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YPT Mourns the Loss of Founder, Susan Douglas Rubes
It is with great sadness – but also gratitude for her life – that Young People’s Theatre acknowledges the passing of the theatre’s founder, Susan Douglas Rubes. Mrs. Rubes passed away in Toronto on January 23rd at the age of 87. A much-beloved leader, producer and artist, Mrs. Rubes will be greatly missed by her YPT family and remembered as a pioneer in Theatre for Young Audiences.
“We are so grateful for the life and work of Susan Rubes,” said Allen MacInnis, YPT Artistic Director. ” I feel truly blessed to have had her advice and presence since I was appointed to this incredible job. YPT thrives today because it has the indomitable spirit of Susan in its DNA.”
Born Zuzka Zenta in Vienna, Austria, Mrs. Rubes moved with her family to Czechoslovakia when she was very young, then on to Paris in 1939, eventually immigrating to New York in 1940. After graduating from George Washington High School, she began a remarkable career spanning radio, television, theatre and film. Mrs. Rubes earned the first Donaldson Award for Best Debut on Broadway for her performance in the 1945 revival of He Who Gets Slapped by Leonid Andreyev. She appeared in seven films and hundreds of television shows, including 10 years on the soap opera The Guiding Light. She continued to receive fan letters from time to time right up to last autumn.
In 1950, during the filming of Forbidden Journey in Montreal, Susan met the love of her life, renowned actor and singer Jan Rubes. The couple married the same year, had three sons and moved from New York to Toronto in 1959. They were together until Jan’s death in 2009.
In 1963, Susan began producing plays at the Royal Ontario Museum and in 1966 she founded Young People’s Theatre with the goal of establishing a permanent theatre for children in Toronto.
From the very beginning, Mrs. Rubes was determined Young People’s Theatre would be dedicated to professional productions of the highest quality – classic and contemporary – from Canada and around the world, created for children and the people who care about them. She worked hard to develop quality new Canadian plays to stand alongside the best from around the world and was often quoted as saying “Only the best is good enough for children.”
After several years of performing in a variety of venues in Toronto (as well as school touring), Susan and Jan found the run-down former TTC power plant in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood that was to become the permanent home for YPT. They worked tirelessly with their friends and supporters to convince a skeptical Toronto City Council that a large building housing a children’s theatre company was good idea and YPT has thrived in its landmark location on Front Street since 1977.
Mrs. Rubes remained artistic director of Young People’s Theatre until 1980 when she moved to CBC where she was the head of Radio Drama from 1982–86. From 1987–89, she was president of the Family Channel and also served on the board of the St. Lawrence Centre and the Ontario Arts Council. She was named Woman of the Year of the Toronto B’nai Brith in 1979.
Mrs. Rubes was awarded the Order of Canada (our nation’s highest civilian honour) in 1975, recognizing “a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation” for her services to children’s theatre in Canada.
Now in its 47th year, Young People’s Theatre is Toronto’s oldest not-for-profit theatre and continues to experience tremendous growth, proudly carrying on the legacy of Susan Douglas Rubes. A memorial book will be available at YPT from 9am to 5pm, Monday, Jan. 28th to Saturday, Feb. 2nd for anyone wishing to express condolences to the family.