Shakespeare in the Ruins originated in 1993, when Lora Schroeder, Ann Hodges and B. Pat Burns gathered over a dozen friends and colleagues, invited them out to the ruins of a Trappiste Monastery on the outskirts of St. Norbert and said: “Hey kids! Let’s put on a show!” The show was Romeo and Juliet, the kids christened their collective Shakespeare in the Ruins (SIR), and a theatre company was born. The original founding company included: Derek Aasland; Michelle Boulet; B. Pat Burns; Lee J. Campbell; Matt Moreau; Maggie Nagle; Debbie Patterson; Gene Pyrz; Lora Schroeder; Marc Beaudry; Katie R. East; Ann Hodges; Grant Guy; Arne MacPherson; Rick McPherson and Rick Skene. Incorporating the unique environment of the ruins; promenade-style audience movement; an intriguing mix of bare-bones contemporary and traditional aesthetics; cross-gendered, multiple-role casting and a dynamic, text-oriented style of performance, the inaugural performance of Romeo and Juliet set the template for what has continued to be SIR’s approach to the works of William Shakespeare to this day.
Initially functioning as an Equity Co-op, SIR was incorporated in 1995, and has since then operated under the Independent Theatre Agreement. Our artistic programming is directed by a passionate ensemble of artists whose shared goal is to produce dynamic theatre in non-traditional settings, with a focus on creating an immediate, intimate relationship with our audience. The adventurous spirit that drives SIR has led us to perform in places well beyond the Trappist Monastery Provincial Heritage Park Ruins, including productions on Winnipeg’s Dreman Building parkade rooftop, Gaboury-Lagemodiere Park in St. Boniface, and Assiniboine Park. In addition to working our way through the Bard’s canon with our annual spring Main Stage production, SIR has developed and performed unique one-hour, four-actor touring productions: Stripped-Down Macbeth; Stripped-Down Romeo & Juliet; Stripped-Down Hamlet; and A Stripped-Down Midsummer Night's Dream, which have traveled to high schools throughout Manitoba, Western Ontario and Eastern Saskatchewan. (Clearly, we have chosen a literal interpretation of our namesake’s famous words: “All the world’s a stage…”)
In addition to promoting and producing Shakespeare’s plays, SIR has a proud history of developing and presenting new works by Manitoba playwrights. We can take credit for world premieres by Rick Chafe (The Odyssey, 2000) and Debbie Patterson (Head, 2006), and are currently developing Kevin Klassen’s adaptation of Cue For Treason and a new play by Sarah Constible and Ross McMillan called Eye Through the Window, about the lives of Charles & Mary Lamb. All four of these plays share some aspects with Shakespeare’s works (historical and cultural significance; grand themes; etc.), but, more pertinently to SIR, they offer wonderful opportunities for a large cast of actors and plenty of room for inventive staging.
Our ongoing commitment to making the works of Shakespeare accessible and enjoyable for everyone (through clarity of text and unusual environmental staging), and our dedication to an “ensemble” approach (in every aspect of our organization), in addition to our initiatives in youth and community education, developing new work, and professional development, all contribute toward making Shakespeare in the Ruins a unique and valuable Canadian arts organization.