Our Story

The Waltz Factory 2022/23 Season, Photo by Dahlia Katz

Factory’s mission is to enthrall audiences with the imagination of Canadian playwrights and develop the next generation of diverse theatre artists. Since its founding in 1970, Factory has committed to exclusively produce Canadian plays. Factory has made it an artistic priority to invest in, and showcase Canadian artists who bring their stories to our theatre in Toronto. This has made Factory the home of the Canadian playwright and for over four decades, developing and producing some of the finest theatrical works in our national canon and giving space to some of the most gifted and prolific playwrights in Canada. 

Founded in 1970 by Ken Gass and Frank Trotz, Factory Theatre was the first company in the history of this country to produce only Canadian plays. Its huge initial success led to the founding of the Alternate Theatre Movement which radically changed the face of Canadian theatre in favour of the Canadian voice. For more than 50 years, Factory has been known as the “Home of the Canadian Playwright” and has produced more than 300 new Canadian plays in mainstage productions and 600 more in workshop and other formats. 

Throughout the 1970s, Factory operated out of a number of different venues across Toronto. In 1979, founding artistic director Ken Gass left the company and Bob White assumed the artistic leadership (1979-87). In 1984, Factory moved into its present location at 125 Bathurst Street. Under the Artistic Direction of Jackie Maxwell (1987-1995), the company continued its commitment to new Canadian work and developed a strong presence in translating the work of Quebecois authors for English-speaking audiences. Ken Gass (1996-2012) returned to Factory at a time of great financial duress. With the commitment of all its talented staff led by its Artistic and Managing Directors, the subsequent period was one of operational stabilization and the presentation of dynamic seasons that began to increasingly focus on the work of culturally diverse artists and diverse theatrical voices. 

From 2012-2014, Nina Lee Aquino and Nigel Shawn Williams were Co-Artistic Directors, and beginning in 2015, Nina was appointed sole Artistic Director of Factory Theatre, the first person of colour to lead the organization and the first woman of colour to serve as Artistic Director of a venued theatre company in Canada. 

Alongside the appointment of Nina Lee Aquino as sole Artistic Director in 2014, Factory quickly established itself at the forefront of an emerging movement in Canadian theatre. A new, young, and diverse community of artists coalesced around Nina’s leadership and once again put Factory at the nexus of an important cultural moment in Toronto. Nina’s tenure approached Factory’s Canadian Theatre mandate through an intercultural lens, interrogating our understanding of Canadian identity through developing new plays that spoke to a breadth of cultural experiences under the Canadian umbrella and reimagining the cannon with diverse artistic teams at their centre. Over 10 seasons, Nina programmed a diverse lineup of world and Toronto premiere productions and established multiyear creative relationships with a number of playwrights; added bold and imaginative re-interpretations of classic Canadian plays to Factory’s annual programming; fostered relationships with some of the best theatre companies from across the country and brought their productions to Toronto audiences through Factory’s CrossCurrents Canada presentation series; and secured Factory’s reputation as a leader in developing new plays and as a champion of writers. Nina’s tenure also saw a renewed commitment to artist training, building a pedagogy centered on new play development and intercultural creation.

When the company shut its doors for over two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, it established itself as a national leader in digital theatre creation. The company produced 14 world premieres that were commissioned and developed specifically for digital platforms, and leaned into its national mandate to engage artists and audiences from every province and territory. As the theatre emerged from the pandemic, a new generation of leadership came to Factory with Mark Aikman joining as Managing Director in 2021 and Mel Hague’s appointment to the Artistic Director post in 2022.

Factory proudly works with a number of unions and professional associations to engage the artists and tradespeople who make the work you see on stage, include IATSE Local 58, Canadian Actors Equity Association, the Playwrights Guild of Canada, and the Associated Designers of Canada. We are a proud participant in Equity’s Not In Our Space program and are a certified Champion-level employer with the Ontario Living Wage Network