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 & 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
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
Dan H Laurence & Shaviana Collections Materials collected by George Bernard Shaw scholar and bibliographer Dan Laurence with some additions by other Shaw researchers. 1856-2005
David Antscherl Ontario-based artist, instructor, actor, art director, and a set and production designer for both stage and film
David Lee fonds Photographic work of Toronto-based freelance photographer David Lee, related to Canadian theatres. 1984-2003, bulk 1990-1992
Earle Grey Shakespeare 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
Eugene Benson fonds Contains first editions, draft editions and working copies of creative works by Eugene Benson, correspondence, newspaper clippings, photos and slides. 1915-2012
Factory Theatre Factory Theatre is an experimental theatre based in Toronto which creates and features new Canadian Content only. 1970-1996
FLIP Publicity A public relations agency with a focus on theatre and other performing arts. 1988-2010
Gaiety Theatre (Manchester) A now closed theatre that was used throughout the early to mid 20th Century in England. 1904
Grand Theatre A professional Ontario theatre that opened in 1901 and is still producing live performances today. 1985-Present
Great Canadian Theatre Company Formed in 1975, this Canadian theatre was created by U of Ottawa Students and Professors. 1975-1993
Ground Zero Productions This controversial topical theatre was originally based in Toronto but has since moved to Alberta. 1982-1997
Guelph Light Opera Company A small company, focused on vocal talent, that is no longer in operation. 1971
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