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October 2004
News & Notices
News From:
Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record
A Taste of Toronto
Conference Offerings

Paul Court
Toronto Promotions Coordinator

Many off-site professional development workshops (PDWs) and trips are in store for those attending the Toronto 2005 Conference & Stage Expo.

PDWs are offered before the start of the Conference & Stage Expo and require pre-registration, which can be done on the "Regional Attractions" section of Conference & Stage Expo Registration form (PDF). Tours as part of the regular Conference activities are also being planned. Sign-up sheets will be available at the conference because the number of those participating will be limited.

PDW: Niagara Falls - Shaw Festival Day Trip

A PDW to the Shaw Festival and Niagara Falls is planned for Tuesday, March 15.

This is a one-day trip that will tour the theatres at the Shaw Festival, as well as their newly renovated production facilities. The host will be Technical Director Jeff Cummings. With three separate theatres distributed along the main street of the professionally quaint village of Niagara-on-the-Lake, this is one of the two largest repertory theatres in North America

Production and rehearsals will be in full swing, as the visit will occur just weeks before the opening of the 2005 season. Known for its exquisite production values, the Shaw Festival has mounted 12 full-scale productions running in repertory in three theatres in its current season. To keep up-to-date with announcements for the 2005 season, keep an eye on

Following the Shaw visit, the tour continues a few miles south down the Niagara Parkway to a site once dismissed by Oscar Wilde as "the second great disappointment of married life." Ignore the old cynic – Niagara Falls is still one of the great natural spectacles. On a clear day the permanent spray cloud above this thundering cataract can be seen for miles.

Niagara Falls is also home to one of the oldest lighting shows in the world. With a few exceptions (including two world wars and the odd power blackout), they have been illuminated most evenings since 1860. This tour will provide a close look at the current lighting installation, and a slightly more distant view of millions of gallons of well-lit water.

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PDW: Props Workshop
A Trip to Paragon Prop Shop

A trip to a 20,000-square-foot facility dedicated to props building and custom fabrication will make up a PDW props workshop on Tuesday, March 15. Paragon has built props – and much more – for museums, award shows, displays, feature films, and musicals in Toronto, on Broadway, and elsewhere. Their work is known for its high quality and the innovative use of materials.

This workshop will feature an in-depth look at their work for 10 productions of The Lion King, on Broadway and around the world. There will be a chance for some hands-on work with Paragon's head prop builder. The session will be hosted by Paragon's founder, noted props builder Grace Nakatsu. To get an idea of the scope of their work, see their website at

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Tour: The Distillery District

On Friday, March 18, from 4:45 to 7:35 p.m. participants will walk to and board the King streetcar, roll through the financial district past a grand hotel, an assortment of shops and restaurants, and through several blocks of office design studios, alight at Parliament Street, and walk a block south to the Distillery District.

Even older than the streetcar system and its stables, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery complex has 44 buildings dating back as far as 1832. They recently were renovated to house restaurants, shops, galleries, and the studios of many artists working in a variety of media. Intriguingly, most of these spaces feature machinery salvaged from the original distillery.

The driving focus of this major urban renewal project has been the arts, with many events and concerts being held here. This site is also the home to many performing arts companies and several performance spaces.

At the time of the visit, two tank houses will be in the process of being transformed into a complex with three theatres, five studios, classrooms, and offices. This an interesting joint project between a major Toronto repertory company, Soulpepper Theatre Company, and the theatre program at George Brown College. Both will have their administrative offices in the complex, and a hard-hat tour of the site may be arranged.

There also are plans to visit DanceMakers Centre for Contemporary Creation and the New Works Studio shared by Nightwood Theatre and Tapestry New Opera Works. See and for more details.

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Tour: The Four Seasons Center
For the Performing Arts

Yes, Toronto is finally getting a real opera house! A trip to the Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts will be held on Friday, March 18.

The shovels went in the ground last year for the new home of the Canadian Opera Company, and the fly tower is growing steadily above street level. Tickets are already on sale for the fall of 2006, when the 2,000-seat, traditional tiered hall will open with a new production of Wagner's complete Ring Cycle. Who said Canadians aren't ambitious?

There will be a session chaired by Bruce McMullan, former technical director of the Canadian Opera Company (and Regional Programming Chair of USITT 2005), who has been closely involved with the project. Panelists will include Phil Giddings of Engineering Harmonics (sound, video, and communication systems), Robert Essert of Sound Space Design (acousticians), and Josh Dachs of Fisher/Dachs (theatre systems).

Mr. McMullan is working to arrange hard-hat tours of the site for a few small groups following this session. In the meantime, view a rendering of the new opera house at, and keep an eye on the progress of the construction site at

These are a few of the highlights of the Regional Programming in store for those attending the 2005 Annual Conference & Stage Expo. More will be featured in upcoming issues of Sightlines.

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In Toronto the streetcars never left. In fact, one of the downtown theatres was originally built in the 1890s as a three-story stable for the horses that pulled them. Don't worry; the system was converted to electricity about a century ago.