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LW Conolly Theatre Archives

History

Since 1969 the library has been acquiring theatre collections, but it was really during the 1980s after the formal establishment of Archival & Special Collections that Leonard Conolly’s leadership as chair of the Drama Department (1981-1988) and later as Associate Vice-President Academic (1988-1992) helped firmly establish the University of Guelph as a destination for the study of theatre history. It was through Conolly’s contacts and discussions with significant Ontario theatres such as Phoenix and Tarragon in Toronto and the Grand in London, that soon led to their boards to agree to donate what was then a precious but endangered cultural heritage for Canadian drama and theatre. These rich and varied holdings, now known as The L.W. Conolly Theatre Archives, have become a major resource used by Guelph faculty and students as well as researchers within Canada and from around the world.

Collection strengths

The collections are focused on the work of Bernard Shaw; modern Ontario theatre companies; and playwrights, actors, directors, designers, cutters, and administrators active in Ontario theatre life. Over the years, the library's commitment has grown significantly to the point that it has become the largest collection of Canadian theatre and Shaw-related materials in Canada with more than 200 collections in its holdings.

Professional theatres

Major theatres in regional centres are well-represented in our holdings, including:

Smaller companies

A great many smaller Ontario companies are represented in the collection including:

Companies that ceased operation

The records of many companies that are no longer in operation have also been acquired and preserved. They include:

International reach

In addition to holdings representing theatre in Ontario, many individuals have generously donated their own personal papers and materials which represent not just their work in Ontario but also internationally. Our library is much richer with holdings from Christopher Newton, William Hutt, Richard Rose, Judith Thompson, Hilary Corbett, Cameron Porteous, Tony van Bridge, Neil Munro, Susan Benson, George Walker, Barry Morse, and many others.

Topical, activist, thematic companies

Various facets of the rich complexity of Ontario and Canadian theatre are reflected in the Guelph archives. These include:

Children's theatre:

First Nations theatre:

LGBTQ theatre:

  • Sky Gilbert fonds
  • Buddies in Bad Times

Feminist theatre:

Multicultural and community theatre:

Various forms of theatre outside the mainstream:

Professional organizations and associations

Archives of major national professional organizations are also housed at Guelph, including:

Two examples of the preservation of important research and scholarship resources include:

Late 19th-Century collections

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.

LW Conolly Theatre Archives

A list of Archival & Special Collections Resources
Title Description Dates
Alan Nunn British-born actor and administrator who worked in theatres across England and Canada, including the Red Barn, Crest Theatre, National Arts Centre, National Ballet School, Shaw and Stratford Festivals 1934-2003
Andy McKim An award-winning Canadian director, dramaturge, and teacher with a distinguished career in supporting new play development in Canada 1960-2019
Arthur Penson A Canadian set and costume designer originally from British Columbia who has designed for theatres across the country, as well as in England and Ireland 1978-2002
Associated Designers of Canada A professional association that acts as a bartering agent primarily for set designers. This collection focuses on Canada's participation in the Prague Quadriennale. 1966-1988
Association for Canadian Theatre Research This professional association is dedicated to preserving Canadian theatre by bringing arts and academics together. It publishes in Theatre Research in Canada/Recherche du théâtre au Canada. 1976-2003
Augustin Hamon A French socialist-anarchist who translated George Bernard Shaw's plays into French 1876-1939
Barry MacGregor Canadian actor, director, teacher, and theatre administrator notable for his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK and the Shaw and Stratford Festivals in Ontario. 1920-2016
Barry Morse English-Canadian actor known for his roles in the TV series The Figitive and sci-fi film Space 1999 but who performed thousands of roles in TV, radio, film, and theatre 1919-2011
Black Theatre Canada Primarily production and publicity records for one of Canada's best known late-twentieth century Black theatre companies, which has since ceased operation. 1973-1988
Blyth Festival This is a smaller company that operates out of Blyth, Ontario, and focuses on featuring and producing exclusively Canadian content. 1975-present
Cahoots Theatre Project Cahoots is a multicultural theatre company that promotes and supports new writing projects. It now functions under the name Cahoots Theatre Company. 1986-1991
Cameron Porteous Set and costume designer, notable for his work as head of design at the Vancouver Playhouse (1972-1981) and director of design at the Shaw Festival (1980-1997). 1972-2005
Canadian Players Canadian Players was a professional theatre company that toured Canada, primarily performing the works of George Bernard Shaw and William Shakespeare. It has since ceased operation. 1954-1966
Canadian Stage Company Administrative and production records of this major professional theatre company in Toronto, ON, formed from a merger of Toronto Free Theatre and CentreStage. 1988-present
Carousel Players Designed for a younger audience, this theatre company focuses on encouraging the innovation and creation of new works by school-aged children. 1972-2014
Cecil O'Neal Director of Productions at Stratford Festival (1975-1985) and Professor of Theatre, Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University (1988 to 2011) 1975-1985
CentreStage Production, publicity, and administrative files of CentreStage, a professional theatre company in Toronto, ON, which merged in 1988 with Toronto Free Theatre to form the Canadian Stage Company. 1963-1988
Christopher Newton British-born actor, playwright, and artistic director, founding director of Theatre Calgary (1968-1971), artistic director of the Vancouver Playhouse (1973-1979), and of the Shaw Festival (1980-2002). 1941-2013
Citizens Theatre (Glasgow) An international Scottish flagship company based in Glasgow. 1944-1985
Creative Trust This professional organization worked with theatre, dance, and music companies to help with organizational sustainability and improving financial standing. It has since ceased operation. 1998-2010
Crest Theatre Operating between 1954-1966, Crest Theatre was a company that focused on both modern and classic works. It is no longer in operation. 1954-1966
David Lee fonds Photographic work of Toronto-based freelance photographer David Lee, related to Canadian theatres. 1984-2003, bulk 1990-1992
Earle Grey Shakespearean Festival Formed by British actors Earle Grey and Mary Godwin, the Earle Grey Shakespearean Festival is a topical festival focusing solely on the works of William Shakespeare. It ceased operation in 1958. 1949-1958
Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres A collection featuring two theatres that operated in the same building. These theatres are no longer producing live performances. 1914-15, 1987-1990
Equity Showcase Theatre This not-for-profit organisation encouraged the artistic development of theatre professionals. 1959-2007