 30, 1996

Mango Chutney by Dilara Ally, directed by Diane Roberts, at the Music Gallery. Cast: Elisa Moolecherry, Monique Mojica, Soheil Parsa, Simmi Raymond, Vikram Sahay.

March 24, 1996

Brigantine Room at Harbourfront, the return of FemCab after a two year hiatus. Produced by Dina Graser, directed by Alisa Palmer, and curated by Graser, Palmer, Leslie Lester, Soraya Peerbaye and Jay Pitter. Hosted by Marium Carvell and Elvira Kurt.

May 8-12, 1996

11th Groundswell at the Factory Studio Cafe included The Madwoman and the Fool: A Harlem Duet, written and directed by Djanet Sears.

Oct. 26-Nov. 10, 1996

at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, Sugar 'n' Spice in association with Nightwood presents Afrocentric by David Odhiambo, directed by Maxine Bailey, with Conrad Coates and Sharon Lewis.

1996/97 Board: Barclay, Shirley Barrie, Sierra Bacquie, Dawn Carter, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Dawn Obakata, with advisors Amanda Mills and Elizabeth Shepherd. The Artistic Advisory Group is: Bulmer, Carvell, Lauzon, mandiela, Obakata, Sheysali Saujam, and Sarah Stanley. Alisa Palmer is now the sole Artistic Director.


Scott, Shelley. “Collective Creation and the Changing mandate of Nightwood Theatre”. Theatre Research in Canada Vol. 18. No. 2 (Fall 1997). 191-207.

Scott, Shelley. Feminist Theory and Nightwood Theatre. PhD Thesis, Graduate centre for Study of Drama, University of Toronto.

March 4-11, 1997

Creativity Cave in association with Nightwood presents Green is the Colour of Spring by Jay Pitter.

March 7, 1997

FemCab held at the Brigatine Room, Harbourfront Centre. Hosts are Taborah Johnson and Diane Flacks.

April 19- May 18, 1997

Nightwood presents Harlem Duet written and directed by Djanet Sears, at the Tarragon Extra Space. Cast: Barbara Barnes Hopkins, Jeff Jones, Dawn Roach, Alison Sealy Smith, Nigel Shawn Williams. Harlem Duet won four Dora Mavor Moore awards, for best production, new play, director and female performance for Alison Sealy-Smith, and was re-mounted at the Canadian Stage Company’s Berkeley Street stage beginning October 27, 1997. Winner of Governor-General’s Award.

November-December 1997

Random Acts, written and performed by Diane Flacks, presented by Nightwood at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

1996/97 Board: Barrie, Bacquie, Diane Flacks, Danielle LiChong, MacDonald, Obakata and Angela Robertson. Honourary Board: Rina Fraticelli and Patricia Rozema. Playwright in residence Alanis King Odjig.

1997/98 Board: joined by Jennifer Kawaja and Eiko Shaul. Artistic Advisory: Bulmer, Karen Glave, mandiela, Erin McMurtry, Sonja Mills, Melanie Nicholls-King, Obakata and Sheyfali Shaujam. Apprentice producer is Jacquie Carpenter. Playwright in residence is M.J. Kang.


April 25-27, 1998

Women in Shorts - Mini-festival of Canadian women actors. Brigatine Room at Harbourfront, as part of the DuMaurier World Stage Festival.

May 2 and 3, 1998

Workshop of The Skriker by Caryl Churchill, directed by Palmer, with Clare Coulter, Jennifer Podemski and Waneta Storms. At Theatre Passe Muraille as part of the DuMaurier World Stage Festival.

May 13-15, 1998

Groundswell 1998 at Nightwood Studio:
1. The Aria Project - Sandra Laronde;
2. Untitled - Karin Randoja;
3. A Cup of Tears - Sheila James;
4. Hee-Hee: Tales from the White Diamond Mountain - M. J. Kang;
5. Jaded - Banuta Rubess;
6. Fish-eye - Ann Holloway;
7. Peter Panic - Ruthe Whiston.

December 1998

One Flea Spare - “an Obie award-winning script by one of the hottest new feminist playwrights on the international scene,” American poet Naomi Wallace. Directed by Palmer at Canadian Stage.

1998 Playwright in Residenceis Sonja Mills


Random Acts tours to One Yellow Rabbit’s High Performance Rodeo in Calgary and Jest in Time in Halifax.

