William Grant Glassco
William Grant Glassco, director, producer (b at Québec City 30 Aug 1935; d at Toronto 13 Sept 2004). As artistic director of Tarragon Theatre in Toronto (1971-1982) and Centre Stage (1985-1991), Bill Glassco was a major force in the development and promotion of Canadian theatre and drama. He was a tireless champion of both established and emerging Canadian playwrights.
After studying at Ridley College, Princeton and Oxford, Glassco went to the University of Toronto in 1959 to teach literature and pursue a doctorate. Disenchanted with academia, he left Canada in 1964 to study acting and directing at New York University before returning to Canada in 1969. After directing summer theatre, he became involved with Ken Gass's Factory Studio Lab, where he directed the landmark premiere of David Freeman's Creeps in 1971.
In 1971 Glassco and his wife Jane Gordon founded Tarragon Theatre. Under their guidance it became the most consistently successful of Toronto's alternative theatres, both in terms of audience development and dramaturgical influence. Glassco's goal was to nurture Canadian playwrights by working closely with them through all stages of a play's development. He sought to bring the highest standards possible to the presentation of new plays to give them the best chances for a further life. Glassco saw the audience as a major collaborator in the creation of a play and called the impulse behind his work the need for a celebratory communication with the audience. By exposing his audience to works created in all parts of the country, he helped develop a Canadian audience for Canadian plays.
Many playwrights now regarded as major figures became so through Glassco's commitment to them. In 1971 he remounted Creeps as the Tarragon's inaugural production. He directed the premiere of David French's Leaving Home in 1972. In subsequent years he would direct all the first productions of French's plays, all but two of them at the Tarragon. In 1972 Glassco and John Van Burek translated Michel Tremblay's Forever Yours, Marie-Lou. Its English-language premiere at the Tarragon that year was the first production of Tremblay's work outside Québec and the first of six plays they would translate and Glassco would direct, with Hosanna of 1974 a particular triumph. Indeed, one of Glassco's groundbreaking achievements was the creation of an audience in English Canada for Québécois playwrights. From 1973 to 1975 Glassco produced all three parts of James Reaney's Donnelly Trilogy, one of the Tarragon's greatest triumphs.
Feeling the need to work on a larger stage with a larger company, Glassco became artistic director of CentreStage from 1985 to 1991. In 1988 he merged the company with Toronto Free Theatre under Guy Sprung to become Canadian Stage Company, turning it into one of Toronto's leading companies. Among Glassco's major productions at the company were a remount of David French's Jitters (1985), French's 1949 (1988) as well as the premiere of George F. Walker's Nothing Sacred (1988).
After directing stints across the country in both theatre and opera, Glassco returned to Québec in 1991 and in 1999 formed the Montreal Young Company at the Saidye Bronfman Centre in order to showcase young Montréal-trained actors and encourage them to stay and work in the city. In 2000 the company won the Montreal English Critics Circle Award for Best Ensemble for its first season.
Bill Glassco was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1982. In 2002 he received the Dora Mavor Moore Silver Ticket Award for Lifetime Achievement in the theatre.