There’s yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of major change at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto’s venerable queer theatre company. On Friday, the theatre confirmed it had a new board of directors, comprised of Christina Cicko, Brendan McMurtry-Howlett and Jason Avis.
The previous Buddies board collapsed in recent months. One member was voted off at the annual general meeting in December 2021, three more left Jan. 12 and another four Jan. 20. Three of those four — Jim Lawrence, Adam Morrison, and Russell Mathew — stayed on the board in an administrative capacity but have now left the board, a Buddies’ spokesperson confirmed Friday.
Cicko is the production coordinator for the department of theatre at York University’s school of the arts, media, performance and design and has worked at many theatres in lighting design and stage management, including as stage manager of Buddies’ acclaimed production of “Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools.”
McMurtry-Howlett is a director and theatremaker and the founding artistic director of the Toronto theatre company Shakespeare in the Ruff. He is a board member of the Toronto arts incubator Generator Performance and with Generator has recently participated in its “Governance Reimaginings” project, which explores new approaches to the structure and leadership of performing arts organizations.
The three board appointments come a day after Buddies parted ways with two long-serving employees.
Shawn Daudlin, Buddies’ managing director of 13 years, confirmed his resignation on Facebook. Before assuming the position in 2009, Daudlin served as a box office manager for 10 years at the company.
Buddies’ longtime bar manager Patricia Wilson also announced she was stepping back from the company Thursday night. Wilson has worked at Buddies since the early 1990s and is a poet, musician and author.
“After almost 30 years with buddies I will no longer be there to greet you or have a shot with you,” she said in a private Facebook post. “I won’t forget all this community has done for me.”
Wilson was a stalwart member of the Buddies community — beloved by artists and audiences alike.
“This is not sitting well at all. I am honestly very sad,” said performing artist Alex Tigchelaar, reflecting on Wilson’s departure. “I was at Buddies on and off for a few decades, and Patricia was our rock. She is revered in our communities as a matriarch.”
Drag artist Allysin Chaynes said Wilson is “an institution — and I really don’t use that lightly. This monolith of radically alternative queerhood, that is simultaneously not fitting into a typical box of so many aspects of queerness, but still having so much power and presence in the community. That’s something I could only hope but strive for.”
Ryan G. Hinds, a theatre artist and former artist-in-residence at Buddies, said Wilson was someone that younger members of the queer and theatre communities “could look up to.”
“Patricia had been working with Buddies for nearly 30 years, and she knew what was going on in everybody’s life,” said Hinds. “It didn’t matter how long it had been since you’d been to Buddies. She’d remember your name and she’d remember your friend circle … in terms of what Patricia got from the rest of us I’ll say respect, I’ll say admiration, I’ll say gratitude.”
Hinds says the recent turmoil at the company is shocking.
“I look at Buddies as a family. I looked at Buddies as a school,” he said. “So much of what I learned, not just in art but in life, was at Buddies and from the people at Buddies. I don’t think I would have a career if it wasn’t for Buddies.”
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