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History of the Ryerson School of Performance

During the 1960s and ‘70s there was tremendous growth in the Canadian Theatre Industry; in Toronto alone, several new theatre companies emerged including Theatre Passe Muraille, the Tarragon and Factory theatres. The Canadian Government established several new granting organizations, initiating several arts funding programs dedicated to the burgeoning cultural industry.  Ryerson Theatre School (RTS as it was known) opened its doors in 1971, the result of a recognized need for excellence in professional theatre training.

Our Beginnings

Jack McAllister, a veteran with decades of experience in the live performance industry, looked to London’s Central School of Speech and Drama as the model for Ryerson’s own theatre.  Backed by then Dean of Applied Arts, Al Sauro, and President Fred Jorgenson, McAllister's proposal was accepted.  Jorgenson's successor, Donald Mordell, approached McAllister with a recommendation to incorporate the Canadian College of Dance in Montreal (associated with the Royal Academy of Dancing and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing) into Ryerson's new theatre program.

In the beginning, training for acting and arts administration was offered as a four-year program and technical production and dance training was a three-year diploma.  Ryerson became one of only two schools in North America to offer full-time professional theatre training in acting, dance teaching, arts administration, and technical production.

Ryerson’s School of Performance offers full-time four year BFAs in Acting, Dance and Production with facilities that include a proscenium stage, flexible black box studios, rehearsal rooms, dance studios, wood/ metal workshop, scenic art/drafting lab, costume workshops, and a range of other teaching spaces.  Training is offered in acting, ballet, jazz, modern and contemporary dance, scenic and costume design, lighting design, sound design, technical theatre, playwriting and directing, production and stage management as well as audience relations.

Current Practice

The School of Performance faculty has extensive professional theatre experience and many of the instructors continue to work in and maintain close relations in the cultural sector both nationally and internationally.  Students work with award-winning faculty, in addition to many of Canada’s top artists and arts managers.  Esteemed guest lecturers and artists enrich the student experience through added workshops, studio training, individual coaching and mentoring.  Students in all streams participate in full-scale theatrical productions, while senior students are encouraged to produce original work in the final semester.

The involvement of The School of Performance faculty in academic research, writing and creative community projects also provides a particularly vibrant learning opportunity for students in the program – with many students having opportunities to participate alongside faculty in both local and study-abroad experiences.

About FCAD 

The Faculty of Communication & Design provides a distinctive crossroads for creative and scholarly disciplines. Committed to excellence, the Schools within the Faculty provide unique experiential programs in undergraduate and graduate study as well as learning zone opportunities.  These unique learning environments broaden and deepen as they shape themselves to meet the ever-changing needs of our cultural industries and professional communities. 

Attracting talented students from across Canada and around the world, FCAD continues to be a leader in the programs it provides, many of which are either one-of-a-kind programs in Canada or have been identified as top in their field, both domestically and globally. These same programs also attract exceptional faculty who provide leadership through teaching as well as their research, artistic and professional pursuits.