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Saskatoon Gateway Players

Gateway Theatre had its first organizational meeting on April 20, 1965, continuing the tradition of little theatre begun by the Little Theatre Club of Saskatoon (1922-49), Saskatoon Community Players (1952- 59, headed by Louise Olson), and Stage 8 (1962- 63). Its initial mandate was to produce plays and to assist in establishing a professional theatre. With 1967 came incorporation (a board of eight, with Dennis Beerling as first president), a name change to Saskatoon Gateway Players, and a renewed production mandate. A parallel group, Saskatoon Theatre for Children, formed in 1963 to present an annual children's show, usually around Easter. In 1976, the group became amalgamated with Gateway and continues now as Gateway Theatre for Children. From 1963 to 2003, this theatre wing produced fifty plays, including première productions of four original scripts by local actor/playwright Larry Fitzgerald.

Gateway operates from rented studio space (three different locations over the years) shared with other amateur companies, principally Saskatoon Summer Players. Renovations at its current location have created two rehearsal studios, a set storage and construction bay, archives and office space, a green room, and an extensive costume repository providing rentals to companies throughout the province. Gateway's performance venue is Castle Theatre, an apron-proscenium facility built by the Saskatoon Collegiate Board and opened in 1966.

Since 1968, Gateway has offered a five-play season, with a regular four-day run that was increased to five in 1982. Additional productions are occasionally mounted outside the regular season. Although Gateway rarely employs professional performers or directors, its actors and technicians are often employed in local professional productions or have gone on to professional careers. Many Saskatoon-raised performers actually began by taking weekly children's theatre classes conducted principally by Holly Knott (oral expression) and Rosemary Hunt (creative drama). Gateway's choice of plays favours world theatre classics, comedies for a general audience, and small-scale musicals, but it strives also to stretch and develop its artists and audiences in terms of subject matter and theatrical challenge. Long known for strong production values and spectacular sets (many created by Robert Hinitt), Gateway has kept apace of professional companies in producing works of such playwrights as Edward Albee, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, David French, Timothy Findley, Al Pittman, Sharon Pollock, and Michel Tremblay. A stalwart member of Theatre Saskatchewan, Gateway has frequently served as rotational host of its full-length festivals. From 1966 until 2003, it had thirty-two entries in these events, garnering ninety-six awards.

Ian C. Nelson

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