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 including Monica Dottor, Aurora Browne, Ted Hallett, Dylan Smith, Melissa-Jane Shaw and Nicholas Campbell. 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 including Aviva Armour-Ostroff, Christine Aubin-Khalifah, Brittany Kay, Deborah Grover, Lili Franks, Maryem Hassan Tollar, Anusree Roy, Toni Ellwand and Melissa-Jane Shaw. 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 emerging playwright Rachel Blair at the Toronto Fringe Festival starring Kimwun Perehinec, Naomi Wright and Jennifer Villaverde. 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 featuring a fantastic ensemble of Sophie Goulet, Melissa Jane Shaw and Damien Atkins (NOW Magazine’s Best Ensemble).