Out and About
Brendan Healy steps down as Artistic Director at Buddies
After six successful years as Buddies in Bad Times Theatre’s Artistic Director, Brendan Healy will be stepping down in September of 2015. Mr. Healy has programmed the 2015-2016 Season at Buddies, which will be announced April 29 and he is thrilled to be directing the first show of the year.
Healy first joined Buddies in 2009 and his tenure has been characterised by many artistic and organizational successes. Under his leadership, Buddies has reasserted its position as of one of Toronto’s most exciting and dynamic theatres and as a national leader in the development of queer voices while experiencing an extended period of financial and organizational stability.
Since Healy took the helm, the company has received 34 Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations and scored numerous wins. He has directed many of the company’s most notable recent productions, including Sarah Kane’s Blasted, Nina Arsenault’s The Silicone Diaries, Daniel MacIvor’s Arigato, Tokyo, and Tim Luscombe’s PIG.
Healy’s commitment to nurturing new Canadian queer work has been evident from the moment he stepped into his role as Artistic Director. In 2009, he launched the Buddies Artist Residency Program, the only residency program in the country devoted to the creation of original queer performance works. The program has yielded successful new Canadian productions such as Tawiah M’carthy’s Obaaberima, Ecce Homo’s Of A Monstrous Child: a gaga musical, The Gay Heritage Project by Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn and Andrew Kushnir, and Lois Fine’s Freda and Jem’s Best of the Week.
Mr. Healy is a great believer in national partnerships and taking Buddies’ ground-breaking work to theatres outside of Toronto. Under his leadership, the company successfully launched four national tours (Waawaate Fobister’s Agokwe, The Silicone Diaries, Obaaberima, and an upcoming tour of The Gay Heritage Project), bringing Buddies’ unique mandate to audiences across the country. Highlights include two productions at the National Arts Centre (Agokwe and Obaaberima) and a presentation at the prestigious Magnetic North Festival (The Silicone Diaries).
Over the course of Healy’s tenure, Buddies also proudly welcomed important international queer artists onto its stage, increasing the company’s reputation as one of the most significant queer performance spaces in the world. This included such notable artists as the legendary lesbian performance group Split Britches, famed NYC cabaret artist Justin Vivian Bond, distinguished choreographer/dancer Keith Hennessey, and internationally-celebrated performance artist Heather Cassils.
Healy’s leadership saw the company reaffirm its commitment to nurturing queer youth and emerging artists. The Buddies Queer Youth Arts Program continued to flourish, welcoming over 700 participants annually, and last year’s 35th Anniversary Season saw the company launch the annual Buddies Emerging Queer Artist Award. The Rhubarb Festival and Insatiable Sisters also continued to provide exceptional performance opportunities to hundreds of local and national artists. The strength of these initiatives has cemented Buddies’ place as one the nation’s most important seeding grounds for Canada’s next generation of theatre artists.
“In addition to the company’s artistic achievements over the past six years, Brendan’s leadership (in partnership with General Manager Shawn Daudlin) has brought an unprecedented period of financial and organizational stability for the company and the building,” says Derek Billsman, Chair of the Buddies Board of Directors. “Through careful fiscal management, smart programming choices, and growth in the areas of box office revenue and donations, the company managed to retire its accumulated deficit within Brendan’s first two seasons and amass a modest surplus over the next four. We also completed a strategic plan that will be setting the company’s direction for the next decade. The board expresses sincere gratitude to Brendan for his artistic excellence, sound management, and contribution to the company’s legacy.
Healy’s tenure has further been characterized by a strong desire to build community and to connect with the Buddies’ audience. He has worked tirelessly to open up the company to diverse communities and to forge new partnerships with arts and LGBT organizations across the Greater Toronto Area. Audiences have come to expect to see him before every show welcoming them to the theatre. His wish to personally meet Buddies’ audience members has helped build a devoted following for the theatre. His efforts have helped ensure that Buddies – the longest-running and largest facility-based queer theatre in the world – has a bright future to look forward to.
“I love Buddies and the community of people around it. I have done my best to live up to the exceptional standards that my predecessors set for the company. I am very pleased with what we have achieved over the last six years. They have ranked amongst the best years of my life. I am deeply thankful for the support that I have received from staff, board, and audiences,” Healy says. “This has been a difficult decision. I do not entirely know what the future holds for me but I am ready to take on new challenges and adventures. I am proud to be handing over a thriving company to a new leader and I cannot wait to see what the next chapter of this extraordinary company will be.”
Mr. Healy’s artistic life beyond Buddies has been rich in achievement—including his production of Entertaining Mr. Sloane that he directed at Soulpepper in 2012 and his frequent stints as a guest instructor at the National Theatre School of Canada, his alma mater.
A Search Committee to find a successor will be chaired by Mary Breen of the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Board of Directors. Details around the search will be announced on March 23.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.