I remember several years back, going to Buddies in Bad Times Theatre when it was at the first location, in a converted auto detailer with a pink leopard spots paint job, and you walked south from Queen St. past Britain and Bootlegger Lane. The original Buddies is an auto detailer again, which goes to show, some people just never change their spots. Today, Buddies is at an easy-to-access location just south of Wellesley Station, fully accessible, with bike posts, parking and a well-used parkette on one side.

The reason the lane behind it is called Sky Gilbert Lane is because Sky was one of the founders. There were two others, Jerry Ciccoritti, who went on to be an amazing filmmaker, and Matt Walsh. They all met one day around 1978 and then dreamed this place up in the years that followed.

There is nothing as excellent as Buddies in other cities. Reading reviews by people who attend an event there for the first time, all seem to have a sweet note of wonderment. Its quite incredible if you think about what Buddies does. So many new original shows have been performed there it is absolutely mind-boggling. Each one of the Rhubarb festivals showcases dozens of new productions. The 39th Rhubarb Festival just rolled past. That’s such a lot of new work. Way over 400 new plays. It’s transformative and extraordinary.

Buddies has been under the direction of several carefully chosen artistic directors since opening in 1994, and these choices have directed it nicely. The current director is Evalyn Parry, who headed the Buddies’ Young Creator Unit for over a decade, and helped develop over 40 new theatrical works. It’s a black box theatre. It’s built for people who may have otherwise never found a voice for their Queer work, and it discovers new talent every day. This place is not about covering up and nicing-up the harsh realities of life, it’s about artistic expression for people often pushed to society’s margins.

A residency at Buddies was founded in 2010, which has produced eight main stage pieces, as well as a Queer Youth program with workshops, an emerging creators unit with dozens of past participants, the Queercab open mic cabaret, and free youth programming every Wednesday night. God I love this place. I wish there had been a Queer Youth program when I was a kid. Often things are pay-what-you-can, such as the emerging artists creator unit presentations and Sunday afternoon productions. Tallulah’s Cabaret helps cover the costs associated with the rest of the place, and hosts late-night events and other programming that equal the main stage in fun and interest.

Buddies existed in the early days for people of all social classes who came out as Queer, and it weathered the epidemic of HIV that left a big emotional gap in a generation that should have thrived. So the place is, like a person, even when not trying to be political, which is then more political by default, and so on.

When you are instantly in the spotlight as different, Buddies shines a spotlight and grows some amazing flowering vines.

Upcoming Events:

Buddies will feature a series of mainstage plays running for various lengths. Bloom by Guillermo Verdecchia, Mouthpiece, by Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken and Lulu v.7//Aspects of a Femme Fatale by Ted Witzel, Susanna Fournier and Helen Yung.

Buddies has a rewards system that suddenly gives you a nice discount after your first few tickets. And it surprises reward system patrons with a free tenth ticket to Mainstage shows. Very cool. Generous! Call the box office right now @ 416 975 8555 and go to a show!

About the Author

SK Dyment has been a cartoonist and illustrator for many years and has been published in over two dozen Canadian indy magazines and journals. SK loves sketching passing interpretations of intriguing people in pen-and-ink, and is often seen attending various activist-oriented events around Toronto. He is also available for quick illustrations of all sorts as well as more serious forms of illustration. SK Dyment maintains a website @ www.graphicrecording.ca