The Factory Theatre’s board of directors is talking to Ken Gass, the artistic director it fired in June, board chair Ron Struys confirmed Monday. “We recently met with Ken with the help of an outside facilitator and agreed to get the wheels in motion for mediation in order to find common ground,” Struys said, through a publicist. “We thank everyone who helped get us to this stage. As you can all appreciate, there is still a long road to travel and it is important that we do so in private.”
Struys did not specify the exact subject of the mediation: Gass had previously declined an emeritus position the board had offered, and the board has already begun a search for a replacement.
“What is not clear is the scope of the mediation and that is key. Are they willing to deal with the differences?” Gass said in an interview confirming the meeting. “We will see if we can find common ground.”
The board fired Gass in a dispute over renovations to the theatre’s headquarters at Bathurst and Adelaide streets, with the artistic director backing a more ambitious scheme to make the 19th-century building accessible.
After Gass went public about his dismissal, it was widely protested by the theatre community, which mounted a social-media campaign against the board and called on artists and audiences to boycott. Playwright George F. Walker pulled a play from the upcoming season and Judith Thompson threatened to do the same.
The Factory building, a late-19th-century house that was expanded and converted into a church hall in 1910 and taken over by the theatre in 1983, is in need of millions of dollars in renovations. Gass had backed a $14-million scheme for a major expansion that would have proceeded in stages; the board wanted to start immediately on a smaller, $1.5-million scheme that would have been completed in 2013.
Both sides said they were committed to renovations and both would have added a new lobby and an elevator. However, Gass said previously that the board’s plan included work that would just have to be ripped out to make way for his plan: He believed the board’s decision to pursue its route meant the larger scheme had effectively been abandoned.
Gass, who founded Factory Theatre in 1970, returned to rescue it from bankruptcy in 1996 and had served as artistic director until his dismissal.