Statement from Ken Gass re Factory Theatre
The extent of the community response to my abrupt firing from Factory Theatre on June 20th was unexpected and overwhelming. More than 4200 people signed a petition demanding my reinstatement and the board’s resignation. 250 prominent artists stated their intentions to boycott the Factory, both as artists and as audience members. Hundreds more have written personal letters of support. All this has made it very difficult for me to simply move on to the next chapter of my creative life as per my original release on June 21st. Thus, while the protest action has been a community initiative, I have remained deeply engaged in the issues and the debate.
It is clear, however, that the avalanche of community response has made absolutely no impact on the direction set by Factory’s current board of nine directors. In August, I made overtures to the board in the hopes of finding a positive and respectful way to break the impasse, to restore community confidence and to help move the theatre forward. These too fell on deaf ears. A month ago, bowing to public pressure following the collapse of key productions from the season, the Factory board agreed to pursue mediation to try to resolve the issues. While mediation has taken place over the past two weeks, this attempt has been unsuccessful and has now ended.
What became clear to the public in the months following my firing, was that the dispute between myself and the board was not about artistic or financial issues, but rather a disagreement re pathways towards a future renovation of Factory’s heritage site. What has happened since is that divisions have emerged within the theatre community over the impact of the boycott, the loss of key productions in the season, as well as future possible artistic directions as put forward by the board. While debate of the larger issues remains vital, I believe further divisiveness around the Factory itself will only have a detrimental effect on the future of the company.
Thus, while I am extremely grateful for the huge outpouring of support I have received from the community, I wish to now state firmly and unequivocally, that under no circumstances in the foreseeable future will I consider returning to the Factory Theatre, either as artistic director or in any other capacity.
Having removed myself from any equation in Factory’s future, it is my view that, in order to move forward creatively and to restore community trust, the Factory now needs to seek not only a strong new artistic director, but also a new board of directors who can work effectively with our artists and community stakeholders to fulfill the company’s potential. In accomplishing this, I hope the Factory Theatre will continue to be a strong and vital force in the Canadian theatre ecology.
In parting, I’m confident the record of the past 15 seasons of all-Canadian plays at the Factory will speak for itself-the strong diversity and inter-generational mix of our programming, the many premieres and the constant stream of new voices. I’m grateful for the privilege of collaborating with so many powerful and original artists from coast to coast. I’m proud of the role I played in the rescue of Factory Theatre from complete collapse in December, 1996, and in the purchase of Factory’s heritage property two years later. I’m also proud that I was able to help develop a vision for the future of the Factory site, and that this design proposal is now part of the public record. I very much regret the loss of Michel Marc Bouchard’s TOM AND THE COYOTE and George F. Walker’s DEAD METAPHOR from the current season, not only for the playwrights but also for the artists attached to those shows. Despite my troubled relationship with the board of the directors over the past year, I am thankful to the many supporters, volunteers and donors over the years who helped make the work possible, and above all, to the thousands of audiences members whose friendly faces I got to know in the Factory lobby after the shows.
My relationship with Factory is now a historical one. I will be focusing on new creative projects through Canadian Rep Theatre in the near future. Please stay tuned.