Today it was announced that the Canon Theatre on 244 Victoria Street would be renamed the Ed Mirvish Theatre, in honour of the late patron of the arts. In addition, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford declared December 6, 2011 to be Ed Mirvish Theatre Day in the city.
“Without a doubt, this may be the most personal and the most important announcement I have ever made in my professional career,” said David Mirvish, the son of the late patron of the arts, “It is something that has been germinating in my mind for many, many years. But I now finally have the opportunity to act on this idea.”
“Honest Ed” Mirvish was a businessman, philanthropist and theatre owner. Mirvish was known for his flagship business, Honest Ed’s, a landmark discount store downtown, and was instrumental in revitalizing the theatre scene in the city after purchasing the Royal Alexandra Theatre and constructing The Princess of Wales Theatre.
“When I became involved with the theatrical part of my family’s business, my admiration for my father grew even greater, because I understood more than ever how remarkable his theatrical work was,” Mirvish continued. “Running a theatre and producing shows are not easy endeavors. Financially they require very high risk and they need entire armies of people to work cohesively together to create a handmade, delicate and ephemeral product that lives in the moment, but if successful, can stay in all our memories forever.”
“But my father did this and did it without seeking the limelight for himself,” said Mirvish. “He brought great artists from around the world to the Royal Alex. He gave opportunities to young Canadian artists to shine. He helped to build the Toronto theatre community, undoubtedly one of the finest in the world.”
“While my father was alive, I tried many times to find ways to publicly honour him. But he wouldn’t have any of it. As he once joked, he was full of ‘humbility.’ He was just happy to be working at what he loved, and he loved the theatre and the people around it – the actors, playwrights, directors, technicians, musicians, ushers, front-of-house staff, and especially the audience.”
The renaming of the theatre had many notable figures on hand, including the aforementioned mayor, Michael Burgess, Shirley Douglas, Ted Dykstra, Richard Greenblatt, Molly Johnson, Louise Pitre and Camilla Scott. The presentation also included video tributes from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The theatre has gone through several name changes over the years. Originally called The Pantages in 1920, it was renamed The Imperial in 1930, and wouldn’t return to The Pantages until the premiering of The Phantom of the Opera in 1989. In 2001, David Mirvish took over management of the building, entering a sponsorship agreement with Canon to rename the theatre after their brand. As of today, it is The Ed Mirvish Theatre.