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Photo of Kristen Thomson in Someone Else (2013), Photo by Guntar Kravis

Photo of Kristen Thomson in Someone Else (2013), Photo by Guntar Kravis

UPDATE: Crow’s Theatre’s New Performing Arts Facility to Open in the 2016-2017 Season.

January 2013: Crow’s Theatre Announces New State-of-the-Art Performing Arts Facility in Toronto’s East-End

Crow’s Theatre will open the doors to its new Leslieville home in 2015

Crow’s Theatre is thrilled to announce the launch of its new performing arts facility and community hub. This exciting news coincides with its 30th anniversary year as one of the country’s most acclaimed and award-winning independent theatres.

Endorsed through the City of Toronto Section 37 Planning Act as approved by City Council on October 30, 2012, Crow’s Theatre will be the first professional performing arts facility of its kind east of the Don Valley Parkway, an area that is home to over 1.3 million people.

“There couldn’t be a more auspicious moment to make this announcement,” comments Artistic Director, Chris Abraham. “Crow’s has spent three decades becoming one of Canada’s most important new play creators, and we will continue to bring our own award-winning original works to the stage, but also, a host of new live events, performances, art classes and community programming in the heart of Leslieville.”

Located at the landmark corner of Dundas Street East and Carlaw Avenue in the Leslieville neighbourhood on the ground floor of The Carlaw, the facility is made possible through a symbiotic partnership with Streetcar Developments, Toronto’s leading mid-rise urban real estate developer. “Streetcar has always been a community friendly development team with a strong affinity for the Arts,” notes Jason Garland, VP of Development for Streetcar, “realizing the vision for a cultural hub in Toronto’s east end has been a collaborative effort for two years now, and we feel the presence of Crow’s Theatre at The Carlaw is a perfect fit to help cultivate a variety of artistic talents and bring quality community programming to the state-of-the-art performing arts facility opening in 2015”.

Crow’s will house three spectacular venues for cultural and neighbourhood programming and events: a Multi-Configurational Theatre (200-seat); a Studio Space for rehearsals, intimate performances, and community programming; and a Gallery Bar and Café. The facility will launch with a world premiere that will be showcased as one of the signature pieces of the Pan/ParaPan Am Games in 2015.

The facility design is led by architect Joe Lobko and his award-winning team at DTAH Architects. Mr. Lobko is the principal architect behind notable city-building projects in the GTA, including Wychwood Barns and Evergreen Brickworks. The design team also includes Trizart Alliance (Theatre and Technical), Swallow (Acoustical), Crossey Engineering (Mechanical & Electrical), and A.W. Hooker (Cost Consultant).

“The development team is comprised of seasoned experts with a track record for creating inspiring and vibrant culture and community spaces. Our facility will maximize the dynamic mix of performing arts, community programming, and events,” says Managing Director, Monica Esteves. Key elements have been given priority focus: versatile functionality, superior acoustics and soundproofing, and a landmark design that attracts local residents and citywide patrons with its quintessential Leslieville charm. “The ultimate goal is a superior experience for our audiences, artists and neighbourhood.”

The East-End, particularly Leslieville, has seen remarkable revitalization over the past decade, yet accessible cultural and community space has not kept apace. With Toronto’s professional arts facilities largely clustered in the downtown core, Crow’s strives to serve as a core cultural hub for East-End residents and their families, thereby playing a meaningful role in the community’s continued transformation.

“I couldn’t be more excited by the opportunity to lay artistic roots in this part of the city which I have called home for over 10 years,” says Artistic Director, Chris Abraham. “I look forward to an expanded company mandate, beginning with nurturing and shaping a conversation with a growing and under-served audience that is hungry for contemporary theatre, and also designing a program to include unique opportunities for non-professionals to take an active part in artistic creation. The future will also see us partnering with other Toronto theatre organizations to bring a diverse range of professional work to our audience. In the lead-up to 2015, we will be increasingly visible in the neighbourhood with two exciting site-specific events coming down the pipe in 2013 — details will be announced in the coming months.”

Supporting the facility is an entrepreneurial business model that will diversify Crow’s earned revenue streams. Notably, operating revenue generated through social events will be directly channeled to support the artistic and community mandates, alleviating the pressure caused by limited public funding. As a financially-sustainable not-for-profit, Crow’s Theatre further exemplifies the objectives and recommendations stated by the City of Toronto’s Creative Capital Report (2011), including the development of new creative clusters and emerging cultural scenes to capitalize on their potential as generators of jobs and economic growth.

