Robert Kenneth BakerRobert Kenneth Baker, "Bob," director, actor, teacher (born at Edmonton, Alberta 11 May 1952). Known for his adventurous programming, Bob Baker has created unique identities for several Canadian theatre companies.
Baker received his BFA (Hons) from the University of Alberta (1974), where he co-founded and co-directed the Alberta Barter Theatre during his undergraduate years. After a brief stint with the Global Village Theatre in Toronto, Baker joined the STRATFORD FESTIVAL (1975-79), where he performed mostly minor roles in 18 productions and gained what he credits as a peerless education from some of the world's best theatre talents.
Bob Baker moved to Vancouver in 1979, where he worked as a freelance director and teacher (1979-82). He was a founding member of the city's first Theatresports company and helped launch the Improvised Soap Company. In 1982, Baker was appointed artistic director of Edmonton's fledgling Phoenix Theatre, which under his direction became a vibrant and influential centre for contemporary theatre. Several of his productions went on to become landmarks of Canadian theatre in the 1980s, notably Tom Woods's B-Movie, The Play, which the Phoenix premiered. It went on to tour nationally and internationally, and won a DORA AWARD. Baker was also active as a teacher and director at the University of Alberta Drama Department, and was the founder and director of Soap on the Rocks, a live improvised weekly soap opera.
Baker became widely acknowledged for his talent for successfully programming edgy, passionate theatre about issues of the day, and he took his Midas touch to the CANADIAN STAGE COMPANY in 1990. Under his direction, Canadian Stage retired a $2.7 million deficit, more than doubled subscription sales and originated an annual program of new play development. Baker directed new productions by Canadian playwrights Tom Wood, Timothy FINDLEY and Raymond Storey. He directed Sondheim's Into the Woods and the successful Toronto run of Tony Kushner's Angels in America (Part One and Part Two), which went on to the NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE in 1997.
In January 1998, he was appointed artistic director of Edmonton's CITADEL THEATRE; it was a time of lacklustre artistic achievement onstage and waning audience enthusiasm at the country's largest regional theatre. The Citadel has dramatically altered its course under Baker's leadership. Since 1999, starting with Steve Martin's darkly zany comedy Picasso At The Lapin Agile, Baker has directed some 42 productions, including 12 remounts of the Tom Wood adaptation of A Christmas Carol that has become a seasonal institution in Edmonton. This output includes some of the theatre's largest, most elaborate revivals - Sondheim's Into The Woods (1999), Cabaret (2001), a Wood adaptation of Peter Pan (2006), Oliver! (2007), Disney's Beauty And The Beast (2008) and The Wizard of Oz (2009), among others.
As befits a director whose origins were in the notably off-centre, edgier reaches of the repertoire, Bob Baker's own Citadel productions include such non-mainstream pieces as Christopher Durang's Betty's Summer Vacation (2000), Ben Elton's Popcorn (1999) and Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman (2006).
Baker's artistic directorship has included such initiatives as re-opening the Citadel's smallest house, the 250-seat Rice Theatre, for alternative programming, and the mandated inclusion of new Canadian plays, at least 2 per season, on the mainstage of a theatre where Canadian premieres had been virtually unknown.
Baker launched a new-play development program at the Citadel. Premieres include several plays by Vern Thiessen (Einstein's Gift, Vimy) and Wood adaptations, including his Gold Rush version of the classic Goldoni farce A Servant Of Two Masters, Pride And Prejudice, The Three Musketeers, Peter Pan, and Vanya, a Canadian version of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya.
The centrepiece of Baker's educational initiatives is the Citadel's unique Robbins Academy, which includes an audience outreach program, the Foote Theatre School, "young company" training for students in the 16- to 21-year-old bracket, and an advanced training program for young theatre professionals in collaboration with the Banff Centre. The latter results in an annual co-production in the Citadel mainstage season.
Under Baker, the Citadel has become the busiest theatre in Canada outside the Shaw and Stratford festivals, with an 11-production season divided between the company's 3 spaces - the Shoctor, the Maclab, and the Rice theatres.
Bob Baker is a member of Edmonton's Cultural Hall of Fame, and has received a PACE (Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton) Award, honours from The Alberta Association of Colleges and Technical Institutes, and a Distinguished Alumni Award from his alma mater, the University of Alberta. He has won 3 best-director STERLING AWARDS, for his productions of Popcorn, Cabaret, and The Pillowman.