Though there were hundreds of nominees at the Dora Mavor Moore theatre awards last Monday night, one man’s name was on everyone’s lips: Ken Gass.
Gass, who founded the groundbreaking Factory Theatre in 1970, ran it successfully for nine years, and returned to save it from near bankruptcy in 1996, had been at the helm until last week, when the board dismissed him. No one is saying exactly what happened yet, but anticipation ran high as to how the Doras would address the situation.
“I’d be willing to bet Thom Allison’s [the host] first joke is ‘Sorry I’m late, but I was dropping off my resume at the Factory Theatre,’” said comedian Matt Baram, glass in hand, at the VIP Sony Centre pre-party. For Audrey Dwyer, who was in the Dora-nominated The Penelopiad, it was no laughing matter. “I think of respect for your elders,” she said.
As it turned out, the affair was barely mentioned during the awards, except when lighting-design winner André du Toit made a point of addressing Gass directly: “Thank you, Ken, for everything you’ve done for me.”
Nonetheless, Gass was the unofficial man of the hour, at times nearly overwhelmed by hugs and pats on the back. (The community has rallied in other ways, too: A petition to have him reinstated and the board removed has already gathered more than 2,000 signatures.)
At evening’s end, he strolled out among the revellers at the Front Street after-party and, with a smile on his face, began to dance in the road. Whatever may have happened behind closed doors last week, Gass was among friends this evening.