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Darcy Evans.

Alberta Theatre

Last week came terrible news from the Calgary theatre scene: Darcy Evans, executive and artistic director of Alberta Theatre Projects, died of cancer on Nov. 25.

Evans, who was just 50 years old, had been battling the disease since March – the same month that his very first season of programming at ATP ended early due to the pandemic.

What a tragedy. I had lunch with Evans in January at the Wednesday Room in downtown Calgary, where he talked with great enthusiasm about his upcoming plans for the theatre company, which he had quickly pulled out of deficit since being hired in 2018. I was looking forward to following his work there for years to come.

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This morning, ATP announced that it has set up the Darcy Evans Legacy Fund – which will “provide support and develop opportunities for future theatre artists and administrators” in his honour. The first $20,000 of donations made today to the fund will be matched by an anonymous donor, according to the theatre company.

Today, of course, is Giving Tuesday, when folks who feel badly about the money they spent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are guilted into opening their wallets again and donating to charities. It usually works on me.

My inbox and social media feeds are inundated with performing arts companies looking for donations – but, of course, if ever there was a year that the industry needed support, it is this one.

Theatre, dance and opera companies have been trying to fulfil their mandates in creative ways while continuing to pay skeletal staff and cover overhead like rent without much or any ticket revenue coming in. The pandemic has already proven too much for some organizations to survive, such as Dancemakers, one of Toronto oldest contemporary dance troupes, which has announced it will shut down in July.

It would be unfair of me to name any performing arts organization particularly worthy of support – but, in addition to the new Darcy Evans Legacy Fund, I would like to draw newsletter readers’ attention to the recently established Black Shoulders Legacy Award, the first award “solely dedicated to the success of Black Canadian theatre artists”.

Aimed at emerging Black theatre artists, it was created this fall in honour of Philip Akin, who was named one of the Globe’s artists of the year one year ago, upon his retirement as artistic director of Obsidian Theatre.

Organizers are trying to raise $650,000 to fund the award in perpetuity – and they’re about a third of the way there.

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There’s a lot of Dickens-related digital holiday programming coming out soon from theatres across Canada, but I thought I’d cover that separately and highlight a couple online shows unrelated to a certain Ebenezer Scrooge this week.

The Huron Carole is a seasonal concert that singer and actor Tom Jackson founded all the way back in 1987. That’s long enough ago that I have a picture of myself as a kid with Jackson at one of the performances in Winnipeg.

The long-running show’s cross-Canada tour raises money each year for local food banks and charities – and this year’s virtual tour is no exception.

This month, the Huron Carole “heads” from Cambridge Bay in Nunavut to Surrey, B.C., to Toronto and many points in between in support of groups such as the Indigenous Health Network, the Surrey Food Bank and the Canadian Senior Artists Resource Network.

This Sunday, Toronto’s Harold Green Jewish Theatre is producing an ambitious online event called A Global Hannukah Celebration featuring performances from Jewish theatre companies around the world including the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene in New York, USA; La Caja Negra, Mexico City, Mexico; Deutsch-Jüdisches Theater in Berlin, Germany; and Nephesh Theatre in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Soulpepper’s Alana Bridgewater, the Stratford Festival’s Gabi Epstein and Broadway’s Jake Epstein are among the Canadians who will perform. Happy Hannukah!

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