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David di Giovanni Appointed as New Artistic Director of Shakespeare in Action
March 19 2020
The Board of Directors of Shakespeare in Action is thrilled to announce the appointment of David di Giovanni as Artistic Director, effective April 1, 2020.
Shakespeare in Action is a 31-year educational and performing arts theatre company with a mandate to make the language and stories of Shakespeare accessible, fun and relevant to young people, their families, and the community. The company accomplishes this through workshops in schools and libraries across the GTA, summer camps, and mainstage productions. To further this mandate, Shakespeare in Action recently established its first permanent home at Artscape Weston Common in Toronto’s Weston community and has dedicated itself to growing fun and accessible performing arts experiences in northwest Toronto.
David joined Shakespeare in Action in 2017 as its Director of Education. Since joining Shakespeare in Action, David has worked closely with its founder and recently retired Artistic Director Michael Kelly to develop the strategic plan of company, bring new audiences to its notice and to generate new revenues. He has played an important role in the organization over the last three years, bringing skills in directing, grant-writing, relationship-building, and employee as well as financial management. Most recently, he has served as its Interim Artistic Director and has demonstrated a commitment to establishing himself and the organization as an integral part of the arts community in Weston.
DAVID DI GIOVANNI is a playwright, theatre director, and arts educator. After completing his MFA in Theatre Directing at York University, he co-founded madonnanera with Amanda Cordner, a company invested in creating outrageous and intersectional new work for the stage. He has co-written and directed two of madonnanera’s productions- BODY SO FLUORESCENT which has toured across Canada and into the United States to critical acclaim, and WRING THE ROSES, nominated for outstanding ensemble at the Dora Mavor Moore awards in 2019. Alongside Shakespeare in Action, he directed MACBETH IN ACTION, SIA’s first interactive Shakespeare production which recruited students to do the play alongside professional actors, and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, SIA’s inaugural production in Weston’s Little Avenue Memorial Park in July 2019. He is also designing and managing SIA’s first project with seniors, KING LEAR IN WESTON, a community-engaged and senior-led project that uses KING LEAR as a springboard for folks over 55 to explore and perform their own personal stories.
“I joined Shakespeare in Action immediately before we learned of our invitation to become a Programming Partner at the Artscape Weston Common. It has been a great privilege to be a part of the dreaming, visioning, and planning of the organization’s transition to creating a home in this community. I also realize we face many challenges. Relationships with artists, partners, and community members have been damaged by incidents in the Fall which also lead to the cancellation of two shows. The industrial action from the province’s teachers has taken a toll on our work for young people. This will be compounded further by the impacts of COVID-19, which could be long-term. I am bringing with me a commitment to inclusion, learning, and a burning question: what does it mean to be a Shakespeare company at Weston and Lawrence? I hope that the work that is programmed and the partnerships we build and rebuild will provide a multitude of answers to this question, and that we can continue to be a part of making theatre and theatre education accessible, fun, and relevant in northwest Toronto.”
The Board of Directors looks forward to seeing David lead Shakespeare in Action down exciting new roads, explore new ideas, expand on its educational expertise and move into new artistic territories. The Board knows that David will do this while maintaining its core raison d’etre of bringing Shakespeare to a younger, wider, more diverse audience in ways relevant to today’s realities and in an affordable manner.
Chair, Board of Directors
March 16 2020
Dear Shakespeare in Action friends, artists, and community members:
The safety and well-being of Shakespeare in Action’s staff, artists, audience, and community is of utmost importance to us. Given the evolving nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, Shakespeare in Action’s is postponing and canceling of Spring programs effective immediately.
STORY-TOT Guardian-Tot Program (postponed until April 7th)
KING LEAR IN WESTON (drop-in sessions postponed until April 6th)
WESTON YOUNG THEATRE MAKERS SERIES Spring (Spring session to begin in May)
SUDDENLY SHAKESPEARE (cancelled)
We will continue to update the community as we check in with our partners and follow recommendations through Toronto Public Health and Ontario Public Health,
Thank you for understanding. Although Toronto Public Health maintains that Covid-19 is not spreading locally, we believe the overall safety and health of the community requires these preventative actions. We hope you stay safe and healthy.
