Paul Thompson is a Canadian playwright, theatre director and a leader in collective creations. He was born May 4, 1940, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and raised in southern Ontario.
Education and Career
Paul Thompson studied at Western University where he received a B.A. hons in both French and English. Thompson received a scholarship to study at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1963, where he was heavily influenced by Roger Planchon and his process of performing classical plays and reflecting his own society of Lyon through performance. Thompson went onto further his education at the University of Toronto where he received an M.A. in French, with a specialization in Theatre.
In 1970 he took over as Artistic Director of Theatre Passe Muraille Toronto, Ontario from Jim Garrard, a position he held until 1982. Thompson pushed the boundaries of theatre and wanted to display events relevant within Canadian culture and break away from English, American plays through his work of collective creations, in which actors, playwrights and directors would collaborate to create a piece of theatre derived from the inspired surroundings. This form of creation was a great success with The Farm Show (1972) a devised piece focusing on the rural elements and lifestyle of farmers’ surrounding Clinton, Ontario. To prepare for this Thompson and his collaborators lived and worked on nearby farms in order to understand the reality of the people’s lifestyles. Throughout the process of collaboration they also observed other workers on the farm and listened to their past stories of what had happened to them. This was all then devised into the production of The Farm Show which went onto perform one of the productions in a barn for added effect of the rural setting and atmosphere.
This method of devising was again used by Thompson for the play I Love You, Baby Blue (1975) which attempted to capture inner city Toronto lifestyle at the time when eroticism was escalating within the city. Strip clubs and sex shops had begun to sprout up across the city as well as the introduction of ‘blue movies’ being broadcast on Friday evening television. Thompson wanted to explore and encapsulate the changing culture within Toronto as he felt it was a significant change within the city. Theatre Passe Muraille had been forced to leave the theatre in Trinity Square which they were living and working in, therefore put the play on in Bathurst Street United church. The production ran for twelve weeks and was used as an aid by church councillors during couple’s therapy, before it was shut down and Thompson was arrested on the grounds of creating an immoral stage production. After the success of the play Thompson and his collaborators agreed to each put in 1% of their earnings from the show to buy a new theatre which was formerly a bakery.
Thompson went onto collaborate with Rick Salutin in directing 1837: The Farmer’s Revolt which explored the William Lyon Mackenzie's failed attempt to re-invent upper class Canada. This project taking on a different approach to the creative collaborations he had previously worked on due to having Salutin as a guest author on the project. He is also known for his time spent as Director General of the National Theatre School of Canada, Montreal, Quebec from 1987 to 1994. In 2002 he became an honorary member of The Canadian Association for Theatre Research. Thompson has gone onto collaborate with theatre companies including Alberta Theatre Projects and Native Earth Performing Arts, as well as CODCO, the Blyth Festival, Theatre W.U.M. and the Summerworks Festival. In 2008 he was named Officer of the Order of Canada for his contributions to Canadian theatre.
- Doukhobors (1971)
- The Farm Show (1972)
- Pauline (1973)
- I Love You, Baby Blue (1975)
- 1837: The Farmer’s Revolt (first performed 1972, published 1976)
- Far as the Eye Can See (1977)
- Shakespeare for Fun and Profit (1978)
- Maggie and Pierre (1980) with Linda Griffiths
- Dancing with Trudeau (2001)
- Dora Mavor Moore Award (1980)
- Silver Ticket Award from the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (1994)
- Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement (2011)
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2St Clements Church Forty Minute Forum. "Paul Thompson Speaks at St. Clement's Church Part 1." YouTube. YouTube, 27 Apr. 2012. Web. 28 Feb. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5aM2TKG5B4>.
Theatre Museum Canada. "His "French" Background." YouTube. YouTube, 30 July 2009. Web. 28 Feb. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Nc6GwmbGNU&list=PL655DE40B6F0CBA33&index=3>.
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