We get it. Shakespeare can be boring.  But we’re here to change that.

We strive towards the seamless integration of Outdoor Theatre, Education, and Community Building. Underpinning all of our work is the core value of Accessibility.

Outdoor Theatre

Using Shakespeare as a foundation, we re-interpret, re-write, and re-new these stories for a contemporary audience. We push the boundaries of what is possible in outdoor theatre.

Education

Integrated into the artistic practice, education gives theatre purpose, encourages risk-taking, and reminds us to look towards the future of the art. We strive to educate younger generations of theatre artists through our educational programming, and connect with emerging professional artists through our annual summer production.

Community Building

We welcome our community into our work; sometimes as audience, sometimes as fellow artists. We understand that when people gather and an experience is shared, the sense of community becomes stronger.

Accessibility

We offer our programming free, or Pay-What-You-Can. Accessibility unlocks everything we do. The stories we tell are useless unless our audience understands and connects with them. Education can only influence if it is made available based on need rather than money; community can only be built if everyone is welcome.

History

We came together on a hope and a dream in 2012. Founding Artistic Director Brendan McMurtry-Howlett was born and raised mere blocks from Withrow Park:

“When I was a kid, every summer I would head up the hill with my mom, a couple of lawn chairs under our arms, and take in a show in Wihrow Park. We’d be transported to distant lands filled with action and intrigue. They were a huge inspiration to me and a big reason why I decided to make a career in theatre.

Unfortunately when I returned home after studying at the National Theatre School of Canada the theatre company I had grown up watching had disappeared.

But I wasn’t about to let the dream die I began pitching the idea of reviving the company to other artists I’d worked with and pretty soon we had a formidable team of young, dedicated, passionate artists who were crazy enough to make it happen.

We did have one problem: we had no money.

So we began hosting micro-events in people’s living rooms all around the neighbourhood, performing monologues and sonnets and sharing our plans for bringing Shakespeare back to the East End. The launch of this company happened, in no small way, because of the generosity and support of the whole community.

In August 2012, our rag-tag company of actors took to our make shift stage in the park where I had grown up, just 100 meters from where I had my first kiss. At the same time we launched our Young Ruffian Apprenticeship Program ensuring that education would be a cornerstone in all our work. We recognised that we always needed to be sure this tradition could live on: the Young Ruffians are a big part of that.

Now in our sixth season, Withrow Park has become our home. Each year we’ve grown and become more ambitious but we’ve never forgot brought us here: youthful dreams and an amazing community.

Company Members

Kaitlyn Riordan

Kaitlyn Riordan

Artistic Director & Founding Member

After studying acting in her native Montreal, at Dawson, Kaitlyn went to England to attend LAMDA (The London Academy of Music & Dramatic Arts). Since then she has worked and lived around the UK & USA, selected credits: 1st Witch in Macbeth (Lost Theatre Co-UK & Spanish Tour), Carol in Oleanna (Judi Dench Theatre-London), Viola in Twelfth Night (National UK Tour Original Theatre Co), Evelyn in Shape of Things (Porthlight Prod-NJ), Edward/Betty in Cloud 9 (Whirled Peas Prod-NYC), Ophelia in Hamlet & Celia in As You Like It (TheatreWorks-Colorado; Ovation Nomination). She moved back to Canada 8 years ago, selected credits since then include; The Apology (Next Stage Festival-Dora Nomination), Blithe Spirit & The Merchant of Venice (Stratford Festival), Mockingbird (Next Stage Festival-Dora Nomination), Noises Off! (Segal Centre) and for Ruff; Two Gents, Cymbeline's Reign, Macbeth: Walking Shadows, and Romeo & Juliet. Film/TV credits include Murdoch Mysteries (CBC), Reign (CW), Twelve Monkeys (SyFy). Kaitlyn is also a playwright and has recently completed I Sit Content, a play about Emily Carr. This summer, she will be acting in Linda Griffith's one-woman show Maggie & Pierre at The Thousand Island's Playhouse.

