Seventh Stage was founded in 2006 by Melissa-Jane Shaw, Rosa Laborde, Kelly Straughan and Kelsey Matheson. Having come across many other driven and talented female artists who were struggling out of theatre school, they wanted a company that would provide opportunities that were not typically available in the current professional arena.
In spring 2007, Seventh Stage Theatre produced the Canadian premiere of Anthony Minghella’s Whale Music, which showcased 27 young female theatre professionals; put to stage 17 new works by emerging Canadian female artists via our whale riders program; gave a portion of proceeds to Ernestine’s Women Shelter and was both a critical and box office success. It was truly an amazing start for the company.
In 2008, Melissa-Jane Shaw took on the role of Artistic Producer and Kelly Straughan took on the role of Artistic Director. Together they assessed the company and made a few key changes, most prominently deciding to focus on female playwrights, effectively bringing them closer to their mandate of providing more opportunities to women artists. In 2008 Seventh Stage Theatre Productions was granted its charitable status and is an incorporated not-for-profit with a wonderful Board of Directors.
Our 2010 season began with a successful production of The Red Queen Effect at the Next Stage Theatre Festival. This original, collectively devised piece was part office drama, part grotesque cabaret, featuring an impressive cast of 12. We were honoured with rave reviews, sold out shows and a Dora Nomination for Outstanding Costume Design.
In May 2010, we presented the Canadian premiere of Heather Raffo’s 9 Parts of Desire at the Theatre Centre featuring a cast of nine diverse women. The show was a critical and box office success, earning a Dora Nomination for Outstanding Performance Ensemble.
The 2010 season ended triumphantly with two festival production including This is About the Push by then emerging playwright Rachel Blair at the Toronto Fringe Festival. The production received accolades, including NOW Magazine’s Best Production, Best Director and Best Ensemble. We completed our season in August with Liz Duffy Adams’ OR, at Summerworks, earning NOW Magazine’s Best Ensemble.
In 2012, we presented a revised version of The Red Queen Effect for CanStage’s workshop presentation week. Later that year we mounted the North American premiere of Stockholm by British playwright Bryony Lavery, in co-production with Nightwood Theatre. This multi-discinary piece reflected the combination of movement and text that we’d strived to create, combining the talents of director Kelly Straughan and choreographer Susie Burpee. The show received critical acclaim and Jonathon Young and Melissa-Jane Shaw were nominated for a Dora Award for Best Ensemble Performance.
As a result of new opportunities for the company’s leadership, in the last 4 years, Seventh Stage has conducted two workshops and largely been on hiatus. However, in the last 6 months, Melissa-Jane Shaw has taken on the dual role of Artistic Producing Director and brought on a new Board of Directors for the company’s come-back! Seventh Stage is currently developing a their first full musical production WENDY, DARLING, composed by Rosalind Mills and written by Briana Brown. Melissa-Jane Shaw will direct the Canadian Premier of Cordelia Lynn’s acclaimed Lela & Co. at The Theatre Centre this Fall, starring Jenna Harris and Graham Cuthbertson.