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25th Street Theatre

25th Street Theatre was founded in 1971 by University of Saskatchewan graduates as an experimental centre for the arts. While its first season (1972–73) featured a mix of music, cabaret, dance and new plays (Ken Mitchell’s Pleasant Street , Andras Tahn’s Covent Garden), 25th soon became a professional theatre (1975) committed to developing and producing new work, especially that of Saskatchewan artists. Under Andras Tahn (1975–83), 25th specialized in collective creations exploring Saskatchewan’s story, feelings and values. They collaborated with Theatre Passe Muraille’s Paul Thompson to produce their first collective, If You’re So Good, Why are You in Saskatoon? (1975), and worked with other theatre collectives, most notably Theatre Network (Edmonton). However, 25th was best known for Paper Wheat (1977), a celebratory history of Saskatchewan’s co-operative movement. First created and toured through Saskatchewan by Andras Tahn and the company (1977), it was substantially revised by Guy Sprung and then toured both provincially and nationally (1979). 25th also premiered early works by such nationally known playwrights as Brad Fraser, Linda Griffiths, and Jim Garrard.

The early 1980s were marked by crises in space and funding and changing leadership: Layne Coleman (1980–81), Tahn, Coleman and Griffiths (1981–83), and Gordon McCall (1983–84). Under Tom Bentley-Fisher (1985–97), 25th concentrated on developing Saskatchewan playwrights through mentorship programs, production, and festivals. It produced over thirty original Saskatchewan plays in its 144-seat warehouse theatre on Duchess Street, Saskatoon (1985–97). Highlights included work by Rod McIntyre, Don Kerr, Scott Douglas, Greg Nelson, Mansel Robinson, Archie Crail, Anne Szumigalski, Sharon Butala, Barbara Sapergia, Pam Bustin and Kit Brennan, as well as the Canadian premiere of Saskatoon-born Joanna McClelland Glass’s Play Memory (1986), Dianne Warren’s Serpent in the Night Sky (1991)—Saskatchewan’s first play nominated for a Governor General’s Award—and work by Ken Mitchell and Connie Gault, two of Saskatchewan’s most successful continuing playwrights. 25th also founded the Saskatoon Fringe Festival (1989), one of the oldest, largest fringes in western Canada. Building on earlier cross-cultural experiments (Jessica, 1981), 25th also launched a “Festival of New Indian and Métis Plays” (1995) and premiered work by Maria Campbell, Harry W. Daniels, Joe Welsh, and Greg Daniels. Despite renewed crises in space and funding, 25th continues to run the Saskatoon Fringe and the eleven-day Hericane Festival of Women’s Art (1999). Under Glen Cairns (1998–99) and Sharon Bakker (1999–), it has remained a centre where Saskatchewan artists are “provided exposure, facilities and training” to help them explore and develop creativity in the arts.

Moira Day

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Further Reading

Benson, E. and L.W. Conolly. 1989. Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre. Toronto: Oxford University Press; Twenty-fifth Street House Theatre. 1982. Paper Wheat: The Book. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books.
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