Community theatre space ready to call Parkdale home

WhatsOn Aug 10, 2017 by Hilary Caton Parkdale Villager

Small, independent theatre spaces are becoming a distant memory in the city as an increasing number are pushed out of their space. But two indie theatre companies aren’t ready to exit stage left just yet.

Unit 102 Actors and LeRoy Street Theatre decided the show must go on and created the Assembly Theatre together in the heart of Parkdale in a charming space on Queen Street West.

“This will become such a hub for indie theatre, since we are one of the few in the city,” said Anne  van Leeuwen, one of the co-founders of the Assembly Theatre.

The newly renovated 75-seat black box theatre at 1479 Queen St. W., is replacing Unit 102’s flagship theatre space that was forced to shut its doors at 376 Dufferin St. The space couldn’t compete with the wave of gentrification heading westward, which will transform their theatre into a craft brewery, complete with retail and outdoor patio space.

“When we were looking for a place for Assembly Theatre, we were open to any space in the city, as long as it was an affordable venue. But it was always a goal to keep it west,” said Luis Fernandes, the co-founder of Assembly Theatre.

“Having lived in Parkdale for so long, so many of the shows we’ve done have been geared toward ideas of gentrification and I did a series called P-Dale that spoke specifically to the area. So we’ve always had a deep tie to the neighbourhood.”

Fernandes created the Assembly Theatre with friend and fellow actor van Leeuwen, who founded the LeRoy Street Theatre. The pair wants to encourage all types of theatre in the space without restricting anyone’s creative vision. He said he’s not into being a "cultural gatekeeper.”

“People should have that opportunity to use space for what they want to do. That’s what breeds good art, people being independently capable of creating their own stuff,” he added.

They plan to make the theatre a versatile and flexible performance space that will also be available for rentals to the Toronto indie theatre community. All proceeds from tickets go directly to the artist and it’s important to make sure it’s affordable for actors and patrons alike.

“We were talking a lot about having more affordable ticket prices, especially for people living in the neighbourhood,” explained van Leeuwen.

“And with the play coming in October (The Chance), the play is very much about this kind of neighbourhood and this kind of people and we want them to come and see the show.”

This theatre space concept is relatively new to the Parkdale community and it has businesses and community members buzzing.  Executive director of the Parkdale Village Business Improvement Association Anna Bartula is excited to have something like this added to the fabric of the community.

“I think that it’s really exciting. It adds to the artist-type community that’s in the neighbourhood and brings the theatrical art form to a community that may not have access to that,” Bartula told the Villager.

“It’s a creative medium people in the neighbourhood don’t always get to experience often, or at all, because it can be expensive.”

Bartula is also pleased to hear it will “actually provide a stage for clubs, groups and organizations to perform and share their theatre with the community.”

Community-driven spaces, like theirs, are becoming scarce due to widespread gentrification in the city. When their original space on Dufferin was lost, Fernandes admits he thought it was just due to bad luck and “didn’t think it was a trend.”

“I was like ‘oh, this area is being gentrified, this happens,’ but then right after, we started seeing more and more spaces close or move,” he said.

“I don’t know how else to explain it, other than art hubs make areas very attractive and as soon as you do that people start to come in and it becomes so attractive that you can’t have it (the space) anymore. I hate to say that, but it’s true."

Venues like the Storefront Theatre, the Dirt Underneath and the Box Theatre Toronto started closing completely or moving out of the downtown core. By the time Fernandes and van Leeuwen realized what was happening to their beloved theatre spaces, it was too late.

“None of us saw it coming,” said van  Leeuwen.

Fernandes admits throwing a theatre space into Parkdale’s mix is “very conflicting” for him because he feels like he's contributing to the "cycle of gentrification."

“It only adds to the gentrification even though you’re trying to fight against it. I feel conflicted; I didn’t mean to do that. I just wanted to speak some truth and tell some art,” he said.

“It’s a very strange feeling knowing that it’s part of the cycle.”

The Assembly Theatre plans to be in Parkdale for at least the next five years, and Fernandes and van Leeuwen are hopeful that the community will embrace them because after all this is for them, said Fernandes.

“It’s not about making it a clubhouse for individuals, but more like a hub for everyone,” he added.

“I hope the community comes because I’m so tired of doing theatre for other theatre people, I want people from our neighbourhood to feel like this is their place.”

The Assembly Theatre officially opens on Aug. 13 at 1467 Queen St. W.

