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THEATRE TERRIFIC HISTORY
Theatre Terrific was initially instigated by parents of adult children with varying developmental and physical disabilities who had no access to the arts; in particular theatre. In 1985, Connie Hargrave founded Theatre Terrific, with a twin educational and artistic development aim. Since then, and with the energetic leadership of Sue Lister in its first decade, it has consistently supported arts training and development for people with disabilities across the lower mainland of British Columbia in Canada. Often in collaboration with well-respected professionals, its early works took up disability themes to combat stigma and toured schools in Vancouver and BC.
Celebrating their ten-year anniversary in 1995, the company could cite a growing sense of place and recognition in the local artistic community. The following years saw both many successes and near collapses due to funding and procedural differences, with six different artistic directors at the reins for the next ten years.
The present Artistic Directorship has been in place since 2005 under Susanna Uchatius, and has seen a time of both struggle and flourish. At the core of her leadership is the deep belief in providing actors of all abilities the full respect of challenge, rigor and supportive risk in the study, development and performance of theatre. Theatre Terrific believes that full inclusion is vital and that to collaboratively ‘work’ at the craft gives all participants a sense of value for themselves and those they work with, and a sense of ownership for the work they ultimately develop and perform together in public.
Theatre Terrific’s season consists of a large cast production done as part of the Vancouver Fringe Festival, a second, site-specific production that brings theatre/puppets/live music/a universal story to a local Vancouver Park, and a third, full professional production that plays in one of Vancouver’s local theatres.
The work has moved past disability stories and instead seeks to give legitimate inclusive voice to universal subjects that concern all of us irrelevant of any person’s applied label. Hearing the perspective of those who live with difference on subjects such as the state of our world’s water supply, the hilarious story of a doomed truck full of chickens or the metaphorical take on the true story of the family erasure of Daniel Miller, playwright Arthur Miller’s son born with Down Syndrome, gives both the actors and the audience a place they can meet as equal citizens in every sense of the word.
In the words of Czech playwright Vaclav Havel;
“ Theater is a point at which the intellectual and spiritual life of the human community crystallizes. It is a space in which the community can exercise its freedom and come to understanding.”
This is the goal that Theatre Terrific pursues.
By Susanna Uchatius, Artistic Director
Theatre Terrific Historical Highlights
1985 – Theatre Terrific founded by Connie Hargrave to provide theatre training and performance opportunities to disabled persons in Vancouver region. Theatre Terrific is Western Canada’s oldest theatre company working with mixed abilities casting.
1994 – Theatre Terrific received a Jessie Richardson Award for their distinctive mandate in serving a part of the community that otherwise has no outlet for their work to be seen.
1995 – Theatre Terrific was nominated for two Jessie Richardson Awards for ‘Outstanding Ensemble Cast’ and ‘Best Script’ for its production of Breeding Doubts.
2006 – Theatre Terrific developed and staged Naked Oranges at Performance Works theatre in Vancouver, subsequently invited by Judith Marcuse to perform at Earth: The World Urban Festival.
2008 – Theatre Terrific’s staged reading of The Glass Box was included in the Magnetic North Festivals programming.
2010 – Theatre Terrific pursued and was successfully awarded a sub-lease for non-profit cultural office space in Vancouver’s innovative Downtown Eastside Woodwards Heritage Building establishing a permanent, central and accessible administrative home.
2011 – Theatre Terrific was awarded Nightswimming Theatre’s Pure Research Award in collaboration with Simon Fraser University School for Contemporary Arts in Vancouver, which supported research into pedagogical practices of voice study and the tool of Sprechgesang as an accessible vocal tool.
2011 – Theatre Terrific develops and produces its first site-specific work, The Bread Project in collaboration with Vancouver City Parks and Rec as part of the City of Vancouver’s 125 Year celebrations.
2011 – TTS’s AD is approached by award winning Canadian playwright Pamela Boyd to direct and produce the work I Love Mondays due to TTS’s mandate of respect for inclusive authentic casting.
2012 – Theatre Terrific’s process and productions are discussed at great length in the McGill-Queen’s University Press publication STAGE TURNS Canadian Disability Theatre by Dr. Kirsty Johnston.
2012 – Theatre Terrific AD Susanna Uchatius and collaborator James Coomber attend the first Integrated National Dance/Theatre Conference held in Calgary, Alberta along with like practising companies from Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.
2013 – Playwright Canada Press Ltd requests a copy of Theatre Terrific’s production, The Glass Box expressing an interest in including the play in an upcoming anthology.
2013 – The paper, Rigour, Respect and Disability Theatre, written by Susanna Uchatius and James Coomber is asked to be presented along with a process workshop as part of the International Federation for Theatre Research Conference, in Barcelona, July 2013, recognizing inclusive Disability Theatre, as a respected genre within the international theatre community.