To Be or Not To Be: Guild Festival Theatre Faces Uncertain Future

Scarborough, Jan 8, 2018:  After presenting six summer seasons of award-winning professional performances – from Shakespearean drama to classic comedies – at Toronto’s historic Guild Park & Gardens, the Guild Festival Theatre (GFT) is seeking supporters to take on the role of financial champions.

GFT, a registered charity and not-for-profit group, requires about $35,000 in sponsorships and donations to continue with its 2018 production. The organization is announcing this major fundraising initiative because a founding sponsor has not renewed its support.

“A series of factors has forced us to face this grim reality,” said GFT’s Executive Producer, Janet Heise. “In addition to our losing an important funder, Mother Nature really upstaged us in 2017. Last summer’s poor weather meant fewer ticket sales. Even our opening night got rained out. That’s the risk of mounting live theatre outdoors.”

She added that an unexpected problem emerged during rehearsals for last year’s production. Construction at Guild Park was well behind schedule, which greatly limited GFT’s access and use of the park’s theatre and other facilities. As a result, operating costs were much higher than in past years.

This isn’t the scenario originally envisaged by GFT’s founder and artistic director, the late Sten Eirik. His dream was to establish a thriving professional theatre company modeled on the success of Ontario’s Stratford Festival, a company that began 60 years ago by staging Shakespeare in a tent.

After performing at Stratford, across Canada and in Hollywood movies, Sten created GFT in 2009 as a charitable incorporated organization. Within two years, GFT debuted at Guild Park’s unique Greek Theatre with The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. Over the next four years, audiences enjoyed GFT’s original and classic productions including Romeo and Juliet and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

GFT went on to win the 2013 Urban Hero Award for its community contributions and, this year, is a nominee for the Premier's Award for Excellence in the Arts. These achievements are a tribute to all the international actors and crew involved in the GFT, and especially to Sten Eirik, who died in 2015 after complications from cancer.

Against this background of success and sadness, the GFT’s next act is uncertain.

Although all expenses were covered for the 2017 production, the organization lacks the financial reserves to commit to another summer season. Being unable to mount a professional production in 2018 represents a loss not only to the local community, but to the theatre scene of Toronto and Ontario, plus losing thousands of dollars in economic spin-offs.

The GFT is now seeking benefactors – individuals and organizations – interested in making a financial commitment to bring professional theatre back to Guild Park’s Greek Theatre. Such support and sponsorship will keep alive the performing arts legacy at the site of Canada’s original Guild of All Arts, located at 201 Guildwood Pkwy., Scarborough.

For information about the community, cultural and financial benefits available to all current and new supporters, please contact Janet Heise, GFT’s Executive Producer, at

The Guild Festival Theatre provides enrichment through entertainment. Its mission is to help revitalize the historic Guild precinct of Scarborough, Ontario, and re-establish the Guild of All Arts for a new age by presenting a high-profile annual theatre festival of classics on the open-air Greek stage in the Guild gardens. In doing so, GFT seeks to nurture and inspire the artists and audiences of tomorrow by showcasing masterworks from the past.

Contact: Janet Heise, Executive Producer,

Guild Festival Theatre


Background: Words of praise for Guild Festival Theatre

 From Robin Phillips, former artistic director of the Stratford Festival:

"The Guild Theatre … is an extraordinary setting. Here we have a venue that beckons from a fascinating past and offers the promise of an exciting future … offering time and space for both relaxing and stimulating entertainment.”

From media personality and broadcaster Michael Kramer:

 "A terrific theatre in a great landscape."

From writer/critic Paula Citron:

"A new theatre project that deserves to succeed."

From audience member Chris Stornell of Charlotte, North Carolina:

"My wife and I both work in the arts professionally and were in Ontario to see shows in Stratford and Shaw. A visit to Guild Festival Theatre turned out to be our favourite evening of the whole trip.... The acting performances were stellar… with fresh takes on the classic work, The Importance of Being Earnest...Thank you for a wonderful night of theater."

From Scarborough Mirror reviewer Maria Tzavaras:

“A well-deserved standing ovation was given to the cast and crew of Guild Festival Theatre’s opening night performance of Romeo & Juliet at the Greek Stage at the Guild Park…. This is the way everyone should see Romeo & Juliet … beautifully performed by a cast of amazingly talented actors.”

From Reviewer Allison Gerson:

“I’d definitely recommend making the trip out to Guild Park for She Stoops to Conquer. It’s yet another example of the many great summer theatre opportunities Toronto has to offer.”