Lynanne Sparrow Sets The Canadian Stage With Her Commitment To Performing Arts Behind The Scenes As Producer-Toronto

Posted By: Eric Smith In: Dance On: Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Lynanne walks us through her early dedication to arts and how it led to her becoming a renowned artistic from Canada. 

So how are you?

I’m good.  Back in the office from vacation, it was lovely.  It's good to be back. 

On vacation were you out of the city or were you local?

I was in a province on the east coast of Canada called Newfoundland.

Was this an outdoorsy type of vacation? I don’t know much about that part of the country.

My family is there-so I visited a lot of family with a lot of dinners and stuff like that.

How is it being back in the city from your time off?

It’s Good.   I mean Toronto is so much busier than where I grew up-we’re such a huge city and just getting around here takes some time with the TTC.  So I didn’t have to deal with that for two weeks but I’m back at it again!

I see you’ve been focused on what you’re doing as a producer now from very early on.  How has your career evolved like this?

You know I started when I was in my early years in high school and then university-stage managing.  I kind of went through the managing backstage route and then the administration route.  So I felt naturally drawn to producing and programming over the years.  I mean it was a decision I made early on, not to pursue other things but to pursue producing, production management, programming, and curation.

How did you know as a teenager that this was something you could pursue?

Well, when I was growing up in the 80’s there were quite a few shows on about theatre-making on TV.  If you count the Muppets and Fame they were both on TV.  And then of course in elementary school, at that time you still had music classes and a music teacher and drama teachers so I knew that I didn’t want to be in front of people as a performer because that wasn’t where my strength and talent was.  I was drawn to the organization of stage management and knew very early that was what I wanted to do.  And my mother was always involved with choirs and stuff like that, and she was always involved in singing and performing that way.  I think the right match happened and I found it early in life.

Back then were you doing plays or musicals?

Both plays and musicals, mainly for the drama club and then for the school play which we did every year.  I also started working in high school with people who were a few years older than me that were also going to university where I was stage-managing their summer Shakespeare projects continuing on that path as an aspiring producer.  There’s a big arts and culture scene in Newfoundlands-where I’m from so a lot of things were happening.

What led you to Toronto?

I came here to attend Toronto Metropolitan University, to study radio and television.  And a few years after that I went to study Production Design and Technical Arts in Montreal at the National Theatre School of Canada.

Tell me about your involvement with Canadian Stage?

At Canadian Stage, we are one of the largest performing arts organizations in Canada and we operate 365 days a year where we have four different venues that we operate out of for staging events.  In one, we do an outdoor Shakespeare production that runs all summer long-produced in the High Park Amphitheater and for that, we’re in rehearsals beginning in June and runs through Labor Day.  So that’s what we do for the summer, along with various workshops and development activities here in the building. 

The building that we are in-it has our prop shop, wardrobe, and a place to do the construction of small props.  We also have two theaters in this building-the upstairs theater which is about 150 seats and the other is the downstairs theater and which has about 230 seats-which we operate regularly.  And our main administrative offices are in the 26 Berkeley Complex.

When we do our larger indoor shows we perform at the Bluma Appel Theatre, which is just about a 10 to 15-minute walk from us-and that’s about 850 seats.  So in terms of our activities, we’re always in a season planning for the next season and the season after.  We are always working with playwrights and helping to develop playwrights either on a script basis, doing readings, or doing workshops.  And then of course we have our indoor programming from September to May, with a guest company that comes in towards the end of the season May or June.  So we’re pretty busy here-things are happening all year long and it’s really not a month where we shut down.  It takes such a long time to develop a work-it takes about a year, so there are a lot of different projects in different stages of development.

Now is managing all of this part of your responsibility as a producer?  How do you manage such a content pipeline?

Well, there are a couple of different people on the artistic team-we have an Associate Artistic Director, an Artistic Director, and Company Manager so there are a couple of us involved in various aspects of working with artists.  And if a company is touring for example, and we will have just the one week that they are available in Toronto, then we would build a schedule around that opening, and normally wait until after the Toronto International Film Festival is over to officially start our season.

I think it’s a matter of looking at the big picture and plotting the show based on when the artists will be available touring and what would be good for our own Canadian Stage, season given what else is happening in and around Toronto and when people start to go outside.  June is a beautiful month here in Toronto so people are outside a lot and may not necessarily want to be in a theater this part of the season.

Are these productions going on all day or is there a window that you like to set for these performances to take place?

Normally, our shows start at 8 pm on weekdays.  And we do hold some matinees throughout the week with a 2 pm Wednesday matinee or 2p Saturday/Sunday matinees.  That’s what we normally set to offer our productions during those times of the year.  People tend to view these shows around dinner and there are tons of restaurants near our Berkeley location, so people tend to attend shows after dinner or before dinner if there’s a short show being performed.

Is everything happening downtown?

Yes, it does.  The neighborhood complex next to us is called the Distillery District with a bunch of nice restaurants in it.  The Bluma Theater is really close to Yonge Street, this is downtown so it’s all downtown what we do.

What type of productions are you offering for people who may want to sample a bit of what you’re doing?

In terms of plays, we produce scripts that have already been written.  For example one of the first plays for indoor season is Top Dog Under Dog by Susan Lori Parks, which just had a Broadway revival.

We can also produce and present work that’s a Collective Creation, written by Canadian Playwrights and artists with one of those coming up later in our season called Universal Child Care.

And for the show that I am most really excited about, that I really can’t wait for is a new creation by Kid Pivot with Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young.  We’ve presented this company a number of times in the past and Crystal’s work wins best of awards all over the world.  And this new show is going to premiere in Vancouver for four days and then it’s going to come to Toronto.  It’s so new that they are still making it and so new that it’s yet to be titled.  But, I have complete confidence in the creators, collaborators, and dancers that work with the company-so even if a bit of it is unknown, I think it is going to be fantastic!