Prominent Theatre Artists to Boycott Factory Theatre until Ken Gass Reinstated as Artistic Director

From Press Release

July 25, 2012 (Toronto, Ontario) – Prominent artists in the theatre community continue to rally around Ken Gass, the founder and artistic director of the Factory Theatre who was fired from his job on June 20 by nine members of the Board of Directors, who cited no cause for the dismissal.

Ken Gass founded the Factory Theatre in 1970, and then, returned in 1996 to save the company from bankruptcy by putting up his own money to pay the rent and revived the theatre to the thriving home of Canadian playwrights that it is today. He remains an icon in the national theatre landscape, having fostered the careers of countless Canadian playwrights, directors, actors and designers.

In addition to over 3600 names who signed a petition calling for the Board’s resignation and Mr. Gass’ re-instatement (visit for the petition) prominent artists have further challenged the board’s decision by instigating a boycott.

Internationally lauded playwright George F. Walker had previously pulled his play from Factory Theatre’s 2012-13 season in reaction to the board’s actions.  Now acclaimed playwright Judith Thompson, whose work was also scheduled in the season, has signed the boycott demanding negotiations with the board and Ken’s reinstatement.
The following is the boycott statement as of July 23, 2012:


We, the undersigned, believe that the Factory Theatre Board of Directors showed astoundingly poor judgement in its firing of Artistic Director Ken Gass. We urge the board to reinstate Mr. Gass immediately, and to enter into meaningful negotiation to resolve the crisis that led to his firing.

It’s our intention to boycott Factory Theatre, as artists and as patrons, until Mr. Gass is reinstated as artistic director.

Sincerely,Maja Ardal

Tom Barnett
Nancy Beatty
Morwyn Brebner
Lora Senechal Carney

Leah Cherniak
Layne Coleman
Sean Dixon
Richard Donat
Atom Egoyan

David Ferry
Barry Flatman
Florence Gibson
Dean Gilmour
Janet-Laine Green

Kyra Harper
Deb Hay
Michael Healey
Martha Henry
Fiona Highet
Janelle Huchison
Maggie Huculak
Stuart Hughes

Brooke Johnson
C. David Johnson

Arsinee Khanjian

Janet Land

Michelle Latimer
Diana LeBlanc
Paul Ledoux
Patricia Ludwick
Kate Lynch

Ross Manson
Matthew McFadzean
Seana McKenna
John Mighton
Andrew Moodie
Tony Nappo
Lisa Norton

Rebecca Picherak
Gordon Pinsent
Rena Polley
Irene Poole
Miles Potter

Michael Redhill
Fiona Reid
Maria Ricossa
Erika Ritter
Lloyd & Nancy Robertson
Rick Roberts
John Roby
Dani Romain
Booth Savage
Tyrone Savage

Pamela Sinha
Michelle Smith
Tim Southam
Judith Thompson
Kristen Thomson
RH Thomson
Maria Vacratsis
Patricia Vanstone
George F. Walker
Trudy Weiss

Ron White


More information can be found at:

22 thoughts on “Prominent Theatre Artists to Boycott Factory Theatre until Ken Gass Reinstated as Artistic Director”

  1. I can’t, in good conscience, support Summerworks at the Factory, given this mess. Do others feel the same as me?

  2. Talk about cutting off a nose to spite a face. Sworks is a renter. Why should they be penalized for something that is beyond their purview. How many institutions should get impacted because of this issue cause it seems to me that we are perilously close to throwing a lot of gasoline around the campfire.

  3. Agreeing with Philip. While I wouldn’t enter into any sort of business dealings with Factory directly at this point, or pay ticket money that would go into their coffers, the deal with Summerworks is pre-existing and benefits independent theatre companies / professionals. I don’t feel like supporting a rental that was in place before any of this mess was made public is supporting the Factory’s position at all.

  4. Don’t punish the independent theatre artists that had nothing to do with this. Attend Summerworks. We need these festivals!

  5. why would you punish a festival because of the Factory Board’s actions? Ridiculous. The anger at the board has basis in its disrespect for art and artists – boycotting Summerworks places you in the same position.

  6. Summerworks should not be boycotted. They are a renter of the space and are not involved in any way shape or form as to the governance of the theatre. When they signed their rental agreement thet could not have forseen the mess that has transpired. Summerwork is not Factory Theatre.

  7. People get fired all the time. I think it’s time for everyone to get over it. Yes good people get fired all the time. It was not called The Ken Glass Theatre and I would love it if there was a Ken Glass Theatre. But it wasn’t. Yes it was handled badly. But I think there are many sides to every story and I’m sure there are probably very nice people who are glad Ken is gone. But the truth is he is gone, and I think everyone needs to get over it. If Ken is as wonderful as everyone is making him seem and he probably is, then he should be able to find another great job out there. I know a ton of talented people doing jobs that are crappy and they should also be in theatres and on stages, but they are working on it, so to boycott some of their work when then do get to Summerworks because someone else now has to look for work is kinda childish. There comes a point where Ken has to pick himself off and go do better things…you know kinda what Al Gore did, maybe Ken can go out in the world and become even greater.

