Sydney Risk Foundation – About Us
The Foundation exists to honour Sydney Risk – a pioneer of live theatre in Western Canada. It was conceived by Sydney and his family and friends before Sydney’s death in 1985; and was established early in 1986, and is sustained by his family, former students and many friends.
Sydney was born in Vancouver. He graduated in Arts from, and acted in the Players’ Club at the University of British Columbia, succeeding Frederic Wood as director in 1930.
In 1933 he went to London, England, to study acting at the Old Vic under the direction of Tyrone Guthrie and worked for several years as a professional actor.
Sydney returned to Canada in 1939 and became the drama specialist at the University of Alberta Extension Department. For six summers, he led the Theatre Division of the Banff School of Fine Arts (now the Banff Centre for the Arts). During these years he was a recipient of a Rockefeller scholarship and completed a Master’s degree in Theatre from Cornell University.
In 1946 Sydney realized his dream by forming the Everyman Theatre – a western Canadian professional repertory company – which flourished for seven successful years. The Everyman was the first professional theatre company in Western Canada. It offered young Canadian actors and playwrights a chance to pursue their careers without having to leave the country, and committed to producing at least one Canadian play a year. It began as a touring company, producing three plays in 1947 in seventy locations from Vancouver to Winnipeg.
The Everyman established its base in Vancouver and in 1950 began operating in a studio theatre space on Main Street. Productions included Murder in the Cathedral by T.S.Eliot, and children’s plays under the co-direction of Joy Coghill.
The Company was composed of young Canadians with whom Sydney had worked at the Banff School, UBC and The U of A. The Everyman operated on a shoe string – no government or other public or private grants – only Sydney’s and his family’s savings kept his dream and the Company going.
in 1952 the Everyman relocated to a larger theatre space, and attempted to draw audiences to pay the bills with imported ‘star’ players. When Sydney’s production of Jack Kirkland’s adaptation of Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road was stopped by police, Sydney resigned and closed his theatre. Until 1966 he taught drama at the University of British Columbia.
Many Canadian theatre artists began their careers at the Everyman, including Ted Follows, Arthur Hill, Myra Benson, Peter Mannering, and Bruno Gerussi. It also enabled the founding of other companies, such as Totem Theatre (1951) and Holiday Children’s Theatre (1953) by members of the Everyman Company.
The Foundation was formed to celebrate and honour Sydney’s legacy. He sent the first generation of professional actors, playwrights and directors out of Western Canada into the world. Everywhere they thrived – a living tribute to his inspiration.
The Foundation continues to celebrate and honour Sydney’s legacy by encouraging and nurturing subsequent generations of aspiring, emerging actors, playwrights and directors, to pursue their dreams, as he did that first generation.
Each year, for more than three decades, the Foundation awards three scholarships, at present $2,500 each: one to a young actor, another to a young playwright, and a third to a young director to assist them to pursue careers as theatre professionals. The actor is chosen by the faculty of Studio 58, the theatre school at Langara College. The playwright is selected by a professional jury appointed by the Jessie Richardson Theatre Society, which sponsors the annual Jessie live theatre awards here in Vancouver, like the Tony and other theatre awards in New York or the Oscars in Hollywood. And the director is chosen by the faculty of the Department of Theatre and Film at UBC. To date we have awarded awards and scholarships totalling in excess of $93,500, and we are just getting started.
The Foundation rewards their passion; encourages their dreams. Their passion drives their success. Their success makes theatre compelling. Theatre enriches us all. Their success is their ultimate reward, and the Foundation’s, and encourages our work.
Sydney’s family and friends continue to support the work of the Foundation. In addition to its annual scholarships, the Foundation recognizes a need to increase them, and to build an endowment to sustain them well into the future. We are so grateful that our supporters have allowed us to build an endowment in excess of $210,000 to date. The Foundation is a registered Canadian charitable organization, and provides receipts for donations which are tax deductible.