Fonds uofa-2646 - Catalyst Theatre fonds

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Catalyst Theatre fonds

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CA UOFA uofa-2646

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15 m of textual records and other material

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Biographical history

The Catalyst Theatre was incorporated in 1978, but began from Theatre for Social Action projects directed by David Barnet in the Drama Department of the University of Alberta. One such piece, entitled Drinks before Dinner (1977), caught the attention of the Alberta Alcoholism and Addiction Commission and the commission funded a provincial tour of the piece. Soon other social agencies began to make inquiries, and Catalyst Theatre was formed, with Barnet the acting part-time artistic coordinator. In 1979, Jan Selman, a M.F.A. grad from Alberta, was hired to be Catalyst's first full- time artistic director. Catalyst's stated objectives from the outset were to "promote and practice the use of theatre for public education and as a catalyst for social action." Topics explored under this mandate included alcoholism and drug abuse, juvenile crime, spouse abuse, poverty and teen suicide. Plays were performed in whatever space the sponsors or tour location had available. In 1985, Ruth Smillie replaced Jan Selman as artistic director. During Smillie's tenure Catalyst moved away from producing pieces for social agencies and began to pursue projects of its own choosing. In 1990, Catalyst, for the first time acquired its own performance space in the Edmonton neighbourhood of Garneau. The new performance space, though small, became known for its experiments in cabaret theatre. During Smillie's tenure, the theatre also developed the Takwakin project featuring the writing and direction of Floyd Favel. Favel's works All my Relations (1990) and Lady of Silences and Requiem (1992) featured all-Native casts and sought to develop new images of and for the contemporary native. Smillie resigned in early 1996 and was succeeded by the directing tandem of Joey Tremblay and Jonathan Cristenson. To cut costs, they moved Catalyst into a converted warehouse at 8523- 103 St., and revised the objective of Catalyst to focus on theatrical innovation instead of social change. The new commitment was to "creating original Canadian work that explores new possibilities for the theatrical art form and the process through which it was created," to "exposing work nationally and internationally", and to "challenging the artists and audiences who participate in the creation of that work."

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds consists of these series: I. Administration (1977-1994). Series contains materials relating to the day-to-day operations of the Catalyst Theatre and includes minutes, correspondence, employee information, news clippings, committees and other materials. II. Audio/visual (1978-1995). Series consists of videocassettes, audio cassettes, film reels and audio discs primarily related to Catalyst Theatre productions. III. Awards (1984-1994). Series consists of plaques, mounted certificates and other awards given to Catalyst Theatre. IV. Design (1988-ca.1990). Includes a set design of David for Queen and a sketch of a parade handbook. V. Photographs and Negatives (1977-1995). Photographs, and negatives of Catalyst productions and day-to-day operations. VI. Photographs- slides (1977-1993). Slides of Catalyst productions and day-to-day operations. VII. Posters (1983-1995). Series consists of Catalyst Theatre Production Photos. VIII. Production Files (1977- 1996) Series consists of scripts, fund-raising documents, correspondence, contracts, evaluations and other materials related to Catalyst Theatre productions. IX. Reviews and Articles (1978-1995) Clippings of published reviews and articles concerning Catalyst and Catalyst Theatre Productions.

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Physical condition

Includes ca. 1000 photographs; ca. 280 audio cassettes; 2 audio discs: vinyl records; 150 videocassettes: 106 VHS, 25 Beta, 28 U-Matic, 1 Half-inch; 62 reels of film, and ca. 25 posters. The photographs are housed at BARD while the audio/visual material is in the vault at Rutherford Library.

Immediate source of acquisition

The University of Alberta Archives maintains a contract with the Catalyst Theatre for the ongoing donations of theatre materials. Records were donated in three different accessions in 1992, 1994, and 1997.


Language of material

  • The material is in English.

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Restrictions on access

: Access is open with the exception of series A.7 (contracts, payroll and employee records) which have been placed under restriction. Access to these records is at the discretion of the chief archivist.

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Descriptive finding aid available

Associated materials

The University of Alberta Archives holds 22 theatre-related, multi-media fonds totalling approximately 60 metres of material.

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Further accruals are expected.

General note

Record No. 92-112, 94-142, 97-46<br><br>

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