The Arts Club Theatre Company is the largest theatre company in Western Canada. Each year, over a quarter of a million people experience the best in professional theatre at its three venues: the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, Granville Island Stage, and Newmont Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre, as well as on tour throughout the province. Its popular productions range from musicals and contemporary comedies to new works and classics. The Arts Club also expands its audiences outside Vancouver through a three-show mini-season tour presented at venues around British Columbia.
The Arts Club of Vancouver was founded in 1958 as a private club for artists, musicians, and actors, and officially became the Arts Club Theatre in 1964 when the company opened its first stage, a converted gospel hall at Seymour Street and Davie. The company's twenty-seven years at Seymour Street are an important part of Vancouver and Canadian theatre history. The 250-seat stage helped launch the careers of Canadian talents such as Michael J. Fox, Bruce Greenwood, Ruth Nichol, Janet Wright, Winston Rekert, Lally Cadeau, Ann Mortifee, and Brent Carver, while introducing Vancouver to works by Canadian playwrights such as Michel Tremblay, David Freedman, and Carol Bolt. Productions by newcomers Sherman Snukal (Talking Dirty), Nicola Cavendish (It's Snowing on Saltspring), Morris Panych (7 Stories), and John Lazarus (The Late Blumer) also premiered there. The original Arts Club Seymour Street Stage was closed for demolition in 1991.
The company added the current Granville Island Stage in 1979, and the smaller Revue Stage next door in 1983. Innovative versions of classics such as Comedy of Errors; colourful Canadian hits such as Billy Bishop Goes to War; dramas like Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune and comedies including Lend Me a Tenor, have brought the Granville Island Stage numerous awards and an excellent community following. The Revue Stage was home to some of Vancouver's all-time favourite musicals, revues, and comedies, including Ain't Misbehavin', before it was leased to the Vancouver Theatre Sports League in 1997. After an extensive renovation, the Revue Stage re-opened as an Arts Club venue in 2010 with the world premiere of Anosh Irani’s My Granny the Goldfish. After five more seasons there, the Arts Club moved the Revue Stage programming to the new Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre in Olympic Village. This innovative stage offers multiple seating configurations, such as thrust, proscenium, alley, and more. The Goldcorp Stage opened in November 2015 with Peter and the Starcatcher, and also housed the premiere production of Onegin in March 2016. In 2020, the Goldcorp Stage was renamed the Newmont Stage.
The Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, in the South Granville neighbourhood, opened to the public with Dean Regan's record-setting production of Swing in October 1998, and it is now considered the company's flagship venue. An intimate version of a Broadway or London classic theatre, this elegant stage has permitted the company to move into the exciting arena of producing larger musicals, 20th-century classics, and acclaimed productions from around the world.
Key facts about the Arts Club:
- We are the third largest not-for-profit theatre company in Canada—larger than any charitable theatre company in Toronto or Montreal
- We are British Columbia’s largest non-profit cultural employer—hiring more than 500 artists, staff, and crew to stage up to 20 shows annually
- We are an incubator for new Canadian theatre—with thriving new play development programs. We have developed and premiered more than one hundred new plays
- We educate and cultivate students and theatre lovers of all ages—over 2,500 people engage in our education and professional development programs annually
- We support artists and other arts organizations through professional engagement activities, such as our Company-in-Residence and Emerging Playwright’s Unit—believing firmly that an investment in the industry benefits all
- We are a major economic driver in the areas surrounding our venues—our theatres attract a quarter million theatre patrons to dine and shop in the South Granville, Olympic Village, and Granville Island neighbourhoods
Artistic Director Emeritus
No history of the Arts Club would be complete without a mention of Bill Millerd, Artistic Director Emeritus. A graduate of the University of British Columbia and the National Theatre School, Bill first joined the Arts Club in 1969 as a stage manager and remained in the role of Artistic Managing Director from 1972 until his retirement in 2018. During his tenure, Bill expanded the company’s operations to include year-round programming and regional and national tours. Bill oversaw the construction of two theatres on Granville Island—the Granville Island Stage, in the fall of 1979, and the Revue Stage, in 1983—and the reopening of the historic Stanley Theatre, now the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, in 1998. Under Bill’s leadership, the company produced 500 plays, including more than 120 Canadian works. He was awarded the Order of Canada in 1994 for his contribution to Canadian theatre.
Read the Arts Club Theatre Company's 2019/2020 Annual Report for insights on the 2019/2020 season, including: production stats, financials, awards, and information on our youth education and new play development programs.
This Is Something Else
Episode 1: The Opening Chord
ABOUT THE PODCAST
This Is Something Else: Consciously Eclectic Histories of the Arts Club is a 5-part podcast series exploring more than 50 years of Vancouver’s theatre scene and the making of Canada’s largest urban theatre company. Created and hosted by documentary theatremaker Andrew Kushnir, this Arts Club-commissioned project takes a distinct approach to history. This Is Something Else focuses less on dates and events, and casts a focused eye (and ear) to the complex relationships between people, places, and big ideas.
