Stage Door News

Stratford: Pleiades Theatre Artistic Producer Andrey Tarasiuk dies at age 71

Friday, June 30, 2023

Respected Canadian theatre producer, director, and Pleiades Theatre Artistic Producer Andrey Tarasiuk died unexpectedly, but peacefully, at his home in Stratford, Ontario on Wednesday, June 28. He was 71 years of age.

Tarasiuk joined Toronto’s Pleiades Theatre in 2009, becoming the company’s first Artistic Producer in 2017. He commissioned and produced years of award-winning multicultural dramas in new translations, including The (Post) Mistress by Tomson Highway, Shakuntala by Kalidasa translated by W. J. Johnson, The Post Office by Rabindranath Tagore translated by Julie Mehta, The Sound of Cracking Bones by Suzanne Lebeau translated by Julia Duchesne and John Van Burek, and Besbouss: Autopsy of a Revolt by Stéphane Brulotte translated by John Van Burek. Tarasiuk was set to retire from active theatre leadership this month.

"Pleiades is devastated by this sudden loss, but the loss to Canadian theatre is even greater. Andrey ushered in so many artists and administrators over the decades that you would be hard-pressed to find people who haven't worked with him at some point or another. His leadership with Canada's leading theatre companies is well documented. However, his greatest gift was giving people hope and encouragement. He loved theatre practitioners and always wanted them to feel as passionate about their art as he did. One always left a conversation with him smiling and feeling inspired. I am sorry that another generation won't benefit from his wisdom, experience, and love.” – Ash Knight, Artistic Producer - Designate, Pleiades Theatre

“I had the distinct pleasure of working with Andrey during his time at Pleiades Theatre. I was, however, aware of his many accomplishments prior to joining Pleiades including his success with the Toronto Parks Department to allow Shakespearean dramas in High Park; his vision to change the way serious and moral questions were presented to young audiences at Theatre Direct; and his push for visible diversity within the acting company and staging of new Canadian plays at the Stratford Festival. He opened the doors for many in the Canadian theatre community, and leaves behind an inspiring legacy.” – Nada Ristich, retired Head, Community Giving, BMO Financial Group

A graduate of the University of Manitoba and the National Theatre School of Canada, Tarasiuk was associated with almost every major theatre in the country over his fifty years as an active artist dedicated to arts in Canada. His career began as a young dancer with the inaugural company of Winnipeg’s now world-famous Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble.

He produced four summer regional productions of Canada’s national multiculturalism show including Just A Kommedia for Vancouver’s Expo 86, and the one-woman show, Luba, Simply Luba, with actress and comedian Luba Goy.

He was the founding producer of Dream in High Park, and the director of many radio dramas with CBC-Radio Canada. He was a guest director, instructor and lecturer at the National Theatre School of Canada, The University of Winnipeg and the National Arts Centre among others. As Artistic Producer for Theatre Direct Canada, an award–winning Toronto-based company, he worked with such Canadian authors as Anne Chislett, Tomson Highway and Joan MacLeod in the creation of new dramas for young audiences.

“As a fellow Manitoban, Andrey was always a great supporter of my work, and I would say he very much supported new plays by Canadian authors and strongly believed it should be produced by the major theatres. He was a great fan of, and tried to bring, all Canadian playwrights to the stage.” – Tomson Highway OC, playwright and novelist

At the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where he was Associate Artistic Director and Head of New Play Development for eight seasons under Richard Monette, he directed a number of productions including James Reaney’s The Donnellys: Sticks and Stones which was also presented at the National Arts Centre, Anne Chislett’s Quiet in the Land, and the world premiere of Anton Piatigorsky’s Eternal Hydra.

Tarasiuk also served as a board member for numerous Canadian organisations including the Stratford Arts Foundation/Stratford Summer Music, Toronto Alliance for Performing Arts and the Professional Association for Canadian Theatres.

He received many awards and distinctions including both the Derek. F. Mitchell Artistic Director’s Award and the Tyrone Guthrie Award from the Stratford Festival and was the co-recipient of the Kobzar Literary Award for Luba, Simply Luba.

“With sudden alacrity the curtain has descended on a genius in the artistic community. As a former dancer and founder of the Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble he was a handsome and elegant man in both speech and manner. I had the joy of knowing Andrey for many decades and working with him on some of our most personal pieces. We both shared a love for our Ukrainian heritage and in Luba, Simply Luba we put that history at the centre of it. He was a great listener, so collaborative, and he inspired the best in the performers he worked with. He was a born storyteller, a beautiful soul, a social butterfly and had a great sense of humour. We give you a standing ovation and applaud your life’s work. Vichnaya Pamayiat.” – Luba Goy, actor and playwright

Tarasiuk leaves behind his husband, John Miller of Stratford, with whom he had enjoyed 40 years of life together, his siblings and their families in Winnipeg and a host of friends and colleagues in the arts throughout Canada.

Donations in Tarasiuk’s memory can be made to the Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, or to a Canadian arts and cultural organisation of the donor’s choice. A celebration of life will be held in Stratford in August, details forthcoming.

“Few people realise the huge impact Andrey Tarasiuk had on the performing arts in Canada. Not only have we lost an invaluable - if unsung - colleague but I have also lost a dear, dear friend.” – John Van Burek, actor, playwright and founder & artistic director, emeritus, Pleiades Theatre.

Photo: Andrey Tarasiuk.