Those who last visited Toronto for the USITT Conference & Stage Expo in 1999 will notice quite a few changes at next year's conference. While the event will once again take place in the Metropolitan Toronto Convention Centre, there will be a much shorter walk once you enter the building.
In 1999, participants trekked several minutes south and several floors down to the further reaches of the Centre, a region that some locals refer to as "The Batcave." The 2005 Conference & Stage Expo will be held in the upper halls close to the front doors of the Convention Centre, which open onto the downtown entertainment district with its theatres, concert halls, clubs, and restaurants.
Around the Convention Centre and hotels, there are many new buildings. These are part of a residential building boom that has swept the city with the last of the older factories and warehouses converted to lofts and the few remaining "brownfields" covered with townhouses designed to fit – more or less – into Toronto's ubiquitous late nineteenth-century Bricktorian architecture.
Toronto also is enjoying a remarkable building boom for the performing and visual arts. Aficionados of 'A' list architects, the visual arts, and cement trucks will want to pay a visit to two of our largest cultural construction sites. Daniel Liebeskind redesigned a large section of the Royal Ontario Museum, while the Art Gallery of Ontario recently unveiled plans for a major expansion by Frank Gehry, who returns to his native city for his first Canadian commission.
Several new and renovated facilities have been added to Toronto's stock of performing arts spaces since 1999. The Canadian Opera company is finally getting a real opera house, with 2,000 seats and four tiers of balconies.
The concrete is already being poured, and next year you will see the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts half way towards its opening scheduled for the summer of 2006. The Isabel Bader Theatre was built at the University of Toronto, and the historic Eaton Auditorium, closed for decades, has re-opened as The Carlu.
Several venues will be able to show off major renovations; these include the Hummingbird Centre, Roy Thomson Hall, and Canstage.
One of the most remarkable renovation projects in Toronto's history is the recent creation of a new neighbourhood within the city's oldest industrial relics. The Distillery District, a collection of 44 Victorian buildings that once comprised the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, was converted into Toronto's newest arts district featuring galleries, shops, restaurants, studios, and theatres.
Toronto is the third-busiest theatre city in the English-speaking world, so there will be plenty of shows to see and venues to tour. This concentration of theatres and theatre companies also means that the city is home to thousands of professional theatre people, an impressive collection of support companies, and many specialists in even the most rarefied theatrical disciplines.
The 2005 USITT Conference & Stage Expo will draw upon Toronto's extraordinary richness of professional resources – theatres, equipment, and expertise – to produce an outstanding event. Please plan to join us in Toronto next March for another stellar conference.
Toronto Ready to Welcome USITT
by Paul Court
Toronto Promotions Coordinator
The CN Tower, adjacent to the Metropolitan Toronto Convention Centre, is one of the most noticeable features of the Toronto skyline.