Bob Cook is not entirely sure what prompted him to sign up for a Theatre Sheridan season six years ago, but he’s sure of one thing – he was hooked from the first performance. From that day on, he has been a regular donor to Theatre Sheridan.
In the years since, he has also been an enthusiastic patron, often attending multiple performances of the same show. “I like to see a show evolve, and witness the maturation of the artists over time. If I come to a dress rehearsal and see it later in its run, the difference is incredible.”
“I like to see a show evolve, and witness the maturation of the artists over time. If I come to a dress rehearsal and see it later in its run, the difference is incredible” – Bob Cook
Bob’s passion for theatre is rooted in his youth. After graduating with an English degree from the University of Toronto, he worked as a resource person at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse, and later joined two avant garde theatrical troupes – the Royal Canadian Mounted Puppet Theatre, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Aerial Theatre, which, true to their names, featured performers working with puppets and kites, respectively, to share social and political commentary.
It was a precarious existence, living from grant to grant with occasional infusions of EI, and Bob gradually fell away from the artistic life as he developed new interests in electronic media and education. He forged a new path as a learning systems designer, which eventually led him to Sheridan as coordinator of Courseware Design and Production – one of the college’s first graduate certificate programs. Oddly enough, although he spent five years here, from 1985 – 1990, Theatre Sheridan never made it onto his radar.
Today, he holds a senior administrative role with a large organization, but his involvement with Theatre Sheridan marries his interest in theatre with his real love – education. “It’s not just the experience of seeing the shows and all of the talent behind them, but the fact that it takes place in the context of an educational institution. Having seen the amazing diversity and complexity of the experiences that have been created for the students, I’m thrilled to be associated with it, and that’s why I’ve been a camp follower for the past six years.”
“It’s not just the experience of seeing the shows and all of the talent behind them, but the fact that it takes place in the context of an educational institution” – Bob Cook
Before signing up as a Theatre Sheridan donor, Bob had experience of philanthropic giving to a larger institution, but “when I encountered the advancement staff at Sheridan it was a completely different experience. They made me feel wanted, needed, welcomed. They truly value everyone who supports Sheridan in ways both large and small, and that inclusiveness adds extra value to the relationship.”
One of the unique educational experiences he’s witnessed comes through the Canadian Music Theatre Project, where students are given the opportunity to work with outside creative teams to help develop and nurture new musicals. Bob was in the audience five years ago to see a workshop production of Come from Away, and has seen the show in one form or another eight to ten times, most recently in Gander. There, the professional cast that is bringing the show to Toronto in November, then to Broadway next year, put on two benefit performances for the local citizens.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience,” says Bob. “I watched it with an audience of 2500 people from Gander, many of whom were involved in the events depicted in the show. It was an emotional high the whole weekend.” Apart from meeting the actors and locals, he had the chance to reconnect with Irene Sankoff and David Hein, the lyricist and composer behind Come from Away. “I remember meeting them after the very first workshop production and saying this is a great show. Who would have thought that five years later I’d be meeting them again in these amazing circumstances?”
Bob’s passion for Theatre Sheridan is palpable and sure to endure for years to come. And that first show that got him hooked six years ago? The Drowsy Chaperone, only the fourth Canadian musical to make it to Broadway, now to be followed by the fifth – Come from Away – next March.
Pictured at top of page: Sheridan donor Bob Cook in Gander, Newfoundland. Photo by Sheridan alumna Shyama McWhirter
Written by: Susan Atkinson, Manager of Communications and Media Relations at Sheridan