What's in a name?
Honouring the faculty for whom our studios were named.
By Jeanette Reyes
Namesake of the former black box studio theatre on the 2nd floor of 44 Gerrard St East.
Tony Abrams was born in England and was an exceptional student from the get-go. When he was young, he strongly preferred listening to the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts on the radio, rather than the popular music of the time. Around the age of 15, he watched a live opera for the first time and, from then on, fell in love with music and theatre. He initially pursued education and got his diploma. Tony would teach during the day, and attend school in the evenings to obtain the requirements to turn his certificate into a degree. While this was going on, he was still involved in amateur theatre. As soon as X started offering theatre school courses, Tony applied as a mature student in 1977. After graduating from the production program, he stayed at the school, immediately becoming a resident set and costume designer and part-time instructor. Faculty members saw the potential he had, as he was very dedicated to creativity and design. He had a strong passion for teaching. In 1989, he became a regular faculty member. He was a freelance designer and helped establish the Associated Designers of Canada (ADC). He would also dedicate extra time after school or on the weekends to teach students about opera, painting, or decoration since some of those courses were not offered for credit.
Missing: Pink Snake
Tony Abrams was a key figure in designing the sets and costumes that went on stage at the school. In almost every article I could find about our past productions, his name would always be credited as the designer of the shows. He always hid strange artifacts into his sets, often including this pink snake. The school's mascot has been missing for years; if anyone has any stories of other sneaky stuffed animals or information on the snake's whereabouts, please connect with us!
Jean Charles Black recalls “My Tony” - as she calls him - as her best friend. He had a great sense of humour and accompanied her many times when travelling with students to London and Russia. Because he would often design for productions, he and Jean would collaborate to make the best costumes. Both were quite stern, as they believed in hard work and dedication to bring the best results. They made workdays into fun days, being able to hang out with one another doing the things they love most -costume and design!
Tony Abrams taught right up until his passing, at the age of 54 on December 1st, 1996. He passed away exactly 25 years ago, during the the 25th anniversary year of the school leading up to the winter break. That year, Tony designed the set and costumes for Romeo and Juliet and Lysistrata. Bob Vernon (past carpenter) took over the final design tasks for the pieces in Tony’s honour. The entire school attended his funeral. When he passed, Peter Fleming (current staff member) inherited his office and has kept many of his things in his honour.
Tip: If you pass by Peter’s office today and spot a giant “W,” ask him about it!
Tony’s dedication to education and theatre embodies what the school continually aims to achieve with all it’s students. Tony Abrams passed away at an early age, and many saw his potential. At his passing, staff and faculty collectively decided to name the studio theatre after him. His yearning for education would inspire other students to continually achieve their dreams in the performing arts.
*The Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) Task Force has submitted its final report with recommendation to develop principles to guide commemoration at the university and to respond to the history and legacy of the university's namesake. Included in the list of 22 recommendations agreed to by the university's administration, is the call to change the university's name.