May 11-21, 1999

Groundswell 1999 at the Nightwood Studio:
1. The Gospel According to Me - Tabby Johnson;
2. Anything That Moves - Ann-Marie MacDonald;
3. Louise and the Red River Flood - Sheila James;
4. The Scrubbing Project - Sandra Laronde, Jani Lauzon, Monique Mojica, Michelle St. John;
5. Home - Rena Polley;
6. The Samba Prophet - Padma Viswanathan;
7. The Danish Play - Sonja Mills;
8. The White Dress - Kathleen Oliver;
9. Arias - Lynda Hill;
10. Smudge- Alex Bulmer;
11. Brown Girl in the Ring - Judy McKinley;
12. Excerpt of a New Work - Djanet Sears.

Nov. 26, 1999

Nightwood’s Taking Up More Space Launch - celebration of move to new location at 9 Saint Nicholas Street, and 20th anniversary season. Includes “Feminist Schmeminist” open mike cabaret hosted by Sonja Mills.

1999/2000 Board of Directors: Saniya Ansari, Shirley Barrie (Co-Chair), Maggie Cassella, Diane Flacks, Deb Wise Harris, Jennifer Kawaja, Dawn Obokata, Angela Robertson (Co-Chair), Harriet Sachs, Lisa Silverman.

Artistic Advisory: Alex Bulmer, Karen Glave, Erin McMurtry, Sonja Mills, Melanie Nicholls-King, Dawn Obokata, Soraya Peerbaye, Sheyfali Saujani.

1999/2000 Playwrights in Residence - Sandra Laronde, Jani Lauzon, Monique Mojica, Michelle St. John.


March 5, 2000

Five Minute Feminist Cabaret at Bluma Appel Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre. Hosted by Sandra Shamas and Karen Robinson.

April 25 to May 13, 2000

Anything That Moves by Ann-Marie MacDonald, directed by Palmer, music by Allen Cole. At the Canadian Stage Theatre, upstairs, as part of the DuMaurier World Stage Festival. Designed by Astrid Jansen and Andrea Lundy. Cast: Tamara Bernier, Sandra Caldwell, Dan Chameroy, David Dunbar, Judy Marshak, Marc Richard. Nominated for Dora Mavor Moore awards as Outstanding New Musical and Outstanding Performance, Female Principal Role - Judy Marshak.

June 27-30, 2000

17th annual Groundswell, Nightwood Studio:
1. The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God - Djanet Sears;
2. Girls’ Night Out - Sharon Lewis;
3. Smudge - Alex Bulmer;
4. The Scrubbing Project - The Turtle Gals: Sandra Laronde, Jani Lauzon, Monique Mojica, Michelle St. John;
5. Write From the Hip - short works by new, young women writers.

Nov. 18 - Dec. 10, 2000

Nightwood Theatre in association with S.N.I.F.F.inc. presents Smudge by Alex Bulmer at the Tarragon Extra Space. Directed by Alisa Palmer. Cast: Diane Flacks, Sherrylee Hunter, Kate Lynch. Nominated for Chalmers award and three Dora nominations. Published in Canadian Theatre Review #108 (Fall 2001).

2000/2001 Board : same, except Lisa Silverman no longer on board. Artistic Advisory: maxine bailey, Alex Bulmer, Sonja Mills, Soraya Peerbaye, Karen Robinson, Kristen Thomson.

2000/2001 Playwright in Residence is Jean Yoon.


Alisa Palmer and Leslie Lester end their terms as Artistic Director and Artistic Producer, replaced by Kelly Thornton and Nathalie Bonjour.

February 16-18, 2001

Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God by Djanet Sears, at the DuMaurier Theatre Centre. A work in progress produced with Obsidian Theatre Company in association with Harbourfront Centre.

March 4, 2001

Five Minute Feminist Cabaret at the Bluma Appel Theatre, hosted by Maggie Cassella and Jennifer Podemski.

May1-June 3, 2001

Anything That Moves is re-mounted at the Tarragon Theatre. Won four Dora Mavor Moore awards in June 2002: Best Production of a Musical, Outstanding Direction of a Musical (Alisa Palmer), Outstanding Performance by a Female in a Principal Role, Musical (Glynis Ranney) and Outstanding Musical Direction (Allen Cole).

