Robert Gill, theatre and opera director, teacher (b at Spokane, Wash 19 July 1911; d at Toronto 10 Aug 1974). He studied acting, production and singing at the Cleveland Playhouse on a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship after taking a BA and MFA at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Institute of Technology. He taught at Carnegie Tech and was active with the Pittsburgh Playhouse and Opera Society as well as the Woodstock NY Summer Playhouse before the sudden death of his fiancée precipitated a move. Gill responded to an advertisement that brought him in 1946 to Hart House Theatre, University of Toronto, where he served as director until 1965.
A master of stage tableaux, Gill's annual Shakespeare productions, in particular, were marked by a beauty of speech, colour and stage composition. Fifteen years before the National Theatre School was created, he trained and inspired a generation of actors and directors who then helped launch Canada's post-war professional theatre. Fourteen members of the STRATFORD FESTIVAL's first company (1953) were graduates of Hart House Theatre. His illustrious pupils included Anna Cameron, Barbara Chilcott, Murray and Donald DAVIS, Ted Follows, David Gardner, Barbara Hamilton, Donald HARRON, Eric House, William HUTT, Hal JACKMAN, Henry Kaplan, Charmion King, Araby Lockhart, George McCowan, Kate REID, and Donald SUTHERLAND.
Gill was instrumental in founding, along with the Davis brothers, the Straw Hat Players in Muskoka (1948) and Toronto's CREST THEATRE (1954). Also for the Davis brothers he directed the mid- century revue There Goes Yesterday, which toured across Canada in 1950. Gill taught at the ROYAL CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC, Toronto, the BANFF CENTRE School of Fine Arts, and at UBC's Summer Opera School, becoming the opera school's artistic director in 1958. He was the first Chairman of the Canadian Guild of Drama Adjudicators; won the Canadian Drama Award (1952); became a Canadian citizen (1956); and was awarded the Centennial Medal (1967). In 1985 the U of T's Graduate Centre for Drama named their 170-seat studio theatre after him, and the Robert Gill Award for Direction is given annually at the university's one-act drama festival.