The board of directors of Toronto's venerable Factory Theatre thought they might move in a different direction when they voted to fire long-time artistic director Ken Gass this week. The firing created a backlash that may see board members ousted.
A petition has been started by Gass' son, Ed Gass-Donnelly, a film director, that calls for the board of directors to reinstate his father and then resign. The petition, available to be signed online at Change.org, might seem no more than a son's sour grapes except for one thing - the number of people who have signed it is approaching one-thousand.
The Globe and Mail reports that among them is a bevy of theatre luminaries in that city, including Ross Manson and Jennifer Brewin, artistic directors of Volcano Theatre and Theatre Columbus respectively. Also signing, according to the Globe, are two of the more influential playwrights in contemporary Canadian theatre, Andrew Moodie and the legendary George F. Walker.
Factory Theatre: Canadian Play mandate
The Factory was started by Gass in 1970 and was the first Canadian theatre to have a mandate of producing Canadian plays, and only Canadian plays. Over controversy surrounding his own play, Winter Offensive in 1977, Gass resigned his position as artistic director and manager. He was brought back in 1996 when the theatre was failing and quickly managed to resurrect it and has been there since.
He hasn't been told, he wrote the Toronto Star in an email on Thursday, why he was fired. "Last night, the Board of Directors of Factory Theatre informed me that my position as artistic director was terminated, effective immediately," he wrote. "No 'cause' has been given for the action, but simply that they have decided it is time for the Theatre to move forward in a different direction."
Ken Gass "moving on" from Factory Theatre
Losing the work of Moodie and Walker may be a blow to the Factory, each went has gone on record to say they will not work with the theatre again unless Gass is reinstated. Walker's Dead Metaphor had been scheduled for the 2012-13 season, and while it appears he has withdrawn the play, as of this writing it is still listed on the website of the theatre.
It's not known why the board of directors let Gass go - all board chair Ron Struys told the Globe was that they "wanted to move to a new phase of growth and development" - but despite his son's petition the Canadian theatre giant told the Star he's resigned to moving on.
"I am not happy about this, as this is not the way I would have planned my exit after more than 15 years working at the Factory and at this point in my artistic career," he wrote. "But the Board has made its decision and I am looking forward to the next chapter of my creative life."