Toronto independent theatre battles back, but the war isn’t won

New Assembly Theatre to open in Parkdale, but the Storefront Theatre still lacks a space for its productions.


Toronto’s real estate market continues to be the city’s favourite topic of conversation, between tenant protests over rent hikes in Parkdale, complaints about Airbnb rentals in Kensington Market and a Toronto Life cover story about a wealthy family renovating a former crack house.

The conversation around who gets to live and work in downtown Toronto and for how much dominates our collective consciousness, which is something Toronto’s indie theatre community knows all too well.

The past year has seen a major loss of independently run venues.

Last August, Unit 102 Theatre lost its space at 376 Dufferin St., which for five years housed its own productions as well as those of other indie companies, when the building’s new owner cancelled its month-to-month lease.

In January, the Storefront Theatre was evicted from a former drugstore at 955 Bloor St. W., where it had become an indie theatre hub over its four years of operation. The Storefront also lost its studio on Brunswick Ave. this summer, which functioned as a rental rehearsal and storage space. It subsequently had to sell physical assets like risers and chairs.

In both cases, the theatres had to scramble to find new spaces on very short timelines and, also in both cases, the outcry over the sudden closures was passionate and deeply felt.