Auditorium and Stage

“With its vast, undecorated, low-vaulted ceiling, supported on either side by heavy Gothic buttresses, it looks for all the world like a theatre that thought it might encompass abbey, crypt and giant’s wine cellar” – Richard Partington, A Strange Elation1

Supported by a series of concrete columns, nestled in the subbasement of Hart House, Hart House Theatre in many ways was an architectural accident, the arching roof built to avoid interfering with Taddle Creek (which ran through the Trinity-Wycliffe-Hart House area).2 The story goes that upon touring the excavated space during construction Alice and Vincent Massey were inspired by the shape the support columns took—that of a proscenium stage.3

When first constructed the Theatre was one of the most technically advanced in North America. The first with its own cyclorama, the first with dimmable lighting, the theatre bred the first generation of true lighting-designers-as artists.4 The space attracted artists of all disciplines as set, lighting and costume designers; during the war Group of Seven member Lawren Harris had dressed the unfinished stage as a faux-Belgian village for ROC firing practice.5

The stage was initially a simple proscenium, but in 1966 renovations began to transform it into a proscenium. The characteristic wood paneling, carpeting even the auditorium paint job was the product of designer Martha Mann—a set and costume designer whose affiliation with Hart House Theatre spanned decades.



Show 5 footnotes

  1. Richard Partington, “A Matter of Direction,” in A Strange Elation: Hart House, the First Eighty Years, ed. David Kilgour (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 88.
  2. Nathaniel Benson, “Varsity’s Little Theatre,” The Varsity, February 1952.
  3. Ian Montagnes, “The Founder and the Animator,” in A Strange Elation: Hart House, the First Eighty Years, ed. David Kilgour (Toronto: Hart House, 1999), 9.
  4. Ian. Montagnes, An Uncommon Fellowship: The Story of Hart House (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969), 106.
  5. Lawren Harris, Replica of a Belgian Village Used for Target Practice, Set design, 1918, A1980-0030/002(40), UTA, Hart House.