HISTORY: ACME Theatre Co.
by Dwayne Stevenson & Christopher Sage
The ACME Theatre Co. has established a well-deserved reputation for creating powerful, provocative theatre. The origin of that reputation rests with the company’s Artistic Director, Dean Gabourie, who founded ACME in 1989. From the beginning, ACME's approach and philosophy were simple: remarkable players challenged by the themes and ideas of remarkable plays could establish a dynamic presence in the Toronto theatre scene. That simple approach has borne marvellous fruit.
To begin at the beginning:
In late 1989, ACME became involved in Theatre Passé Muraille’s Barnyard Interplay. Barnyard Interplay was established for Toronto writers specifically to workshop new Canadian plays. Gabourie gained valuable insight and experience in creating dramatic plays through the process of collective creation. From the collective experience, several new plays were inspired. For ACME, Barnyard Interplay provided indelible proof that actors working collectively could expand the creative experience exponentially. And in the process, create great work – great Canadian work.
Success and acclaim:
In January 1990 ACME enters into rehearsals for the Canadian premiere of John Patrick Shanley’s SAVAGE IN LIMBO, directed by Linda Matassa. This gritty ensemble piece achieves a measure of critical success and establishes ACME as a legitimate force in the crowded Toronto theatre scene. With the success of 'SAVAGE', Gabourie moves quickly to secure the rights for and mount a production of Edward Bond’s SAVED, directed by Colin Taylor. Rehearsals began in November and the play opens to excellent reviews and an astounding 90 percent box office. SAVED garners two Dora Award nominations, with Colleen Williams winning for Best Performance by an Actor, Independent Division.
A growing collective:
In 1991 ACME is a principal contributor to The Umbrella Factory’s landmark production of MARAT/DeSADE, directed by Greg Kramer, Laura J. Forth & Jackie PA Thomas. The production plays to sold-out houses. MARAT/DeSADE earns a Dora Award nomination for Outstanding Production, Independent Division. In September 1992, ACME produces Horvitz’s’ LINE, directed by David Oiye. LINE is both a critical and financial success.
Making art indigestible:
In 1993 ACME presents the North American premiere of Howard Barker’s GOLGO, directed by Peter Hinton. Barker’s theories and approach to creating drama are the foundation for his Theatre of Catastrophe. 'The Theatre of Catastrophe takes as it’s the first principle that art is not digestible, rather it is an irritant in the consciousness, like the grain of sand in the oyster’s gut.'
A shift in direction:
In 1996 ACME presents the Canadian Premiere of Sam Shepard’s political satire STATES of SHOCK, a vaudevillian nightmare, directed by David Oiye. Later in that year Gabourie further develops his own World view & ACME’s creative process by meeting with artists from Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, England’s Royal Court Theatre, and working with playwright & director Howard Barker's ensemble, The Wrestling School. When Gabourie returns from his time with Barker, he shifts his artistic focus from actor to director.
In 1999 Gabourie directs the World Premiere of THE WATER CRAWLERS by Chalmers Award-winning playwright, Geoff Kavanagh. In 2001, Gabourie directs the Canadian premiere of ST. NICHOLAS by Conor McPherson and also accepts an invitation from Antoni Cimolino to be the assistant director on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at the renowned Stratford Festival in Ontario Canada. In 2001, Gabourie also co-founded the performance ensemble the CO.
In 2002 Gabourie is hired by Stratford to aid in casting & new play development, as well he directs and acts as assistant director on productions at the Festival. At Stratford, Gabourie receives the Tyrone Guthrie, Jean Gascon Directors Award and is nominated in 2003 for the Canada Council John Hirsch Director's Award, by Artistic Director Richard Monette.
In 2004 Gabourie directs a production of TWO GENTLEMEN of VERONA for Toronto-based Shakespeare in the Rough.
In 2005 Gabourie begins work on CROOK BACK DICKY, a punk rock n' puppets adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Richard III”. During the summer of 2005, Gabourie takes part in the One Yellow Rabbit, Summer Lab Intensive.
In 2006, Gabourie directs a production of Edward Albee's THE GOAT for Neptune Theatre and then returns to Stratford to assist Antoni Cimolino on CORIOLANUS. That summer CROOK BACK DICKY becomes a hit at the Fringe of Toronto Festival.
In 2007 CROOK BACK DICKY is remounted at Toronto’s, Theatre Centre. Gabourie directs AS YOU LIKE IT for the historic Hilberry Repertory Theatre at Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan.
A Stratford adventure:
In the fall of 2008, Gabourie is appointed the Assistant Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival,
by Artistic Director Des McAnuff, a tenure accepted until 2012.