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LW Conolly Theatre Archives


Since 1969 the library has been acquiring theatre collections, but it was really during the 1980s after the formal establishment of Archival and 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 all Archival & Special Collections Resources
Title Description Dates
Guelph Royal Opera House The Guelph Royal Opera House was a theatre that featured live performances before being turned into a movie theatre. It has since ceased operation. 1873-1926
Guelph Spring Festival A local festival that has been in operation since 1968 featuring both national and international talent. 1968-present.
Independent Theatre London (England) A theatre that once put on a performance of Bernard Shaw's Widowers' Houses. 1891-1894
International Stage in the Bernhardt Era Conference A conference that coincided with the Guelph Spring Festival in 1977. 1977
International Women Playwrights Conference A yearly conference organised by women for women. 1984-1991
Jacob & Sparrow Opera House A small opera company that functioned out of Toronto, ON. It is no longer in operation. 1891
Leonard Conolly fonds Distinguished Ontario-based author, editor, teacher and theatre scholar. 1900-2017
Lighthouse Festival Theatre A professional Ontario theatre in Southern Ontario that focuses on producing purely Canadian shows. 1980-2007
Linda Griffiths fonds Scripts, reviews, posters, dvds, vhs, books, research material. 1978-2014
Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People This is a smaller theatre company that produces Canadian works featuring school aged children. 1966-2003
Maxine Alexandra Graham fonds original set and costumes designed by Maxine Alexandra Graham covering some of her work with Theatre Aquarius and major theatre across Canada dating back to 1965. 1965-2007
Museum Children's Theatre A theatre company that offered opportunities for children to experience theatre and the arts. 1964-65
Native Earth Performing Arts A topical production company focusing on providing opportunities both on stage and behind the scenes for Indigenous people. 1981-2000
Ne'er Do Well Thespians This Toronto based company focused solely on Canadian content. It is no longer in operation. 1975-1982
Necessary Angel Necessary Angel is a professional company that focuses on creating works that challenge and engage audiences. It is still in operation. 1978-present
New Theatre This was an alternate theatre in Toronto. 1971-1982
Nightwood Theatre The oldest professional women's theatre company in Canada, operating out of Toronto, ON. 1979-present
Open Circle Theatre This topical theatre produced socially centred works as well as adaptations to classics and musicals. It is no longer in operation. 1973-1982
Outaouais Popular Theatre Archives An Ottawa based topical theatre company that challenged the societal norms with its productions. It is no longer in operation. 1975-1994
Pacific Shaw Festival An offshoot of the Shaw Festival taking part on the Canadian west coast, sponsored by the Coconut Theatre Society in Vancouver. It lasted for one season, 1990-1991. 1990-1991
Penguin Theatre This company, formed in Ottawa in 1976, focused on small, intimate productions to allow interaction between the actors and audience. It has since ceased operation. 1976-1980
Phoenix Theatre Founded in Edmonton in 1981 by Keith Digby, Phoenix Theatre focused on Canadian works. It has since ceased operation. 1974-1983
Play Actors Play Actors operated out of Toronto from 1953-1958. 1953-1958
Playwrights Union of Canada Having gone by many names, the Playwrights Union of Canada functioned from 1984-2002, when it was renamed the Playwrights Guild of Canada. Its purpose was to support playwrights locally and abroad. 1971-1985
Playwrights' Workshop Montreal A play development organisation that was founded in 1963. 1963-2010