Eva Barrie

Eva Barrie

Associate Artistic Director

Originally from Okotoks, Alberta, Eva is a Toronto-based director, actor and creator. She is a graduate of Ryerson University’s Performance Acting Program and has trained with Anne Bogart’s SITI Company in Saratoga Springs, NY and New York City, NY. Her writing has been supported by Tarragon Theatre, Theatre Gargantua, DaPoPo Theatre, the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts. Eva was the creator behind Shakespeare in the Ruff’s My Co-Mates & Brothers in Exile, a piece exploring a refugee’s journey to Canada, created with Shakespearean and found contemporary text. Because of her diverse creation practises, she was invited to be the Co-Program Director of Nightwood Theatre’s Young Innovators Lab, a lab celebrating alternative theatre-making. Shakespeare credits: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Director, Parikrma Humanity Foundation, Bangalore, India), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Assistant Director, Humber River Shakespeare Company), Julius Caesar (Brutus, Spur-of-the-Moment Shakespeare), König Heinrich der Vierte (Lady Mortimer, Shakespeare im Park Berlin), Macbeth (Lady Macbeth, Ale House Theatre).

Brendan McMurtry Howlett

Brendan McMurtry-Howlett

Artistic Associate & Founding Member

Born and raised in the Riverdale neighbourhood of Toronto, Brendan grew up watching the original Shakespeare theatre company every summer in Withrow Park. Brendan has been a director, performer and teacher across Canada and internationally. Recent acting credits: Member of the National Arts Centre Acting Company – Pride & Prejudice (Theatre Calgary/NAC), Innocence Lost (Centaur Threatre/NAC); Bea (Actor’s Rep. Co.); the one-person show “…and stockings for the ladies” (Rustwerk/NYC); The Overwhelming (CanStage/Studio 180); Percy Shelley in The Apology (NextStage – Dora Nomination); Florizel in The Winter’s Tale (CanStage; Dream in High Park). Directing: Two Gents (Shakespeare In The Ruff); Blood Moon (Edinburgh Festival); Honey in the Lion’s Head (RetaliationTheatre); Terrorism (Actors Repertory Company). Brendan has taught a wide range of theatre subjects from Shakespeare to puppetry, for kids of all ages. He is a member of the Actor’s Repertory Company and is a graduate of The National Theatre School of Canada.

Andrew Joseph Richardson

Andrew Joseph Richardson

Artistic Associate & Founding Member

Andrew Joseph Richardson is an Indo-Canadian actor, director, and dramaturg. He is a graduate of both the Theatre Arts Program at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton (where he is originally from) and the Acting Program at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal. He is also the Co-Ordinator of the Guerrilla Ruffian Squad and directed their production, Situation Unknown (a Shakespearean improv performance), at the Shakespeare Lives microfestival in libraries across Toronto. A.J. has lead the adaptations for every summer production of Shakespeare in the Ruff in collaboration with each show’s director. He has also created short adaptations of Henry VI, Part 3 and Julius Caesar (amongst others) for Original Practices events. His adaptation of The Tempest was directed by Diane D'Aquila for Theatre Calgary's Shakespeare by the Bow. He directed the Shakespeare-in-Hospitals Program for Spur-of-the-Moment Shakespeare Collective in 2014. Selected Acting: Launce in Two Gents, Cloten in Cymbeline’s Reign, and Banquo in Macbeth: Walking Shadows (Shakespeare in the Ruff), Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor (Shakespeare BASH’d), Joseph in Something from Nothing (Cascade Theatre), Horatio in Hamlet (Forward Theatre), and Rodorigo in Othello (Sound and Fury Theatre).

Caitlin Sullivan

Caitlin Sullivan

Youth Development Coordinator

Caitlin was born and raised in Oshawa, where she attended a performing arts high school, majoring in drama. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Drama in Education and a Bachelor of Education, both from the University of Windsor. After returning to Toronto in 2004 she started teaching, first in a private school before moving on to the Toronto District School Board. Currently she teaches drama and English to grade 8 students. After taking a break to raise her two daughters, Caitlin is thrilled to be returning to the theatre world with Shakespeare in the Ruff. She had many fond memories of seeing Shakespeare in the Park productions as a kid, and can't wait to help contribute to the memories of other budding actors via the Young Ruffians Apprenticeship Program.

Founding Members

Lois Adamson

Founding Youth Development Coordinator

Emma Mackenzie Hillier

Founding General Manager & Producer

Marcel Stewart

Founding Youth Development Coordinator

Past Company Members

Jesse Griffiths
Brookyln Doran
Nicole Myers
Holly Laflamme

Board

Shakespeare in the Ruff acknowledges and sincerely thanks our volunteer board for their commitment and generosity. If you are interested in joining our Board of Directors, please contact Peter Wismath.

Peter Wismath

Board Chair

Dasha Peregoudova

Secretary

Lawrence Smith

Treasurer

Jennifer Burak

Nacia Miller

David Stones