June 10-16, 2001

18th annual Groundswell at the Nightwood Studio. Includes Write from the Hip, Nightwood’s three month mentoring program for young women. New and Old Artistic Directors both directed. Shows included Little Mercy’s First Murder by Morwyn Brebner.

June 15, 2001

Farewell Party for Palmer and Lester, welcome for the new team.

Oct. 8, 2001

Funny Business: A Tip of the Hat to Lily - comedy cabaret tribute to Lily Tomlin, hosted by Diane Flacks as part of the World Leaders: Festival of Creative Genius at Harbourfront.


Feb.5-23, 2002

Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God written and directed by Djanet Sears, at the DuMaurier Theatre Centre. Co-production with Obsidian Theatre Company. Cast: Alison Sealy-Smith, Walter Borden, David Collins, Barbara Barnes-Hopkins, Lili Francks, Herb Johnson, Jackie Richardson, Michael Spencer-Davis, and a chorus of thirteen. Won a Dora Mavor Moore Award in June 2002 for Oustanding Choreography by Vivine Scarlett.

Spring 2002

Smudge tours to Vancouver

March 8, 9,10, 2002

Hourglass - I’m Not Yer Little Lady party with performances; The Hourglass Symposium: A Roundtable at Hart House with Lynn Fernie, Brigitte Gall, Nalo Hopkinson, Alex Bulmer and Mirah Soleil-Ross; and FemCab hosted by Kate Rigg and Shoshana Sperling.

May 20-26, 2002

Groundswell at Tallulah’s Cabaret at Buddies in Bad Times. Shows include The Trigger by Carmen Aguirre from Vancouver, and Blood by Jean Yoon. Also includes Write from the Hip and Playwright Slams.

2001/2002 Administration: Mariko Tamaki, Natasha Mytnowych. Director of Youth Initiatives: Lisa Silverman. 2001/2002 Board of Directors: Gigi Basanta (Chair), Kathleen Gallagher, Sonja Mills, Kiran Mirchandani, Sarah Neville, Chanrouti Ramnarine, Margaret Ann Tamaki. Honourary Board Members: Dionne Brand, Rina Fraticelli, Patricia Rozema, Sandra Shamas.
Artist Advisory : Carol Anderson, maxine bailey, Sonja Mills, Evalyn Parry, Karen Robinson, Michelle St. John, Kristen Thomson. National Artist Advisory: Lise Ann Johnson, Deena Aziz, Jillian Keilly, Carmen Aguirre.

First Commissioned playwright- Sheila Heti.

2002/2003 (only changes to 2001/2002 are noted): Administration : Iris Nemani, Katrina Baran. Producers: Naomi Campbell, Janice Rieger. Board of Directors: Maja Ardal (Chair), Sally Han, Kelly MacIntosh, Trish McGrath, Sarah Neville, Megan Peck, Chanrouti Ramnarine, Margaret Ann Tamaki, Lascelle Wingate. Artist in Residence: Ruth Madoc-Jones, Playwright in Residence: Marion de Vries.

November 19-December 15, 2002

The Danish Play by Sonja Mills, directed by Kelly Thornton, at the Tarragon Extra Space.
Cast: Kate Hennig, Christine Brubaker, Dmitry Chepovetsky, Randi Helmers, Erika Hennebury, Eric Goulem, and Bruce Hunter. November 28, special performance and reception for the Ambassador of Denmark to Canada. Nominated for two Dora Mavor Moore Awards and invited to tour to Aveny-T Theatre in Copenhagen, May 2004.


February 18-March 9, 2003

Finding Regina by Shoshana Sperling, directed by Kelly Thornton, at Theatre Passe Muraille. Cast: Jeremy Harris, Teresa Pavlinek and Shoshana Sperling. A co-production with the Globe Theatre in Regina, where it ran October 8-13, 2002.

March 8, 2003

FemCab Remix at Theatre Passe Muraille. Curated by Mariko Tamaki and hosted by Elvira Kurt.

March 2003

Nightwood moves to new location: 55 Mill Street, Suite 301, The Case Goods Building, in Toronto’s new Distillery District. Building run by Artscape and also home to Tapestry New Opera Works. The Tapestry-Nightwood New Works Studio is located in the Cannery Building.