Community theatre space ready to call Parkdale home

Assembly Theatre aims to fill void in arts community

WhatsOn Aug 10, 2017 by Hilary Caton Parkdale Villager

Small, independent theatre spaces are becoming a distant memory in the city as an increasing number are pushed out of their space. But two indie theatre companies aren’t ready to exit stage left just yet.

Unit 102 Actors and LeRoy Street Theatre decided the show must go on and created the Assembly Theatre together in the heart of Parkdale in a charming space on Queen Street West.

“This will become such a hub for indie theatre, since we are one of the few in the city,” said Anne  van Leeuwen, one of the co-founders of the Assembly Theatre.

The newly renovated 75-seat black box theatre at 1479 Queen St. W., is replacing Unit 102’s flagship theatre space that was forced to shut its doors at 376 Dufferin St. The space couldn’t compete with the wave of gentrification heading westward, which will transform their theatre into a craft brewery, complete with retail and outdoor patio space.

“When we were looking for a place for Assembly Theatre, we were open to any space in the city, as long as it was an affordable venue. But it was always a goal to keep it west,” said Luis Fernandes, the co-founder of Assembly Theatre.

“Having lived in Parkdale for so long, so many of the shows we’ve done have been geared toward ideas of gentrification and I did a series called P-Dale that spoke specifically to the area. So we’ve always had a deep tie to the neighbourhood.”

Fernandes created the Assembly Theatre with friend and fellow actor van Leeuwen, who founded the LeRoy Street Theatre. The pair wants to encourage all types of theatre in the space without restricting anyone’s creative vision. He said he’s not into being a "cultural gatekeeper.”

“People should have that opportunity to use space for what they want to do. That’s what breeds good art, people being independently capable of creating their own stuff,” he added.

They plan to make the theatre a versatile and flexible performance space that will also be available for rentals to the Toronto indie theatre community. All proceeds from tickets go directly to the artist and it’s important to make sure it’s affordable for actors and patrons alike.

“We were talking a lot about having more affordable ticket prices, especially for people living in the neighbourhood,” explained van Leeuwen.

“And with the play coming in October (The Chance), the play is very much about this kind of neighbourhood and this kind of people and we want them to come and see the show.”

This theatre space concept is relatively new to the Parkdale community and it has businesses and community members buzzing.  Executive director of the Parkdale Village Business Improvement Association Anna Bartula is excited to have something like this added to the fabric of the community.

“I think that it’s really exciting. It adds to the artist-type community that’s in the neighbourhood and brings the theatrical art form to a community that may not have access to that,” Bartula told the Villager.

“It’s a creative medium people in the neighbourhood don’t always get to experience often, or at all, because it can be expensive.”

Bartula is also pleased to hear it will “actually provide a stage for clubs, groups and organizations to perform and share their theatre with the community.”

Community-driven spaces, like theirs, are becoming scarce due to widespread gentrification in the city. When their original space on Dufferin was lost, Fernandes admits he thought it was just due to bad luck and “didn’t think it was a trend.”

“I was like ‘oh, this area is being gentrified, this happens,’ but then right after, we started seeing more and more spaces close or move,” he said.

“I don’t know how else to explain it, other than art hubs make areas very attractive and as soon as you do that people start to come in and it becomes so attractive that you can’t have it (the space) anymore. I hate to say that, but it’s true."

Venues like the Storefront Theatre, the Dirt Underneath and the Box Theatre Toronto started closing completely or moving out of the downtown core. By the time Fernandes and van Leeuwen realized what was happening to their beloved theatre spaces, it was too late.

“None of us saw it coming,” said van  Leeuwen.

Fernandes admits throwing a theatre space into Parkdale’s mix is “very conflicting” for him because he feels like he's contributing to the "cycle of gentrification."

“It only adds to the gentrification even though you’re trying to fight against it. I feel conflicted; I didn’t mean to do that. I just wanted to speak some truth and tell some art,” he said.

“It’s a very strange feeling knowing that it’s part of the cycle.”

The Assembly Theatre plans to be in Parkdale for at least the next five years, and Fernandes and van Leeuwen are hopeful that the community will embrace them because after all this is for them, said Fernandes.

“It’s not about making it a clubhouse for individuals, but more like a hub for everyone,” he added.

“I hope the community comes because I’m so tired of doing theatre for other theatre people, I want people from our neighbourhood to feel like this is their place.”

The Assembly Theatre officially opens on Aug. 13 at 1467 Queen St. W.

