Think Philanthropically

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” – Oscar Wilde

The arts sector is often on the leading edge of social change.  Art and artistic expression hasn’t merely provided us with the beauty of paintings, sculptures and soul-stirring literary works.  It has historically helped broaden our understanding of important social realities and put a spotlight on the need for justice.  One dimension of the arts is local live theatre.  Vanessa Redgrave once said, “the theatre is as essential to civilization as safe, pure water.” Like safe water, live English language theatre is an important segment in Montreal’s philanthropic ecosystem.  It deserves to be supported.

Vanessa Redgrave once said, “the theatre is as essential to civilization as safe, pure water.”

Montreal’s live theatre scene may not be as large as one might encounter in New York or London however the wealth of English language alternatives is far more robust than most people realize. Many readers are quite familiar with the quality productions of the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts ( and Centaur (  West Islanders are also likely aware of the plays that are staged at the Hudson Village Theatre in their 148 seat converted train station ( .

There are numerous additional local theatre companies that deserve to be supported.  These include organizations like Talisman Theatre that produce English language versions of contemporary Quebec plays. Lyne Paquette, in a telephone interview, told me that, this fall, they will be premiering a production of Still Life, a production that tackles issues like anxiety, private torment and resilience.  (

Geordie Theatre is a highly respected group that touches the lives of more than 30,000 young people each year via performances, workshops, and its theatre school.  Geordie’s dynamic Executive Director, Kathryn Westoll, points out that they aim to help young people see themselves by presenting works that touch on topics that school aged individuals are currently conversing about. (

In a recent presentation to the Rotary Club of Westmount, Repercussion Theatre’s Chris Chaban, spoke about the theatre company’s dedication to producing authentic and engaging Shakespeare in the Park productions in the Montreal area. This summer they expect to put on shows in more than 15 parks in the city. It is likely that over 12,000 people will attend. The objective of their efforts, summed up in a line from Hamlet; is “to hold as ‘twere the mirror up to nature”. More information about this year’s production can be found at: (

All of these fine companies, and there are others, deserve philanthropic support. It is impossible to stage any kind of live theatre production and expect that costs can be covered by ticket sales and venue related concessions. Are there government grants? Yes, however the current economic realities have forced most government agencies and many foundations to reduce their support for the arts. Our experience of culture in Montreal requires a vibrant and well-supported arts scene. That is why donors and benefactors have always been important – and now more than ever. As we grapple with a variety of new technologies than can lead to greater levels of social isolation we need to energetically invest in the collective experience of live local theatre. It exists to inspire us, to challenge us, to make us laugh…or cry. It is a sector that desperately needs our support and encouragement.

“Our experience of culture in Montreal requires a vibrant and well-supported arts scene.”

Sam Watts serves as the CEO of Welcome Hall Mission  He serves on several non-profit boards and is an appointed member of the National Housing Council of Canada.  He is the author of Good Work…Done Better