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The Pleiades story begins in 1997 when John Van Burek started Pleiades Theatre, working out of his house.
Founding Board Members, Retired
Dr. Harry Arthurs
David Silcox (Chair)
By the end of the year John had found donors, gotten funding from all three levels of government, brought on Small Theatre Administration Facility (STAF) to share in some of the administrative tasks, and early in the next year there was a company logo designed by WYCLIFFE SMITH DESIGN.
Rehearsals started by the end of the year on Marcel Pursued by the Hounds in co-production with Tarragon Theatre. John was aided by Mallory Gilbert (Tarragon's then GM) on the administrative side of things.
The following year, 1998, Pleiades continued to work in co-production, this time with Théâtre français de Toronto (where John had been AD previously) and produced The Government Guy, once again at the Tarragon Theatre.
In 2000, Pleiades started producing plays at the Artword Theatre (run by Artistic Director Ronald Weihs and Managing Director Judith Sandiford), and would continue to do so for the next five years. The first show Pleiades Theatre produced under this new model was The Game of Love and Chance. This was also the start of a three year cycle of works by 17th Century French playwright, Marivaux.
"I spent the better part of each year raising the money to do the shows and the Outreach. Then, we would rehearse for 3 weeks and run for another 3. Ridiculous!"
John van Burek
With the start of the new millennium, John was able to bring more staff on to the Pleiades Theatre team. In 2001, Erin Shields came on board with a Theatre Ontario grant to do Outreach and as an Assistant Director and Naomi Campbell joined as the Producer of The Triumph of Love.
Then, in 2002, Gideon Arthurs joined Pleiades Theatre as an Outreach Co-ordinator and worked with Erin Shields who was now an Associate Producer. STAF returned and worked with Pleiades again to produce Counterfeit Secrets.
Erin moved on to other work, but John, Gideon and STAF would carry on and produce Pleiades Theatre's first non-French translation and first adaptation from a novella in 2003 with Heart of a Dog, partnering with Théâtre français de Toronto for a second time in Pleiades' history.
2004 saw the production of Pleiades Theatre's first original work called Beaux Gestes & Beautiful Deeds.
The year also saw the addition of Pleiades' second Associate Producer who, in the following year, would become the company's first General Manager, Catherine Harrison. She would be with the company 2004 - 2006.
2005 arguably marked the biggest year in Pleiades Theatre's history, not only in terms of productions but also in terms of changes and growth. Pleiades (with the team of John and Catherine) put on two shows for the first time in its history.
The Seven Days of Simon Labrosse was produced in co-production with Montreal Young Company and Gravy Bath Productions; the second show was The Amorous Servant and both shows were performed at the Artword Theatre before it moved to Hamilton, ON. The latter would be the final show on which STAF provided admin support for Pleiades.
Karen Gilodo joined Pleiades as their Outreach Co-ordinator in between the two shows as Gideon moved on to other opportunities.
2006 brought more changes for Pleiades Theatre and its team of John, Catherine, and Karen.
For the first time in its history, Pleiades Theatre moved out of John's house and into its new home in The Distillery District (Case Goods Warehouse, 4th floor).
Pleiades went back to its roots and produced another Michel Tremblay play; a Canadian classic that John had translated back in 1974, Hosanna. The show was mounted at the newly opened Young Centre for the Performing Arts also in the Distillery District.
Lastly, a new logo was created by PHILIP SUNG & ASSOCIATES.
2007 marked Pleiades Theatre's 10th anniversary! Pleiades had built itself up from a one-man, in-home, operation to mid-size theatre company with three staff and offices at one of Toronto's theatre hubs (Distillery District). For this anniversary year, Pleiades partnered with the National Arts Centre in Ottawa and they produced Dying to be Sick, at the Theatre Centre.
As Karen left for other opportunities, Lauren Brotman joined Pleiades as the new Outreach Co-ordinator.
Marilo Nuñez came on board as the General Manager for the company, joining John in a leadership position at Pleiades Theatre.
After taking a year to develop new translations and build the company further, in 2009 John, Marilo, and Lauren, now as Outreach Director, were joined by Andrey Tarasiuk as Associate Producer for Pleiades Theatre's first ever non-European/non-French Canadian translation, Shakuntala. The show would also go on to be performed at The Cultural Olympiad of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, BC.
In 2010 Marilo left Pleiades and Andrey joined the company as Producer to work alongside John. Along with the continued efforts of Lauren, the team produced La Sagouine, bringing legendary Canadian actress Viola Léger back to a Toronto stage.