Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Buddies’ artistic director David Oiye resigns

Canada's largest queer theatre looks for new leader

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight.

The artistic director of Canada’s queer theatre company is calling it quits.

David Oiye, who has served as artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre for 10 years, confirmed his resignation on May 7.   

He said his decision to step down was fuelled by his desire to pursue his own artistic endeavours.

“It’s tricky when you run a theatre company. One’s own work gets put on the back burner,” he said in a telephone interview.

Oiye spoke optimistically about his decision to step down. He said it would be a positive move for the company. 

“It’s good for a theatre company to shake things up,” he said.

Oiye did not comment when asked if he was being forced to leave but said his departure had nothing to do with Buddies recent economic troubles.

Earlier this year, Buddies announced the cancellation of its March show, Gay4Pay by Ed Roy, as a result of poor ticket sales and a troubling economy. The show You Are Here by Vancouver-based storyteller and Xtra West columnist Ivan Coyote was also scrapped from the season.

In an attempt to ease its financial fears Buddies held a series of fundraising events in March starring a bevy top-notch Canadian queer talent, including playwright and actor Daniel MacIvor, singers Sharon Matthews and Thom Allison and burlesque troupe The Scandelles.

Oiye said the fundraising events have paid off.

“We’ve exceeded projections and are on track for the rest of the season,” he said.

This year’s Pride festivies will mark the end of Oiye’s term. His final salute will probably be at his annual Pride party Lady Oiye’s Tea Dance at Buddies on Pride Day, Sun, Jun 28 at which Oiye is expected to appear in drag.

Staff at Buddies in Bad Times called Oiye’s descion to resign a “natural” one, and that business will continue as usual.

“[His departure] wasn’t a big surprise to anyone,” said Erika Hennebury, Buddies’ associate producer and director of Rhubarb fest. “It’s a chance to create room for new artists and new voices.”

During his tenure Oiye presented over 35 queer productions, including 20 Toronto premieres of queer Canadian work, as well as oodles of short works as part of Buddies’ nine Rhubarb and four Hysteria festivals. Oiye’s administration also led Buddies productions through 18 Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations (the Tonys of Canadian theatre), winning six.

Oiye, however, won’t be off Buddies’ radar completely.  He is scheduled to return to the theatre in September to direct burlesque divas Sasha Van Bon Bon and Kitty Neptune in Neon Nights, a play that explores the relationships between Montreal’s exotic strip club scene and the Catholic Church. 

Neon Nights, which kicks off Buddies upcoming 2009/2010 season, is one of four productions scheduled to hit Buddies’ mainstage. The upcoming season will mark the premiere of The Silicone Diaries created and performed by Toronto transsexual celebrity and former Fab magazine columnist Nina Arsenault. An erotic, sensual photograph of Arsenault is rumoured to grace the cover of Buddies’ 2009/2010 program.

Also premiering next season is the English-version of The Salon Automaton, a story about a lonely woman who creates three robots to be her friends, and Breakfast, which is about a woman who turns to a self-help program in an attempt to get ahead in life.

Something obvious about Buddies’ next season is that all the mainstage shows are by women only.

Hennebury says the decision to front a women-only season at Buddies was long coming. 

“We’ve seen and felt that women are underrepresented in the world in terms of directors and performers,” said Hennebury. “The shows featured in this upcoming season are projects we’ve had our eyes on for a long time.”

Meanwhile, the search for a new artistic director begins. 

Buddies board member Paul Halferty said that a new artistic director will be chosen by a hiring committee comprised of members from Buddies’ board of directors and with an outside person from the arts community.

The job requires artistic vision, an understanding of Toronto theatre and the queer community and experience in running a theatre space, said Halferty.

Halferty said an official posting for the job will be in circulation mid-May.