Spring 2003 Board Members : Maja Ardal (Chair), Susan Baker, Barb Linds, Kelly MacIntosh, Trish McGrath, Sarah Neville, Megan Peck, Lascelle Wingate.

April 12, 2003

The Backstage Ball, a Dance-a-thon Fundraiser, held at Berkeley Church.

June 1, 2003

Strawberry and tea reception in new location, reading from Mercedes by Marion de Vries, which was also featured at Groundswell.

June 2-8, 2003

20th Annual Groundswell Festival at Nightwood’s new location. Last night featuring young writers from the Write from the Hip program.

October 21-November 2, 2003

Hysteria: A Festival of Women , co-produced with Buddies in Bad Times, curated by Kelly Thornton and Moynan King.


February 17-March 14, 2004

China Doll by Marjorie Chan, directed by Kelly Thornton, at Tarragon Extra Space.

March 8, 2004

Nightwood presented an International Women's Day panel discussion called "First Steps: Chinese Canadian Women Leaving Their Mark."

March to August 2004

Write from the Hip program, facilitated by Lisa Codrington.

May 1, 2004

The Great May Day Cabaret included Las Pasionarias by Aida Jordao, developed with the support of Nightwood

May 2004

The Danish Play toured to Copenhagen, then played at the Magnetic North Festival in Edmonton in June and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa October 26 to November 6, 2004.

June 27, 2004

Anna Chatterton, Co-Director of Youth Initiatives, coordinates Busting Out!, a new theatre program for eight girls aged twelve to fifteen. Culminated in the performance of a collective creation, June 27.

June 2004

Nightwood held three fundraising events: A Yard Sale at Trinity Bellwoods Park, an Online Silent Auction, and "Strap One On," a Pride Week Event fundraiser organized by Buddies in Bad Times and Nightwood

July 5 and 6, 2004

Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) Mini-Conference on Dramaturgy, held at Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto. Marjorie Chan spoke about the playwriting process for her play China Doll, and Kelly Thornton and Yvette Nolan (A.D. of Native Earth) addressed "the status of women in Canadian theatre and the dramaturgy of work by women."

August 24 to 29, 2004

21st annual Groundswell festival held at the Tapestry/Nightwood New Works Studio: six plays from the Groundswell Playwrights Unit and seven from Write from the Hip. Featured work by Marilo Nunez, Three Fingered Jack and the Legend of Joaquin Murieta.

November 4-14, 2004

Second annual Hysteria: A Festival of Women. Festival Directors Kelly Thornton and Moynan King, Assistant Festival Directors Erika Hennebury and Natasha Mytnowych. Includes "Saucy: Girls with Smart Mouths," an afternoon event for girls under 21.

November 12-14, 2004

"The Status of Women in Theatre: A Public Debate!" Kelly Thornton and Hope McIntyre, Chair of the Women's Caucus of the Playwrights Guild of Canada, assembled a national advisory for a three-day conference, taking place as part of Hysteria. A public debate was held on Nov. 13, 2:00 pm, at Tallulah's Cabaret at Buddies in Bad Times, hosted by Elvira Kurt. "Since last year's original panel discussion at Hysteria," similar panels have been held at PACT, Magnetic North, and LMDA.

Committee members: Jackie Maxwell, Jan Selman, Lousie Forsyth, Yvette Nolan, Naomi Campbell, Nancy Webster, Judith Rudakoff, Diane Roberts, Jessica Schneider, Cynthia Grant, Kate Weiss, Aida Jordao, Susan Bennett, Denyse Lynde, and Maria Campbell, with core research by Rebecca Burton.

December 8, 2004

"Systemic Problem Smothers Half the Talent," Globe and Mail column by Kate Taylor, R1

Board of Directors, Winter 2004:

Maja Ardal (Chair), Susan Baker, Kavita Joshi, Michele Landsberg, Kelly MacIntosh, Trish McGrath, Sarah Neville, Lascelle Wingate. Commissioned Playwrights: Marjorie Chan and Sheila Heti. Intern Company Dramaturg: Erica Kopyto.

Board of Directors, Summer 2004:

Barb Linds (Chair), Lesley Ackrill, Susan Baker, Antonella Ceddia, Michele Landsberg, Kelly MacIntosh, Trish McGrath, Sarah Neville, Helen Thundercloud. Commissioned Playwrights: Lisa Codrington and Sheila Heti. Playwright in Residence: Ann Holloway.