  8. It’s “Gass” not “Glass”, Sara. And it would probably be a lot easier to “get over it” if the deafening silence and stonewalling from the Factory Board was broken.

  9. Sorry Gass. My apologies to Ken. I meant no disrespect with that but I don’t think Factory is going to come out and say “we made a big mistake”, so really will anything they say make things better? They handled it terribly, there is no argument on that. Most probably some board members should be sacked for that, they know who they are I’m sure. But I can’t help but think, them the brakes, I think when you look at the bigger picture what the government is doing to the arts affects theatres, artists, artistic directors, culture, actors, directors far more than the firing of Mr. Gass and is far more infuriating. So maybe it’s time we pour our attention and our anger to a place that will have far greater impact. Maybe it’s time Factory has a fresh face in there and Mr. Gass could bring his talent somewhere, perhaps where it is needed more than Factory?? Just a thought.

  10. Let’s all enjoy a controversy-free SummerWorks this year, please, particularly since SummerWorks has absolutely nothing to do with the Ken Gass/Factory controversy. Thanks.

  11. I believe that boycotting a Canadian Theatre, as artists and patrons, is going to REALLY hurt other artists and a Candian theatre. The boycott will not hurt the board members, the people that you want to target. However, it will really hurt a lot of other people and an incredible art institution. Choose wisely.

  12. Summerworks is a rental. No one who has signed the boycott letter has ever suggested that the hardworking administrators and artists who are Summerworks participants should be boycotted. Those who are speculating otherwise are doing the damage to Summerworks.

  13. I have seen comment after comment asking that we not extend this boycott to include Summerworks, and I could not possibly agree more. Summerworks has had its share of controversy lately, and it doesn’t need to be dragged into the mess of someone else. They do great things for up-and coming, as well as established artists, administrators, and technicians and are also an important tool in expanding and enlightening the general audience base of Theatre – specifically in Toronto – but also Canada wide.

    That said, please remember to transpose this same logic onto any outside users of the facilities at the building known as Factory Theatre. The building is not the institution, and the users of the facility are certainly not.

    However, I would also like to add that the Board of Directors, despite spin, is not in fact the target of a boycott of the institution either. I am.

    BoDs in non-profit organizations are volunteer. There is no option for compensation for the work they put into the organization, thus they have nothing to lose but reputation in a situation like this. A reputation, which, lets face it, has been slandered and dragged through the mud for over a month now. There’s really little left to lose even there. I on the other hand, am only starting my theatre career. I have been an employee of Factory for 4 years now, and I am the one being held hostage. The only reason a boycott of the theatre would achieve tangible results is if the BoD were to cave in an attempt to protect the jobs of myself and my colleagues. We are innocent bystanders, trying to do our jobs to support the industry, the artists, and the products we collectively strive for.

    If 60+ successful artists believe it is acceptable to threaten the burgeoning careers – and even the already successful careers – of artists, administrators, technicians, and the efforts of our patrons, donors, volunteers, co-op students, contractors, and anyone else who contributes to the success seen at Factory over the past 42 years for the benefit of someone who’s success is unquestionable – I personally can only describe that as cronyism.

    For the arms of that monster to reach beyond the confines of the institution some argue created it, and put others at similar risk is appalling.

    You need to do whatever you think is right at the end of the day, and I will do my best to support you if I agree and forgive you if I don’t, but please consider the true implications of your actions before hand. Afterward is too late.

    For the record, this comment reflects my own personal opinions. I do not speak on behalf of Factory, its board, management, employees or any other faculty of the organization. I speak as someone who has toiled and striven to achieve the very greatness of people who are now using that same greatness to threaten me and my colleagues for their own benefit.

  14. Bryan, I think you are absolutely right. I understand the anger and outrage at the board and they way they handled this situation. However, I urge everyone to really think about the implications of boycotting the theatre both as artists and patrons. That act will punish many, many people, none of whom deserve to be punished. The board has little to nothing left to lose. Our community has everything to lose here, and I think the action of boycotting will ensure that loss.

  15. Bryan – I absolutely agree. I can’t in good conscience boycott Factory Theatre because it will have no impact on the board at all. If they were going to resign wouldn’t they have done so by now?

    I also can’t sign a petition that asks for the board to resign and to have Mr Gass reinstated. Linking the two things doesn’t seem logical to me.

    Does anyone think that the board is reading anything that’s written or listening to anything that’s said?

    If people don’t find a way to step back, take a breath, and think things through there won’t be a Factory Theatre. Is that what anyone wants?

    In the meantime, if anyone has a rental going into Factory they should probably make sure it says rental show in big letters on the poster so that people don’t get confused.

  16. Please spread the word, people: the Factory theatre boycott is NOT, was never, intended to include Summerworks. This is a confused rumour that’s going around.

  17. I keep saying I’ll stay out of this, but I can’t help opening my mouth. Old habits are hard to break, I guess…

    This situation has become a little ridiculous. Can we all agree on this?