The Shakespeare in Action Team
Shakespeare in Action Artistic Director Michel Kelly to retire after thirty-two seasons
March 11, 2020
Shakespeare in Action bids a fond farewell to its Founder and Artistic Director Michael Kelly. The Board of Directors announces Michael will retire from his position March 31st, as he says, “to make room for the next generation.” Michael will continue to consult with Interim Artistic Director David di Giovanni and the Board as they transition to the appointment of a new Artistic Director.
In speaking about his departure, Michael said, “It has been a true honour to have followed my artistic passion and vision to promote a culturally-diverse company of interdisciplinary artists that engages with and reflects our diverse community, one that aspires to enhance the arts and education by making the language and stories of Shakespeare accessible and relevant to young audiences and the community. I have always believed Shakespeare’s language produces meaningful complex thought that challenges the mind and awakens the human spirit.”
“I would like to thank all the amazing staff members and board of directors for their passionate commitment and service throughout my tenure, with whom this work would not have been possible, and with many of whom lasting friendships have been created. I’m also deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to have worked with so many talented artists, designers and production staff from all corners of this country. Most importantly I wish to acknowledge the participation of over one million young audience members who have experienced the innovative, workshops, performances and programs at the heart of Shakespeare in Action’s work.”
Howard Goldby, Chair of the Shakespeare in Action Board of Directors wishes to express on behalf of the organization their sincere thanks to Michael for his years of service. “His dedication, drive and leadership has made SIA a prominent force in Toronto’s theatre scene culminating with establishing a permanent home in 2019, becoming an anchor organization at the new Artscape Weston Common. Michael’s infectious passion and never-ending desire to bring Shakespeare alive for young people will be an enduring legacy for the company.”
There are many milestones in Michael’s career as an actor, director, producer, teacher, and arts educator. After establishing Shakespeare in Action in 1988 as Canada’s leader in Shakespeare education his work throughout the next decade began to attract local, national and international media attention for its unique and innovative approach to Shakespeare for young audiences: with feature presentations on W-5 and Global News, Canada Am, TVO’s Imprint and CBC’s “As it Happens.” This led to creating Shakespeare in the Prison a program for Young Offenders, the Teaching Shakespeare Summer Institute at York University, teaching master classes for the Shakespeare’s Globe and the Royal Shakespeare Education company. In 1999 Michael turned his attention to working with young learners ages 5 and up creating the Shakespeare for Kids Summer program and later establishing the TD Shakespeare for Kids Library Drama Club, a free arts and literacy program in partnership with the Toronto Public Library. Over the past decade Michael has been most notable for his work on artistic development mentoring and training many young actors by staging larger mainstage productions and casting them alongside a company of more established Shakespeare actors. He has also explored the connection between how Shakespeare meets Hip Hop which has led to the creation of the Shakespeare Hip Hop Fusion program where youth explore the key elements of rhythm and lyricism to create original performances.
As a community builder Michael created the Shakespeare Challenge eight years ago that brings together community members from the business sector who fearlessly take to the stage to create a Shakespearean production to raise funds for educational programming. Michael recently launched the Performing Arts Network in North West Toronto in 2019, which connected over 2,000 students and teachers to the new Artscape Weston Common. The “PAN” program provides free performing arts workshops and subsidized tickets for students and teachers to a professional theatre production.
As a contributor and active member of the Toronto theatre community Michael also serviced on numerous boards including the Shakespeare Globe Centre Canada, TAPA, Theatre Ontario, and Theatre for Young Audiences Association.
Over his career Michael has received numerous awards: the most recent being nominated for the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Direction for Kim Seldoy’s Suddenly Shakespeare, SIA’s first production in the new Artscape Weston Common. The Rotary International Foundation for his untiring community service work appointed him a Paul Harris Fellow, in 2018. Other awards include the J.B.C. Watkins Award from the Canada Council given to outstanding Canadian Artists; the Artists and Community Collaboration Award, Canada Council; Arts Education Partnership Initiative Award; Canada Council, the International Theatre Pilot Program Award, Canada Council, and the Individual Artist Award- Artistic Director, OAC.
Michael’s long career is distinguished by his passionate vision, his collaborative style of leadership, a responsibility and commitment to mentorship, social justice and community engagement.