Nightwood was accepted to Creative Trust, a unique program that supports and strengthens Toronto's mid-size music, dance and theatre companies by assisting them in achieving organizational and financial balance, and acquiring and maintaining a fund of Working Capital.

January 10-15

Workshop of All Our Happy Days Are Stupid by Sheila Heti, directed by Banuta Rubess, held at the Tapestry/Nightwood New Work Studio.

January 27

Second annual "Intimate Dinner" hosted by Michele Landsberg, Barb Linds and Debbie Gray.

February 12 to March 13, 2005

Cast Iron by Lisa Codrington at Tarragon Extra Space, produced in association with Obsidian Theatre. Directed by ahdri zhina mandiela and starring Alison Sealy-Smith. The play began in the Write from the Hip program and was also done at the Toronto Fringe.

March 4

Kelly Thornton and Nathalie Bonjour were honoured by The Honourable Sarmite D. Bulte, MP, at her International Women's Day Breakfast.

March 6

In recognition of International Women's Day and in conjunction with Cast Iron, Nightwood held a panel discussion called "Talking Black: Canadian Women Speak Out on the Politics of Language,” hosted by Sharon Lewis

March 19

Mount Saint Vincent University hosted a Research Collaboration Workshop: Women in Theatre: The Maritime Experience. Rebecca Burton and Denyse Lynde participated in this conference as representatives of the National Committee on the Status of Women in Canadian Theatre.

May 2, 2005

Celebration of Nightwood's 25th anniversary at FemCab, hosted by Diane Flacks and Karen Robinson, and featuring special guest Gloria Steinem.

August 21 to 27, 2005

22nd annual Groundswell Festival held at Tapestry/Nightwood New Work Studio. Works presented:
1. The Five Stages of Womanhood by Bev Cooper and Diane Flacks, directed by Leah Cherniak. W ith Cherniak, Cooper, Flacks and Martha Ross;
2. Love Medicine by Dawn Dumont;
3. Madre by Beatriz Pizano;
4. Las Pasionarias by Aida Jordao;
5. Anorexican by Becky Johnson;
6. Skim by Mariko Tamaki, directed by Kelly Thornton with Julie Tamiko Manning; 7. Horse Latitudes by Nicola Harwood. On August 27, six short works from the Write From the Hip program. The Write From the Hip plays were matched with a professional director and a cast of professional and emerging actors from Nightwood's Emerging Actors Program, led by Natasha Mytnowych.

October 2

"Ms.Conceptions: Queer Mothers and Children Tackle the Politics of Family." A panel discussion moderated by Elvira Kurt, to celebrate the premiere of Diane Flacks' one woman show Bear With Me.

November 23 to December 4, 2005

Bear With Me, by Diane Flacks, presented by Nightwood in association with Buddies in Bad Times. Directed by Kelly Thornton. A staging of Flack's book, Bear With Me: What They Don't Tell You About Pregnancy and New Motherhood.

Board of Directors, Winter 2005:Antonella Ceddia and Barb Linds (Co-Chairs), Lesley Ackrill, Susan Baker, Michele Landsberg, Du-Yi Leu (Treasurer), Kelly MacIntosh, Trish McGrath, Sarah Neville (Secretary), Helen Thundercloud. Administrative Assistant: Marilo Nunez. Commissioned Playwrights: Beverley Cooper, Diane Flacks, Sheila Heti and Mariko Tamaki. Playwright in Residence: Ann Holloway.

Board of Directors, Summer 2005. Antonella Ceddia and Barb Linds (Co-Chairs), Lesley Ackrill, Susan Baker, Michele Landsberg, Trish McGrath (Treasurer), Sarah Neville (Secretary), Helen Thundercloud. Administrative Assistant: Christine Berg. New Director of Marketing and Development: Frances Shakov. Commissioned Playwrights: Bev Cooper, Diane Flacks, Mariko Tamaki. Playwright in Residence: Sonja Mills.


March 5, 2006


April 29 to May 28

Mathilde by Veronique Olmi. Translated by Morwyn Brebner and directed by Kelly Thornton with Martha Burns, at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.