This weekend at our May 5th Gala we are celebrating “Speaking Out” which has been a theme throughout our history as a theatre.

Theatre Passe Muraille began in the basement parking lot of Rochdale College in 1968, then North America’s largest “free university” and a radical student residence. Theatre Passe Muraille (Theatre Without Walls) aimed to break down the barriers between audience and performers. Stressing theatre as event, it was the first of Canada’s so-called “alternative theatre” companies.

Theatre Passe Muraille gained early notoriety in 1969 with a production at the Central Library theatre.It was a production of Rochelle Owens’s Futz, an avant-garde piece about a farmer who outrages a small town in rural America by engaging in sexual activity with his pet pig. Obscenity charges were laid against the producers, director, actors and stage crew, but 4 subsequent convictions were eventually overturned.

It is worth noting that Garrard moved the company to a church hall at 11 Trinity Square, producing such plays as Jean Genet’s The Maids and Lanford Wilson’s Home Free, both featuring a young Kate NELLIGAN.

This incident with the police issuing summons to performers at Theatre Passe Muraille was only the first of many such incidents, most notably I Love You Baby Blue which caused a stir with its full frontal nudity and brought the police out to make public indecency charges that didn’t stick.

If you want you can see CBC archival footage of the police raiding a production of Futz in 1969. Watch the video about Futz.

See you at the Gala May 5th at 6:30.

Andy McKim