Guild Festival Theatre is proud to participate in the movement to re-establish a Guild of All Arts in Scarborough, Ontario. Since our inception in 2009, we have aspired to the goals set forth by the Guild Renaissance Group and other community advocates. We do this by presenting a high-profile annual theatre festival of classics on the open-air Greek stage at the historic Guild.
A seed was planted when director Sten Eirik first visited The Guild in the late 1990's with actor Don Allison and stage manager David Baughan. David moved away to the West Coast shortly after, but Sten and Don began to plot the launch of a new theatre. Actor/filmmaker Tony Meyler, educator Sandy Muir and newspaper manager Sheila Blinoff were invited to form the original Board of Directors. Actor Chris Kelk joined within a few months. In February 2009, Guild Festival Theatre was incorporated and we became a registered charity in June of that year.
During the inception, our efforts were often guided and inspired by the remarkable Robin Phillips, formerly head of the Stratford Festival. Both Sten Eirik and Don Allison had been deeply influenced by Robin during their time at Stratford. For our Guildwood community launch in December 2010, Robin travelled from Stratford through a snowstorm to be our keynote speaker. His special brand of eloquence is fuel for our continued labours. We remain grateful for his inspiration and mentorship.
FIVE ACCLAIMED SUMMER SEASONS
When Guild Festival Theatre appeared on the Toronto arts scene in 2011, we were hailed as the "new theatre project that deserves to succeed" (Paula Citron), "terrific theatre in a great landscape" (Michael Kramer) and "a lively, fast-paced spectacle that brings the essence of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard to life" (David Bateman).
In 2012 we presented Clouds Over T.O., the world premiere for our own musical modernization of Aristophanes' The Clouds. Music and songs were by Toronto's jazz and klesmer virtuoso David Buchbinder. We engaged 20 volunteers from Centennial College who earned a combined total of 326 hours towards their Leadership Passports. In addition, we have mentored high school students for their community hours.
Our 2013 hit was Molière’s The Misanthrope, which earned rave reviews and a 50% increase in audience attendance. Audience feedback drew a comparison with Stratford and the Shaw Festival. We garnered the 2013 Urban Hero Award for making a difference in the community. With funding from the government of Canada, we employed students from Centennial College, U. of T. Scarborough and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate.
Our 2014 season made a splash with the hilarity of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest. There was not a dry eye in the house (or should we say, under the stars), as night after night tears of laughter echoed over the bluffs into Lake Ontario and across to Toronto Island. Truly our most successful production in terms of audience appeal, it set the stage for what The Guild Festival could truly become, a professional Theatre of unparalleled quality for the GTA.
Sadly in 2015 we lost our leader Sten Eirik, and the possible end of The Guild Festival Theatre was in sight. Miraculously, Jamie Robinson was brought on board at the last minute to take over the helm, directing the most attended season to date with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Reviews were stellar and the cast, crew and board of directors all felt the guiding hand of Sten pushing us to carry on with his dream. The stars have truly aligned as the 2016 season hiatus has given us time to reimagine how the next successful five years should look with the renewed energy of a revitalized Guildwood Park and Banquet Hall!
THE VIEW FROM HERE
Our labour of love has helped resurrect The Guild as a unique destination for Torontonians and all visitors to the city. Guild Festival Theatre is not only being shaped by but also giving shape to the community within which we serve. In the sculpture gardens of The Guild, where nature meets culture, the classics are an experience like nowhere else.
We look forward to networking with all interested parties to bring back the good times to this magical setting.
"I have a strange feeling that something wonderful will happen. I feel it coming. I
can almost feel its footsteps." - Trofimov, The Cherry Orchard
LETTER FROM ROBIN PHILLIPS
"The Guild Theatre exists. It stands in a unique locale. It calls out for reawakening.
It is an extraordinary setting. Here we have a venue that beckons from a fascinating past and offers the promise of an exciting future. Here is a location that stands a mere flight above the bustle of a vibrant metropolis, offering time and space for both relaxing and stimulating entertainment. It seems to me that we need to stand above and take stock of our sometimes frustrating world; take an over-view of our past and seek out possible paths for the future. Here is a park-land setting for audiences to visit and permit the breezes from Lake Ontario and the voices of great theatre to clear the head, excite the senses and stimulate the heart.
The classical repertoire, often in new Canadian translations, will find an invigorating home here, surrounded by the cliffs and the breezes of the Scarborough bluffs.
Music, old and new, will play an integral role in the productions. Whether it be poignant Slavic instrumentation, melodic mandolins of the first Elizabethans or modern compositions, jazz and blues, music will welcome visitors to the cliff top and, hopefully, drift back down to the G.T.A.
I so look forward to this new production of The Cherry Orchard."