“This facility is an important opportunity to develop professional award-winning theatre with an entrepreneurial, creative mindset in an under-served market of Toronto,” says Board of Directors Chair, Takashi Yamashita, “Toronto City Council’s approval is a welcomed endorsement of the contribution the arts make to the economy and city-building. As next steps, the Board and Crow’s leadership are focused on executing the project with various key stakeholders and achieving results.”

Crow’s acknowledges its partner, Streetcar Developments, for their commitment to the project and generous assistance throughout the facility development. “Crow’s is fortunate,” states Yamashita.

About Streetcar

Streetcar Developments is a leader in Toronto’s mid-rise real estate development market, having carved a niche by continually Rethinking. Urban Living.  Founded in 2002, Streetcar takes pride in designing boutique buildings that enhance their surrounding communities.  In proud partnership with Dundee Realty, Streetcar has played a positive role in transforming many of Toronto’s up-and-coming neighbourhoods.  For more information visit

Globe and Mail Article

Crow’s Theatre to get a permanent new Toronto home
Tuesday January 8, 2013
By: J. Kelly Nestruck

Chris Abraham’s work as a theatre director fits in almost anywhere.

Over the past year, you might have seen the Crow’s Theatre artistic director’s productions in a tiny 100-seat studio (Winners and Losers at Richmond, B.C.’s Gateway Theatre) or from one of 1,826 seats around a fabled thrust stage (The Matchmaker at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival).

The 38-year-old is a versatile and nomadic artist – Abraham even directed in both of the country’s official languages in 2012 – which makes the news that he and his theatre company are about to put down permanent roots a genuine surprise.

On Tuesday, Crow’s Theatre will announce plans to open a 200-seat theatre in the heart of Toronto’s east-end Leslieville neighbourhood, an $8-million home built into the base of a new condo tower being erected by Streetcar Developments. “Fingers crossed, everything will be good to go for the Pan Am Games in 2015,” says Abraham, looking every inch the prosperous new property owner in a sharp suit, over a lunch of steak tartare on Queen West.

For at least two decades, there has been a recurrent complaint from Toronto’s theatre artists and audiences about the physical state of the three original mid-size companies in town that date back to the 1970s – Factory Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille and Tarragon Theatre. This housing crisis came to a head in the summer with the firing of Ken Gass as artistic director of the Factory as he agitated for ambitious renovations.

As a recession grinds on and arts funding stagnates, however, Toronto’s arts space problem is being addressed – but, unexpectedly, through a boom in brand-new theatres as the second-wave generation of companies that emerged in the 1980s finds innovative ways to procure real estate.

The Daniels Spectrum (a.k.a. the Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre) opened on Dundas Street East this fall, providing a permanent base for the 30-year-old Native Earth Performing Arts and its sister companies. Meanwhile, the Theatre Centre, established in 1979, will finally move into permanent digs next fall, taking over the former Carnegie Library on Queen Street West.

Now, Crow’s Theatre – established in 1983 by Jim Millan, and known for a long time as Toronto’s “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll company” due to shows like High Life and Unidentified Human Remains – will become the first mid-sized theatre to open on the “other” side of the Don Valley.

“It’s about going where the space is possible, where there’s an audience, where there’s opportunity,” Abraham says. “Also, it’s a city that celebrates new things – it’s harder to cherish, support and nurture our existing institutions.”

Abraham took over the reins from Millan in 2007, when the Crow’s founder moved on to an eclectic and lucrative international career that has, of late, involved directing former CNN host Larry King in a one-man show, as well as a touring 50 Shades of Grey parody.

While some theatre companies built around a single artist’s vision have not weathered transitions well, Crow’s has kept an impressive artistic reputation under Abraham – co-producing new productions in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal and touring hits like Anton Piatigorsky’s Eternal Hydra and Kristen Thomson’s beloved I, Claudia. (This Thursday, Abraham’s production of Thomson’s new play, Someone Else, opens in co-production with Canadian Stage.)

But a nest for Crow’s has been a goal for Abraham all along. The first major step was to hire managing director Monica Esteves, who had been a student of his at the National Theatre School and gone on to administrative positions at Canadian Stage and Nightwood, and then launch a feasibility and strategic planning process.

