Actor’s expertise was extended to El Salvador outreach

Edward Daranyi’s skills as an educator and his association with Stratford also became key to an outreach program initiated by artists from The Festival and supported by the company in Suchitoto, El Salvador. Here, the El Salvador group was in Germany at the World Festival of Children’s Theatre. Handout

This week I will pick up from the columns over the past two weeks based on an interview with professional actor, director, acting coach and close friend Edward Daranyi and his career pre-COVID.


As noted last week, Edward worked in Stratford for his apprenticeship year and was sent to England by the Stratford Festival to study classical acting.

Upon his return he elected to continue to have Stratford as his home base but not to return to The Festival Company immediately. He went back to work at Huron County Playhouse and other venues across the country for the next several years and gradually shifted from being on the stage to the production team – assistant directing and directing. It wasn’t until Ed attended the service after his mentor – Michael Mawson – passed away and connected with Michael’s friend Miles Potter (a director who has mounted productions in Stratford, Toronto’s Mirvish productions, Blyth and several other companies across Canada) that Ed returned to a path that would take him to the Stratford stages.

During this period, he also taught at Humber College for four years, commuting from Stratford. Also, around this time Edward adopted his son and the social worker informed him that his new child would not like bouncing from Toronto to Stratford and that he would need to choose one place to work. Ed decided that Stratford would be his home and work location as it afforded the best balance with work and quality time with his son.

Fortunately, Ed was getting a great deal of work with the education department in Stratford along with some work as an assistant director. Through a series of events he soon became a full-time member of the three-member Stratford Festival education department.

It was in this capacity that Ed continued to develop practices that encouraged actors, teachers and students to build characters that told a story and were present in the scene, not just regurgitating a series of memorized words. Innovative programs were developed that assisted students in, among others, Detroit secondary schools, Michigan State University, across Canada and in summer programs such as the Shakespeare School and Teaching Shakespeare program.

Ed’s skills as an educator and his association with Stratford also became key to an outreach program initiated by artists from The Festival and supported by the company in Suchitoto, El Salvador.

As I noted in a previous column, I flew down to assist Ed, teaching the children of this small town in Central America for two weeks a decade ago. The goal of the project was to use the arts to inspire and educate young people to: reach beyond themselves, tell their story, learn from some of the best in the industry and build a sustainable theatre community that was truly self sufficient and an inspiration to the country.

Ed spent many weeks during a number of years building the program known Es Artes and when I was there the love and respect between the students and staff from Suchitoto and Ed was truly inspiring to witness. This program worked to assist the community in building something they could be proud of and that would draw many of them out of abject poverty.

Again, a story that could be an entire column.

After 19 years working to build programs that were held in high regard the position of head of the education department became available. Ed was asked to be interim head but not to apply for the position as the company was choosing to hire from outside the ranks. This was a sign for Ed and he decided to return to freelance work as an actor, director and teacher.

To sustain himself while he looked for work in theatre Ed did what most performers do in down time – he worked at a pub. After a few months of consideration, soul searching and planning Ed was preparing to go back on stage.

Ed had been away from the stage for 12 years while working in education and his first foray back onto the stage, in Newfoundland, was nerve wracking. This was his chance to really put to the test what he had been preaching to students for years. Ed played the ghost in “The Haunting of Margaret Duley” and found that his castmates were struck by how present and engaged he was at all times on stage. Buoyed by this affirmation Ed began booking acting and teaching gigs that had him set up to be busy much of 2020.

Things looked very promising… and then COVID-19 happened.

Now, forgive me for taking so long to get here but I believe it is important to understand how much is invested in creating, preparing and developing the skills it takes to make a good living as a performer. This is not a group of friends making extra cash playing bars on weekends, this is a man’s livelihood and equally important, I believe, the essence of who a performer is.

It has been seven months now and performers have not been able to ply their craft; theatres and concert halls remain dark and that fall-back safety net, working at bars to make ends meet between gigs, is a shadow of what it was.

Next week I will focus on the direct impact COVID has had on artists, specifically Ed, and to the venues that hosted artists.

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