Common Boots Theatre began from Theatre Columbus– a company created when two young actors returned from France armed with a unique way of creating theatre. Martha Ross and Leah Cherniak trained together under renowned physical theatre master Jacques Lecoq, whose techniques break the barriers between performer and audience by placing the actor at the centre of the work. The works scripted the chaos of managing modern life and featured characters that were both original and familiar. Over time the style evolved, a porous fourth wall erected, and a writer join the actors to shape the work into a script.
The Poor Alex Theatre in the heart of Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood served as home base. Together with Crow’s Theatre and Theatre Smith Gilmour, Theatre Columbus managed the Poor Alex and established it as a vibrant centre for premiering new work. It was during this time that Jennifer Brewin joined the company as its first General Manager.
While resident at The Poor Alex, the company developed its particular brand of collective creation. Common Boots is building on the history of Theatre Columbus, which contributed over 30 original works to the Canadian canon. The Anger in Ernest & Ernestine has had 18 major productions around the world, and has been translated into Spanish and French. The Attic, the Pearls & 3 Fine Girls, produced across Canada and internationally, continues to connect the company to countless schools, theatre programs and amateur companies.
Creating opportunities for artists to develop and launch new works is part of the company’s legacy. From the beginning, Theatre Columbus has curated several series of festivals featuring work in development, including The Knee Plays and Mayhem and The Naked Muse. From these festivals came Kristen Thomson’s I Claudia, Theatre Smith-Gilmour’s Chekhov’s Shorts, Brooke Johnson’s The Trudeau Stories and Darren O’Donnell’s A Suicide-Site Guide to the City.
As the company evolved, site-specific performances were added to the seasons in 2011, with the establishment of its annual outdoor winter theatre production. This is a processional show performed in and around Toronto’s historic Evergreen Brick Works. Through these productions, Jennifer Brewin transformed the company into the company we know now as Common Boots Theatre.
Jennifer Brewin became the artistic director in 2009. After a 20-year absence, Jennifer was tasked with reinterpreting the company’s founding practices for a new generation of artists and audiences.
Common Boots Theatre (formerly Theatre Columbus) has been honoured with ten Dora Mavor Moore Awards and 53 nominations; and the Chalmers Best Canadian Play Award for The Betrayal, as well as nominations for Dr. Dapertutto and The Attic, the Pearls & 3 Fine Girls.
On May 4, 2015 Jennifer Brewin and Martin Julien took to the stage at our 30th Birthday Party to reveal the new name of the company.
Common Boots Theatre.
We thought hard and long to find a title that will welcome our entire community into our practice.
We believe we found a name that embodies the artistry and integrity of our
history and injects inspiration for future artists and audience.
Thank you for your friendship and support for over 30 years of serious comedy!