Green Thumb TheatreGreen Thumb Theatre was founded in Vancouver in 1975, by Dennis FOON and Jane Howard Baker, to present theatre for young audiences. Green Thumb focused on school tours featuring 45-minute plays, a cast of three or four, two shows a day, a set erected and taken down in a few minutes, and travel in one van.
Foon wrote Heracles, about Greek heroes; Raft Baby, a l9th-century tale from the BC interior; and The Windigo, from an Ojibwa myth. Shadowdance, written by Sheldon Rosen and directed by Yurek Bogajewicz, was an innovation in children's theatre and provided a frightening glimpse of a medieval world.
The success in 1979 of Joe Wiesenfeld's Hilary's Birthday, about the effects of divorce on a child, led to Foon's works about current social issues. Liars was about alcoholism, and New Canadian Kid, about the immigrant experience, was probably the most produced Canadian play of all time. Foon commissioned such dramatists as John Lazarus, Peggy Thompson and Colin Thomas, the latter writing controversially, in One Thousand Cranes, of the threat of nuclear war. Feeling Yes, Feeling No was a street-proofing program on sexual abuse. Foon defined the company's particular emphasis as "child advocacy theatre."
Patrick McDonald began serving as artistic director after Foon's resignation in 1987. McDonald added some shows aimed at general audiences, with particular interest to the 18 to 24 demographic. Two such productions were a drama commissioned from George F. WALKER, Tough!, and a revised version of Walker's Criminals in Love. McDonald was eager to introduce new styles and production techniques, and to extend national and international tours.
The company's shows continued to emphasize issues, with Joan MACLEOD writing on eating disorders in Little Sister and Ian Tamblyn on environmental issues in Land of Trash, and Jamie Norris using hockey as a metaphor for relationships between children in Showdown. Especially significant contributions came from Morris PANYCH, writing about sexuality and AIDS awareness in Cost of Living, performed over 500 times, and MacLeod's script about teenage violence in The Shape of a Girl, which in 2005 played on Broadway at the Duke Theatre and in 26 other American towns. Both were one-person pieces, found increasingly often as funding problems grew for many arts organizations.
Two other plays toured in the 2004-5 season were Michele Riml's Invisible Girl and John Lazarus's Night Light, both for elementary schools. A second Riml drama, Rage, had a two-week run at Vancouver East Cultural Centre. In 2006 the company developed a new script for teens about the rising epidemic of crystal meth. Cranked, by Michael P. Northey and Vancouver hiphop artist Kyprios, used hiphop and spoken word as its primary language forms. Cranked played more than 350 performances in 3 years of touring, including the company's return to New York's Duke Theatre and performances in Melbourne and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
Green Thumb has presented more than 15 000 performances to more than 4 million viewers across Canada and internationally. Its plays have been translated into French, Spanish, German, Danish, Chinese, Japanese and Hebrew.
Green Thumb continues to use the language of today's youth to explore contemporary issues and remain at the forefront of the Theatre in Education movement, using the emotional impact of live performance to educate and empower young people.