“We’re both East Enders and we’re really interested in looking at this growing community – increasingly gentrified, a lot of cultural workers, and absolutely no professional cultural institutions,” says Abraham, who lives on the Danforth with his actress wife, Liisa Repo-Martell, and their two children, ages 6 and nine months.

Buildings – with the cost of insurance, maintenance and unexpected repairs – can be money pits for small companies that once only had to worry about the artistic work. But Crow’s Theatre’s place in Leslieville will be unusual in that it is designed specifically to be a revenue generator. In addition to the theatre productions, the venue’s three spaces will be available for community programs and rented out for weddings, parties and corporate events – all of which will help fund the art.

Abraham calls the model “social entrepreneurship” and he and Esteves are pursuing it on the assumption that public funding may not really increase in the next quarter-century. He looked to the United States for models and found one in the Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, a cultural venue that does not accept government grants or public funding. He describes it as “luck” that the project got off the ground so quickly: “It was the kismet of having met the right developer at the right time – and our city councillor Paula Fletcher championed the partnership right away.” (More than $1-million of the cost of the project is being covered through Section 37 funds.)

As for Abraham’s directorial work across the country, Crow’s will produce fewer tours as it moves to the new building – but he’s not giving up his relationship with Stratford, which he calls a second artistic home. Next summer, he’ll tackle Othello with Dion Johnstone and Graham Abbey in the Avon Theatre, making him one of a tiny list of Canadians to have helmed productions in all four theatres at the Stratford, Ont., festival.

Through Crow’s new home, Abraham hopes to pay some of his success forward to other younger theatre companies – curating their work to add to his season, but also offering hope that the days when theatre venues could just pop up are not over. “I’m hoping that it’s inspirational to other artists who have ambitions to grow their organizations – to think maybe a little more entrepreneurially about models for sustainability,” he says.

Toronto Star Article

Crow’s Theatre getting east-end home
Tuesday January 8, 2013
By: Carys Mills

After 30 years without a permanent home, Crow’s Theatre plans to settle down in Leslieville on the ground floor of a condo opening in 2015.

By all accounts, partnering with Streetcar Development on its 12-storey building was “serendipitous.”

Local councillor Paula Fletcher played matchmaker after hearing in 2011 that Crow’s was looking for a home, after years of focusing on touring. Meanwhile, Fletcher was encouraging Streetcar’s Les Mallins to incorporate ground-floor community space in his new condo, saying the former industrial area needed more than residential buildings.
“There are creative industries in this area, and yet it has no centre,” Fletcher said. “This seemed like a good anchor.”

The resulting deal makes Crow’s the owner-operator of most of the building’s ground floor at Dundas St. E and Carlaw Ave., where it will also host community programming, including farmers’ markets and clothing swaps.

The $8-million project will give the company a 3,000-square foot theatre with a capacity for 200 people and other space, including a studio, lobby, offices, kitchen and dressing rooms.

“Like the majority of contemporary theatres in Canada, particularly in Toronto, the company has been using space as needed,” said managing director Monica Esteves. “We’ve been a nomadic company . . . this will be Crow’s first actual space that it owns.”
Crow’s current production, Someone Else, is at the Berkeley Street Theatre, while the company has office space in the east-end.

Private donors are helping with the initial costs and over time, the new location will be made financially sustainable by renting out some of the space, Esteves said.
A neighbourhood improvement plan in 2000 said arts-oriented business should be encouraged, while retaining the historical industrial character, left from a Colgate-Palmolive plant and textile manufacturers. Some of those spaces were turned into artists’ studios.

As well as changing the area, award-winning artistic director Chris Abraham said the move will change the company, which was founded in 1983.

“It’s a shift by design,” said Abraham, who has been with Crow’s since 2007 and has also directed productions at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

“I wasn’t interested in sustaining an organization as just a touring entity. . . I felt the call to have more of a sustained conversation with my neighbours.”
Touring will still happen but the focus will be on the new location that will host Crow’s productions and curate others.

The building required a Section 37 agreement, which allows the city to okay increased density or height in exchange for community benefits.

In this case, the design exceeded both the height and density regularly permitted and a zoning amendment was adopted by community council last fall.

Technical issues about balancing residential and theatre needs also had to be resolved before demolition began late in the fall.

“We put considerable resources into additional acoustical soundproofing between the spaces,” Esteves said.

Response to the partnership has been positive so far, with concerns being limited to typical development issues, such as the height of the new building, according to Mallins. He said about 250 condo units have been sold, with about 45 left.

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