About Us

Theatre Passe Muraille means Theatre Beyond Walls. 

We are a theatre company located in Toronto, known for our charming historic building (former Bakery & Stables turned into 2 theatre spaces). Our company is focused on developing and producing new alternative plays that strive to articulate a distinct Canadian voice that reflects the complexity of our intercultural society.

Hey, you’re part of it!

Theatre Passe Muraille is a two-story brick building that used to be a bread factory. There are warm bricks with large windows and sign and doors that are all painted in red.

Vision

Theatre Passe Muraille believes there should be a more diverse representation of artists, audience members and stories in our theatre. TPM aspires to be a leader locally, nationally and internationally in establishing, promoting and embracing collaborative and inclusive theatre practices. We do this so that we can support and ignite the voices of unique artists, communities and audiences.

Mission

Our mission is to break down walls by pushing against boundaries. In turn, we want to create art with and for an audience, examining the marginal, the unexplored and the unforeseen. Overall, we aim to articulate a distinct Canadian voice that reflects the complexity of our intercultural society.

Mandate

Theatre Passe Muraille has a special interest in:

  • Producing theatre that is provocative, subversive and joyful
  • Supporting and presenting independent artists and companies, emerging artists and marginalized voices
  • Modelling new approaches to creation, collaboration, production and stewardship
  • Providing mentorship, expertise, space and opportunity to people, artists and companies
  • Encouraging, enhancing and increasing meaningful interactions between our artists, staff, audiences, neighbourhoods and supporters.

Theatre Passe Muraille is a member of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) and engages professional artists who are members of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association. Theatre Passe Muraille is also a member of the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, Theatre Ontario and the Creative Trust. Theatre Passe Muraille is funded by the Canadian Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, and by its commercial sponsors and individual benefactors. 

Land Acknowledgement

Theatre Passe Muraille gratefully acknowledges the original caretakers of this land, the Anishinabek, Wendat, Haudenosaunee and the Mississaugas of the Credit. We embrace collaborative and collective values as exemplified by Indigenous cultures, and we aspire to live up to those values. We are also particularly inspired by the Dish With One Spoon Treaty. This agreement binds people on this land to share peacefully with their neighbours, so that we may all have enough. 

There is one dish, one spoon, and no knife. In that spirit, we honour all who came before us, our own ancestors as well as all the Indigenous caretakers, named and unnamed, recorded and unrecorded. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work, play, and create here in this community, and on this territory. 

Thank you.

History

Founded by Jim Garrard in 1968, Theatre Passe Muraille (meaning “theatre beyond walls”) is one of the first alternative theatre companies in Canada. It was first based at Rochdale College, at the time North America’s largest free university and student residence. Here, the company aimed to break down barriers between audience and performers, stressing the liveness of theatre. After the infamous Rochelle Owens production, Futz (1969), the company would later move to a church hall at 11 Trinity Square. Other productions include Jean Genet’s The Maids (1969) and Lanford Wilson’s Home Free (1969).

It was not until Paul Thompson took over in 1972, where the company was able to acquire its present-day home: the former Bakery and Stables at 16 Ryerson Avenue. 

1979 photo sheet of our venue
full cast and director pose together in this warm, old photograph. Paul Thompson lies on the floor sideways smiling

From this time until the early 90s, the company attracted talented performers from across the country, affirming a pioneering Canadian spirit to the works made during this time. 

In shows like The Farm Show (1972) and I Love You, Baby Blue (1975), TPM developed the collaborative, actor-driven form of playwriting known as collective creation, a practice that would be long sustained by the company to this day. As well, Theatre Passe Muraille offered an affordable space for emerging companies like Buddies in Bad Times, Richard Rose’s Necessary Angel, Nightwood Theatre and VideoCabaret. Many communities at this point saw themselves in theatre for the first time, with audiences and interest growing for alternative and experimental theatre in Toronto.

The 1980s defined the theatre’s commitment to new Canadian work. Playwrights like Sally Clark, Brad Fraser, Linda Griffith were presented along with writers like Donna Lypchuk, Paul Ledoux, David S. Young and Tomson Highway throughout the decade. The 1990s continued this commitment to new work, with an emphasis on political activism, featuring works like DNA Theatre’s and Platform 9’s The Last Supper (1994), Aurash (1998) by Sol Parsa and Brian Quirt and Michael Healey’s The Drawer Boy (1999).

With cultural diversity at the forefront, the 2000s and 2010s, TPM produced key plays like The Yoko Ono Project (2000) with Jean Yoon and Trey Anthony’s da kink in my hair (2003). Some featured playwrights and collectives include Anita Majumdar, M.J. Kang, d’bi.young anitafrika, Carlos Bulosan Theatre and One Yellow Theatre to name a few. Other important collaborations arrived with Groundwater Productions, Alameda Theatre Company, Outside the March and Cahoots. 

Samson is dancing happily, on the stage floor that looks like a flobe with blue lights and shadows

Accessibility initiatives were introduced at TPM with funding specific to reducing barriers in 2015. This included offering individual patrons audio technology to assist with hearing, and providing ASL-interpreted performances, audio-described performances and relaxed performances. 

TPM also emerged with Buzz, a play development program designed for the needs of creation-based (or collaboratively devised) productions. At its core, Buzz is focusing on a play in its development, engaging a creative team who then asks the audience questions about the play. The feedback allows the company to continue developing their work with their most important ally, the audience. The process has been extensively used by a number of shows TPM has produced among them Kiinalik, Acha Bacha, Caught, Elle, and Life, Death and the Blues. 

Collage of various moments from accessibility labs. There are some headphones, smartphones and technology as well as people communicating in sign language, and speaking to one another

The Digital Transformation Project emerged amidst the COVID-19 pandemic where we took inspiration from digital approaches and found a lack of access to skills/technologies from artists in order to produce and present digital productions. Through our Accessibility Labs, we explored a series of experiments integrating accessibility practices within various artistic processes. In the Digital Creators Lab, digital advisors and dramaturges work with participants as they learn, explore and imagine new visions from their works. From conception to a workshop, these works will be presented in the newly equipped and accessible Backspace.

As well, the Backspace Renovation will better support digital project creation by building a more accessible, and welcoming environment for theatre. Even as live theatre begins to return, we aim to help artists augment their work with digital resources and equipment, now with the opportunity to stream worldwide and go beyond walls!

TPM is also working towards an exciting plan to become a fully relaxed venue by 23.24 season. Experimentation, accessibility, and site-specificity, Theatre Passe Muraille’s inherent focus is to take theatre beyond its walls.

More?

Hey, you’re part of it too — Go beyond the walls with us! Come out to a show, or to a community event, follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on company updates, new shows, and artist opportunities!

We’d like to thank Josh Marchesini for working on this “about us” page during his co-op placement at Humber College!