Over the course of five episodes, Kushnir explores a wide range of themes and topics, culled from over 72 hours of original interviews with 43 artists, historians, administrators, and patrons. Featured guests and interviewees include Bill Millerd, Anosh Irani, Kim Collier, Morris Panych, Donna Wong, Ann Mortifee, Omari Newton, Jerry Wasserman, Marcus Mosely, Katrina Dunn, and many others. The podcast examines the Arts Club’s history, from its beginnings at the Seymour Street Theatre to its current status. It shines a light on the remarkable women who fought for Vancouver’s cultural institutions and some of the Arts Club’s noteworthy ups and downs. Kushnir also delves into the cultural forces that have had a hand in forming the Vancouver professional theatre ecology, be it the counterculture movement of the 60s, the city’s real estate market, artists’ relationship to the land, or the global pandemic we currently find ourselves in.
Creator and Host Andrew Kushnir
Podcast Assistant and EDI Consultant Preeti Dhaliwal
Sound Designer Kevin Gault
Music Composed by The Golden Age of Wrestling
This Is Something Else is generously supported by ITC Construction Group, BMO Financial Group, KPMG, BFL Canada, and longtime patron Lee Grills. We would also like to thank the Canada Council for the Arts, the BC Arts Council, and the City of Vancouver for their ongoing support.
Board of Directors, Arts Club Theatre Company
Council of Governors
Director: Bernard & Associates
Director: Q1 Production Technologies
Wine and Food Travel
Board of Directors, Arts Club of Vancouver Theatre Foundation
HSBC Bank Canada
Capital West Partners
Canadian Outback Adventure Company Ltd.
Royal LePage City Centre
Bilsland Griffith Benefit Administrators
Simon Fraser University
July 2, 2020
As leaders of the Arts Club, we strive to be kind, clear, and fair employers, creating a home for talented staff whom we value, develop, and retain. We are committed to fostering a welcoming, supportive and creative place for artists – to be an incubator where artists create exceptional work fully reflective of our community. We seek to have a culture that crackles with positivity, a generosity of spirit, and a willingness to engage with difficult content and conversations.
As the whole theatre sector experiences this intermission from staging shows, we want to take this opportunity to learn more about people’s experiences at the Arts Club and explore where there are barriers to inclusion within the company—including those created by systemic racism. Our job is to listen to ongoing conversations and to engage in a deep examination of our past and current working practices, so that we can improve and build bridges for the future.
As leaders of the Arts Club we are committed to these direct actions:
- Collaborating with paid BIPOC artists, we are currently engaging our teams in conversations about systemic racism – to uncover how it exists within the organization, and to take specific and strategic actions to dismantle it. Our goal through these conversations is to create a culture where we all have agency and accountability for this ongoing work. The first step, made clear by this process, will be the creation of an Anti-Racism Policy for all employees.
- We are engaging local theatre artist and activist Omari Newton as our Community Liaison throughout the summer. Omari will focus on practices of inclusion at the Arts Club, foster our relationship with the professional theatre community, and make specific recommendations and plans for the company.
- We will hire an Accessibility Coordinator to provide guidance and counsel on accessibility at the Arts Club, and to aid in the creation of inclusive programs for persons with disabilities, including artists, audiences and staff. We are grateful that this position has been made possible through funding from the British Columbia Arts Council; it will be in place for the 2020–2021 season.
- We will create and grow a designated fund within our endowment to be used for anti-racist and inclusive activities throughout the organization. We are excited to share more about this fund soon.
- We will undertake an internal audit to collect comprehensive data about the diversity of our past and current teams, including staff, artists and board members. This data will be used to assess how we have, or have not, reflected the diversity of our community and whether people of all characteristics have had equitable access to opportunity. We will assess shortcomings and successes, and use these findings to meaningfully and thoughtfully create processes, take actions, and hold ourselves accountable.
- We understand that not everyone is comfortable speaking candidly to their past, present, or potential employers. We will be establishing a third-party confidential disclosure process that will create a safe space for artists and staff to speak about their experiences either working at or gaining access to employment at the Arts Club. While this process can be used to seek information to address a specific concern (when possible), the primary outcome is to identify themes and barriers to equity and inclusion in the company’s practices and workplace culture. This report will anonymize feedback and contribute to the development of a detailed action plan for accountability. These findings and our resulting plan will be part of an ongoing examination and bettering of our working practices and culture. At this point, we are putting together the third-party confidential disclosure process and more information about this timeline will be shared as soon as we have it.
In order to foster and grow transparency, we will publicly share reports of the work detailed above, including:
- Recommendations and actions from our internal departmental work
- Recommendations from our Community Liaison
- Recommendations from our Accessibility Coordinator
- Findings from our internal audit
- Findings from the third-party confidential disclosure report
After the public has had time to read and consider these reports, we will host a Community Forum. At the forum, details of the reports will be shared and there will be an opportunity for community discussion.
The Arts Club strives to be a space for the community; a space where, through imagination and storytelling, we are able to have compassion and empathy for others. And so, the Arts Club must be a safe space for all members of this community. We are committed to doing the work to uncover the barriers that exist to engagement with the Arts Club, and we are committed to dismantling them.
Ashlie Corcoran, Artistic Director
Peter Cathie White, Executive Director