Evicted in—and from—Toronto: Walker's Beautiful City at Factory Theatre


George F. Walker’s The East End Plays mark a break in the playwright’s dramaturgy, a shift away from polemical plays toward more political plays. Specifically, Beautiful City, fourth in the published sequence of six plays, demonstrates a distinctly spatialized politics underlying Walker’s dramaturgy. About the gentrification of Toronto during the 1980s, the period when this play was written and produced, these politics advocate primarily for community instead of condominiums; more theoretically, they advocate for awareness of the interplay of urban forms and urban lifestyles in ways that parallel arguments made in critical and cultural geography at this time. My argument unfolds along two tracks, the first of which considers the spatialized politics at work in the story and structure of Walker’s play, foregrounding the ways that urban forms prove central to the conflicts of the play and how the play confronts audiences with what Walker describes as the “simple, ugly truth” about the future of Toronto. The second extends such concerns toward the original production at Factory Theatre in Toronto, specifically in terms of its purchasing and defending its new location at 125 Bathurst Street during the 1980s. During this production, the political argument of Walker’s play was advanced through the public struggle to maintain this space; and, simultaneously, the play’s argument served to endorse and further the efforts to maintain Factory Theatre by politicizing the theater’s stewardship of the space against the backdrop of urban redevelopment in Toronto.

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