One hundred years of entertainment

Everything Old is New Again, October 7, 2013. (Photo: Kim Lovell)

Photo: Everything Old is New Again, October 7, 2013. (Photo: Kim Lovell)


Janet Gates

Buildings and architecture, Arts and creativity, Adaptive reuse

Published Date: Feb 14, 2014

Birthdays are about celebration and, in the case of Toronto’s Elgin and Winter Garden theatres, a toast to 100 years of entertainment history. In 2013, we reflected on the theatres’ storied past and the 50 million people who have been part of this story – from actors and audiences to stagehands and volunteers.

Commemorative activities have built on this legacy, starting with six film shorts filmed and screened at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre (EWG). Created by up-and-coming Canadian talent and supported by the Ontario Heritage Trust, bravoFACT, OptixToronto and PS: Production Services, several of these films have been recognized at the Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Canadian International Television Festival and National Screening Institute.

No birthday is complete, however, without a party – and what a party it was! Starting with a choice of dinner options – from the elegant Gatsby-themed dinner on the stage of the Winter Garden to the speakeasy-style cocktail supper in the EWG’s cascading lobbies.

Anchoring the evening was the production of Everything Old is New Again. Led by producer Marlene Smith, over 100 artists participated in this rollicking review of theatrical genres that have graced the stages of the EWG over the past century. In addition to the partners, supporters, donors and theatre enthusiasts who were part of the audience that evening, 600 students had the opportunity to experience live theatre, thanks to a private donation supporting this worthwhile initiative.

The EWG volunteers also launched a beautiful new souvenir booklet for the anniversary year and replaced and refurbished lobby chairs and tables. These same volunteers also organized ever-popular tours throughout the commemorative period during Doors Open Toronto, Heritage Week 2013 and EWG Celebration Week.

Legacy is not just about what’s left behind, but also about what we take with us into the future. These theatres are more than just performance venues. The story of this National Historic Site should be widely shared. To keep the EWG active and relevant, the Trust is creating new opportunities to open the theatres during the day, inviting new audiences to share the experience.

Sharing this vision, the Royal Bank of Canada, along with Ryerson and OCAD universities, have joined with the EWG to offer a space for developing artists to showcase their work. On January 30, 2014, the RBC Emerging Artist Project premiered a collaboration between Ryerson Image Arts students and Metrolinx, exploring how people interact with transportation in the Greater Toronto Area.

It was a celebration that exceeded our expectations. The EWG enters the next 100 years on a wave of excitement and with a sense of renewal, built on its enduring legacy.