The past year has been a nomadic adventure for the Bad Dog Theatre. It was with heavy hearts – but plenty of optimism – that we left our first permanent home base on the Danforth last February. (Click here to read about that.)
Our first priority was to find a home for Theatresports, our flagship and Toronto’s longest-running improv show. It was very important to us that Theatresports continue to run in the prime Saturday-at-8pm timeslot – a tricky thing to come by, since weekends are heavily sought-after and already quite busy at established venues. Luckily for us, Comedy Bar was supportive of us, right from the start. Owner Gary Rideout Jr. agreed that our show had the potential to be a fixture at the venue… to anchor Saturday nights with unscripted comedy of a consistently high quality that was accessible not just to an audience of our peers, but to the general public.
If someone were to walk in off the street, never having seen improv before, just looking to relax and laugh for an hour – Theatresports is the sort of show that will deliver every time.
So, in April of 2011 – after a short hiatus from performance, the Bad Dog was back up and producing shows. (Jan Caruana, James Gangl and Kerry Griffin deserve massive kudos for their incredible work bringing that Toronto improv institution back to the stage.)
At the same time, we found new workshop and teaching space at 918 Bathurst – a community arts centre, just steps from the subway. (Transit accessibility has remained a priority for us since our move.) 918 Bathurst was also the venue for a springtime run of our family-friendly improvised Saturday matinee: Aesop’s Fables, directed by Darryl Pring.
Meanwhile, our Youth Program under the direction of Alastair Forbes and then Janet Davidson carried on closer to our old home at Fraser Studios (115 Danforth Ave.)… where our youth and teen classes continue to be held in 2012.
Throughout the spring and summer, we were active in searching for a new forever-home for the Bad Dog. Working with a commercial real estate agent with non-profit experience, we explored a wide variety of potential sites… with particular emphasis on areas easily accessible by public transit and already associated with social and cultural activities (neighbourhoods like our old Danforth stomping grounds, Bloorcourt Village, Kensington Market, the lower Ossington area and the Junction).
We worked up a number of different business models and financial scenarios with the goal of putting ourselves in the strongest possible position moving forward and avoiding overextending ourselves over the long term. We also had numerous conversations with potential partners – exploring a number of different arrangements in which we could grow as a company in tandem with the support of other entities (both from the world of improv/comedy and outside of it).
This autumn, with the opening of the new improv-friendly cabaret space at Comedy Bar, we were able to stabilize our Theatresports schedule (we had sometimes faced interruptions when Comedy Bar had outside headliners – usually stand-up comedians – previously booked for weekend appearances). We were also able to add a Monday-night cabaret show to our lineup (Bad Dog presents: ) to begin developing formats and showcasing a broader cross-section of improvisers outside of Theatresports.
In November, rapidly escalating rental rates encouraged us to end our brief but lovely residency at 918 Bathurst. And, as 2011 drew to a close, following months of deliberation and research, we began to put together the partnership agreement that would allow us to stop searching and get back to focusing entirely on the creation and development of exceptional unscripted work, supporting the growth of a community of improvisers we’re thrilled to be a part of and committing ourselves to reaching a broader audience than ever before with an art form that, in Toronto, has somehow still flown under the general public’s radar.
So here we are.
We will be presenting shows four nights a week – some in the cabaret, some in the main space. As the official improv training program of Comedy Bar, the majority of our classes (everything we can fit!) will also take place there. (Though, our youth classes will continue to run at Fraser Studios.) Comedy Bar is already the hub of independent comedy in Toronto and now it is also our base… a place to create and hang out and shape our future.
Now it’s time to get to work…