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Artword Theatre has been given notice that it must wind up operations in its present location at 75 Portland Street by March 1st, 2006, to make way for a condominium development. The property, comprising three interconnected buildings, has been sold to the Freed Development Corporation, which is also developing several other sites in the immediate area. On Friday October 21, the new owner Peter Freed visited the theatre to give formal notice. The meeting was amicable, and the outcome not unexpected.

There are four productions still to run. Theatre Gargantua’s E-dentity, directed by Jacquie P.A. Thomas, opens in the Artword main space on October 27. The AfriCan Theatre Ensemble’s Market of Tales, directed by Ronald Weihs, runs in the Artword Alternative space from November 9 to December 3. On November 18, Pleiades Theatre starts its run of Goldoni’s The Amorous Servant.

The final production will be The Gambler, written by Ronald Weihs, interweaving Dostoevsky’s novel with the story of the author’s own desperate gamble. A co-production of Molly Thom’s Beggarly Productions, Alianak Productions and Artword, it stars David Ferry, Jennifer Phipps and Irene Poole, and runs from January 26 to February 19, 2006.

The current Artword Theatre was created in 1999 by Ronald Weihs (Artistic Director) and Judith Sandiford (Managing Director) in a former clothing factory. For six years before that, they ran a 60-seat studio theatre next door at 81 Portland Street, up a flight of narrow stairs to the second floor. In 1998, Abrar Galani, the owner, helped them renovate the adjoining building at 75 Portland into the 150-seat main theatre, an art gallery, and a 60-seat studio theatre called the Artword Alternative.

Artword has always operated as a private company without arts funding. The couple first thought of building the theatre just as drastic cuts in arts funding were being announced. They decided to build it anyway, and find out whether they could survive on their own.

Artword’s programming combines rentals to other theatre companies, Artword’s own productions (written and/or directed by Weihs and designed by Sandiford), and co-productions. Rentals are always carefully selected to reflect the standards and tastes of the two partners. Sandiford, a painter as well as a designer, curates the gallery. The two have a special interest in artists and theatre companies that are not in the mainstream, and doing innovative work. They are fond of music, dance, storytelling and combining different art forms. They see Artword as a safety zone for creative people in a world driven by commercialism.

From 1993 to February 2006, Artword will have been home to 372 separate projects, including 110 full theatre productions (not including workshops or festivals), 113 concerts, 37 dance programs, 13 festivals (including the Fringe and Summerworks), and 24 art exhibitions.

In 2004, the Artistic Director of AfriCan Theatre Ensemble, Dr. Modupe Olaogun, asked Weihs to become Resident Director of ACTE. Judith Sandiford assumed two functions: Administrative Manager and Resident Designer. Since that time, their theatre work has been channeled through ACTE: Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman, Donald Carr’s The Full Nelson, Fate of a Cockroach by Tawfik al-Hakim, and the current production, Market of Tales. As Artword’s resident company, AfriCan Theatre Ensemble will be very involved in charting Artword’s future course.

This is not the end of Artword, by any means. Artword is not a building, it is a vision of how creative work should be conducted, and a context in which that work can be carried out. Ron and Judith are busy figuring out where, and what, the next Artword will be.

Artword’s website will continue and be updated constantly. The current contact phone number 416-408-1146 will also be maintained.