Melissa-Jane Shaw founded Seventh Stage Productions in early 2006, in artistic association with Rosa Laborde, Kelly Straughan and Kelsey Matheson. Having come across many other young, driven and talented female artists who were also struggling to find work, they wanted a company that would provide opportunities that are not typically available in the present professional arena.
In spring 2007, Seventh Stage Theatre produced the Canadian premiere of Anthony Minghella’s Whale Music, which employed 27 women in their theatrical field; 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, we are working towards reviving the company with new and exciting plans for its future. Please stay tuned for news, upcoming events and productions.