Community theatre space ready to call Parkdale home

Assembly Theatre aims to fill void in arts community

WhatsOn Aug 10, 2017 by Hilary Caton Parkdale Villager

Small, independent theatre spaces are becoming a distant memory in the city as an increasing number are pushed out of their space. But two indie theatre companies aren’t ready to exit stage left just yet.

Unit 102 Actors and LeRoy Street Theatre decided the show must go on and created the Assembly Theatre together in the heart of Parkdale in a charming space on Queen Street West.

“This will become such a hub for indie theatre, since we are one of the few in the city,” said Anne  van Leeuwen, one of the co-founders of the Assembly Theatre.

The newly renovated 75-seat black box theatre at 1479 Queen St. W., is replacing Unit 102’s flagship theatre space that was forced to shut its doors at 376 Dufferin St. The space couldn’t compete with the wave of gentrification heading westward, which will transform their theatre into a craft brewery, complete with retail and outdoor patio space.

“When we were looking for a place for Assembly Theatre, we were open to any space in the city, as long as it was an affordable venue. But it was always a goal to keep it west,” said Luis Fernandes, the co-founder of Assembly Theatre.

“Having lived in Parkdale for so long, so many of the shows we’ve done have been geared toward ideas of gentrification and I did a series called P-Dale that spoke specifically to the area. So we’ve always had a deep tie to the neighbourhood.”

Fernandes created the Assembly Theatre with friend and fellow actor van Leeuwen, who founded the LeRoy Street Theatre. The pair wants to encourage all types of theatre in the space without restricting anyone’s creative vision. He said he’s not into being a "cultural gatekeeper.”

“People should have that opportunity to use space for what they want to do. That’s what breeds good art, people being independently capable of creating their own stuff,” he added.

They plan to make the theatre a versatile and flexible performance space that will also be available for rentals to the Toronto indie theatre community. All proceeds from tickets go directly to the artist and it’s important to make sure it’s affordable for actors and patrons alike.

“We were talking a lot about having more affordable ticket prices, especially for people living in the neighbourhood,” explained van Leeuwen.

“And with the play coming in October (The Chance), the play is very much about this kind of neighbourhood and this kind of people and we want them to come and see the show.”

This theatre space concept is relatively new to the Parkdale community and it has businesses and community members buzzing.  Executive director of the Parkdale Village Business Improvement Association Anna Bartula is excited to have something like this added to the fabric of the community.

“I think that it’s really exciting. It adds to the artist-type community that’s in the neighbourhood and brings the theatrical art form to a community that may not have access to that,” Bartula told the Villager.

“It’s a creative medium people in the neighbourhood don’t always get to experience often, or at all, because it can be expensive.”

Bartula is also pleased to hear it will “actually provide a stage for clubs, groups and organizations to perform and share their theatre with the community.”

Community-driven spaces, like theirs, are becoming scarce due to widespread gentrification in the city. When their original space on Dufferin was lost, Fernandes admits he thought it was just due to bad luck and “didn’t think it was a trend.”

“I was like ‘oh, this area is being gentrified, this happens,’ but then right after, we started seeing more and more spaces close or move,” he said.

“I don’t know how else to explain it, other than art hubs make areas very attractive and as soon as you do that people start to come in and it becomes so attractive that you can’t have it (the space) anymore. I hate to say that, but it’s true."

Venues like the Storefront Theatre, the Dirt Underneath and the Box Theatre Toronto started closing completely or moving out of the downtown core. By the time Fernandes and van Leeuwen realized what was happening to their beloved theatre spaces, it was too late.

“None of us saw it coming,” said van  Leeuwen.

Fernandes admits throwing a theatre space into Parkdale’s mix is “very conflicting” for him because he feels like he's contributing to the "cycle of gentrification."

“It only adds to the gentrification even though you’re trying to fight against it. I feel conflicted; I didn’t mean to do that. I just wanted to speak some truth and tell some art,” he said.

“It’s a very strange feeling knowing that it’s part of the cycle.”

The Assembly Theatre plans to be in Parkdale for at least the next five years, and Fernandes and van Leeuwen are hopeful that the community will embrace them because after all this is for them, said Fernandes.

“It’s not about making it a clubhouse for individuals, but more like a hub for everyone,” he added.

“I hope the community comes because I’m so tired of doing theatre for other theatre people, I want people from our neighbourhood to feel like this is their place.”

The Assembly Theatre officially opens on Aug. 13 at 1467 Queen St. W.