With more than 150 different collections, the L. W. Conolly Theatre Archives is the largest collection devoted to professional Canadian theater and Shaw related materials in Canada. The Dan Laurence Collection of Shaviana, the Shaw Festival Archives, and the Hamon Collection provide a rich Canadian and international perspective on Shaw. The archives also contains the records of modern Ontario theatre companies, theatre administrators, playwrights, actors, directors, designers, and cutters active in Ontario theatre life.
The archives of individuals such as George Walker, Tomson Highway, Christopher Newton, Sky Gilbert, Cameron Porteous, and Judith Thompson, as well as other prominent playwrights, actors, directors, and designers are housed in our collections. Although all of these artists have been active in theatre in Ontario, their work transcends provincial boundaries, of course, and has had national and international impact.
It has also been possible to preserve the records of a number of theatres that, sadly, have closed in recent years, among them, for example, Open Circle, Phoenix, NDWT, Theatre Plus, Black Theatre Canada, and Toronto Workshop Productions.
Theatres from outside the Toronto area are well represented by companies such as Theatre Terra Nova and Theatre Aquarius from Hamilton, the Blyth Festival, the Lighthouse Festival from Port Dover, and Ottawa's Great Canadian Theatre Company. And although English is the predominant language of theatre in Ontario, francophone theatrical culture is represented by the archives of Le Theatre Français de Toronto.
Children's theatre (Young People's Theatre, the Carousel Players, Theatre on the Move), native theatre (Native Earth Performing Arts), gay and lesbian theatre (Sky Gilbert Collection), multicultural and community theatre (Black Theatre Canada, Cahoots Theatre Projects, Eramosa Community Players), and various forms of theatre outside the mainstream (Toby Gordon Ryan Collection, Theatre Smith-Gilmour, Theatre Columbus, Outaouais Popular Theatre, and Necessary Angel) are other facets of the rich complexity of Ontario and Canadian theatre reflected in the Guelph archives.
Archives of major national professional organizations are also housed at Guelph, including the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres, the Associated Designers of Canada, and the Playwrights' Union of Canada, while the archives of the Association for Canadian Theatre Research and the records of the 1991 International Women Playwrights Conference provide two examples of the preservation of important research and scholarship resources.
By far the majority of collections relate to twentieth-century theatre, but there are one or two interesting exceptions, including the Garrick Family Papers. Other exceptions include small collections on a nineteenth-century Toronto Opera House, British actor Edmund Kean, late nineteenth-century U.S. and Canadian music halls and theatres, and London's Independent Theatre.
The contents of theatre collections can be identified using keyword combinations and phrase searches in the Library's catalogue, Primo.