    Now, we are trying to define the logistics of differentiating between boycotting the Factory Theatre, and boycotting people who RENT Factory Theatre?

    So what happens if there’s a co-pro? Cuz those are basically just rentals too. Should we all boycott shows that Factory Theatre is producing as part of their season, yet still attend the shows that are in Factory’s season (but who are only MARKETED by Factory – while being paid for in full by the co-producing companies).

    Also, is there a special arrangement for co-presented shows than co-produced shows?

    What about plays-in-development? Is a new writer developing a new work at Factory (but not being produced per se) officially achieving ‘scab’ status in Toronto theatre now?

    With so many prominent artists on this petition now, if you disagree with any aspect of this petition, you are essentially blacklisting yourself from many of the most influential theatre people in Canada…

    Is that what this community is now?

    Art is the safe space where ideas are supposed to run free – without the taxing restrictions of fascism or dictatorship. Is dividing the entire theatre community amongst Factory boycotters and Factory scabs the best way to go here?

    I support Ken. I like Ken. Factory has done a lot for my theatre career. But I do object to this notion that the entire community is being forced into relative positions of hostility. I do understand the anger here, but I am a little concerned about the implications for all the artists here politically.

    Also, like Mr. Eaton articulates well, this is NOT just a battle between Ken and this infamous “board of directors”. There are casualties of war here already…

    I do think it’s admirable that the Toronto theatre community is finally rallying around an issue, but what is the game plan here? I only see lots of anger, and nowhere to really put it effectively…

    The anger here is palpable, perhaps even vital. But is a boycott truly the answer here? Defining the parameters of such a complex strategy could require the services of an, er, board of directors…


  18. Dear all,
    I am, let’s be clear, one of the signers of the petition for the Board to resign. I was angry, and I thought it was wrong of the Board to fire Ken like that. That wrongness has not changed.

    However, I agree with the anti-boycotting protest. At the time I signed, I had no idea that the Board did not have much left to lose. I think that a bunch of people rallying around someone is one thing; but also,if we act on the urge to boycott Factory, a lot of casualties of war could happen. Hell, they’ve probably already started. Young Canadians who are just beginning their careers are the ones I am worried about.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love Ken. I admire Ken. But this issue is a discrete issue within the organization, and can be dealt with by the people involved, as well as a whole load of artists who have agreed to boycott Factory.

    This will probably be hardest on you, because Factory might produce some beautiful work done by some talented young artists, and you, because of your public personas, will be stranded by the publicity of the petition.

    Don’t boycott Summerworks. I’ve worked with those people. They are producing their own shows, with their own money. Indie companies need that audience, they need people to see their work. You are threatening the working lives of both established and burgeoning artists. As if these times weren’t threatening enough.

    All I want is for the theatre community to not take sides. Ken Gass is, wrongly, gone. The Board has nothing to lose. Artists do. I respect Ken, but he himself posted that if he cannot live the dream at Factory, he will do it somewhere else. I have faith in that. Don’t hero-worship him, attend shows because young artists need that audience.

    Will there be a Factory when I come back from the UK? I would love that old building to still be standing and hosting shows. I think people need to think. I know how you feel, but think it through first. A lot of careers are on the line here, needlessly.

  19. While I understand the position from a personal perspective of some Factory employees, I strongly (biasedly) object to the idea that, if you think something wrong has occurred you should shut up about it because, in speaking out, you could potentially hurt the very institution that did wrong in the first place.

    Theatre is a community event. 4000+ people in the community have spoken out that what the board did was wrong. Full stop. The board will not listen to those 4000 people nor acknowledge that wrong has been done. Again, full stop. I suppose that is the board’s prerogative. But when no redemptive action has been taken…and no acknowledgement of wrongdoing is even given…can anyone actually expect those 4000 people to just stop being angry? Do you think silence makes that go away?

    The intent of the boycott is not to hurt the theatre but an attempt to get the board to listen to the community. Because many people (most of them much less biased than myself) do not want to work for a company that acts this way. They cannot CONDONE their behavior. To go back to work for them as if nothing ever happened would be nothing less than a complete show of support. A seal of approval.

    And frankly I find it inspiring that so many people are willing to put their money where their mouth is…and take a stand that may impact themselves financially and/or limit their career opportunities…because they believe that the bigger MORAL issue, is more important.

    That is not cronyism…that is standing up for fundamental moral issues about the way people should be treated, about about how a community charity should be governed, and about the role the voice of the community should play.

    In much the same way that unions stand up for an individual, many within the community are clearly sick of the way boards are taking control of the creative direction of theatres (such as Tarragon’s cowardly performance last year) and ignoring the voice of the public.

    The board has created an INHOSPITABLE ENVIRONMENT at Factory Theatre and, frankly, the power to put the welcome mat back out there is entirely in their own hands.

    They just need to do what’s right and begin the mediation they should have two months ago.

  20. The board made the right decision, and who the hell cares if ANY of these sucks boycott ANYTHING?

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