David Gardner

His linked interest in both performing and educating is clear; in 1983, he completed his own formal education, earning a PhD at the Graduate Centre for the Study of Drama at the University of Toronto. He has taught at the University of Toronto and at York University.

Gardner, David
David Gardner has enjoyed a long and varied career in theatre as an actor, director and historian (photo provided by David Gardner).

Gardner, David

 David Gardner, actor, director, educator (b at Toronto 4 May 1928). David Gardner has enjoyed a long and varied career and is regarded within the critical community as a major source of practical theatre history. He is published widely in Canadian encyclopedias and journals.

His linked interest in both performing and educating is clear; in 1983, he completed his own formal education, earning a PhD at the Graduate Centre for the Study of Drama at the University of Toronto. He has taught at the University of Toronto and at York University.

Gardner has received many honours. In high school, he won the Ontario Verse-speaking Competition, an award prefiguring a career of public speaking and suggesting that the elegant delivery marking his adult discourse began early. In 1956, he won a Tyrone Guthrie Award at the STRATFORD FESTIVAL. He received an Etrog (or Canadian Film Award) in 1976 for The Insurance Man from Ingersoll and in 1997 a Gemini Award for his work on the TV series Traders. In 2004, the Canadian Theatre Critics Association gave him the Herbert Whittaker/Drama Bench Award for outstanding contribution to Canadian THEATRE, and in 2008 he received the EARLE GREY AWARD for similar achievement in film and television.

David Gardner's early career included performances at Toronto's ROYAL ALEXANDRA and Jupiter Theatres and roles with the Canadian Repertory Theatre in Ottawa and the Brae Manor Theatre in Québec. He performed at Stratford for three years, up to 1956. He toured with Canadian Players and, on return from London, with the Old Vic tour (1958-59). For Canadian Players he conceived and directed (1961-1963) an Inuit version of Shakespeare's King Lear to mixed reception (an important attempt in its day, the production now seems a problematic southern representation of an idealized Canadian "north"). His own estimate is that he has played some 850 roles on stage, radio, film and television. He is now well known for his television roles. Gardner also directs for both stage and television.

In 1960, he was chair of the committee that founded the NATIONAL THEATRE SCHOOL OF CANADA. He was artistic director of the VANCOUVER PLAYHOUSE from 1969 to 1971, resigning when the board refused to allow a production of George RYGA's Captive of the Faceless Drummer, concerning the FLQ crisis in Quebec. His commitment to activist and indigenous theatre is seen also in his inaugural production of Ryga's The Ecstasy of Rita Joe at the NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE.

He served for two years, from 1971, as theatre officer for the CANADA COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS, during which tenure he convened an important conference to consider "the dilemma of playwrighting in Canada," an initiative many claim as a foundational moment in alternative theatre in the country.

Gardner is a theatre professional who brings a passion for Canadian drama to performance, education and political forums. Over a long and distinguished career, he has been a major player - in both senses of the word - in the development of Canadian theatre.