A BIT ABOUT US
Joan Mansfield was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1955. As a young girl, Joan nurtured a love and passion for the performing arts. Her parents moved the family to Toronto, Canada in 1966, to escape the evils of Apartheid. As a result of this experience, social justice advocacy and taking care of one another remain a firm part of Joan’s life as an arts leader. Joan married James Mansfield in 1976. They welcomed their first born, a daughter – Ashley, in 1987.
Their second born, a son – Zachary, was brought into the world – relatively a surprise – in 1997.
In 1999, Joan realized there was an opportunity to contribute to an – at the time – vibrant commercial theatre industry in Toronto and the GTA. In 2001, jjazmans productions presented a new revival of West Side Story at the Showplace Theatre in Peterborough during the summer.
This was then followed up with another summer season, this time at the (since closed) Atlantis Theatre at Ontario Place in 2002, with the first major Toronto revival of Grease. The production was attended by many celebrities and Toronto arts luminaries, and ran for over 70 performances that summer.
In 2005, Joan – once again in the summer months – partnered with Jim Senft, the creator and artistic director of Summerstock Calgary – and launched Summerstock Toronto. In partnership with the Durham District School Board, highschool students from all over the Durham Region were in the cast, on the production team, or in the orchestra – learning from working professionals – and receiving a highschool credit! The new production of Guys & Dolls played open-air engagements at the Parkwood Estate in Oshawa (as part of the Oshawa Jazz and Blues Festival), and an extended engagement in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square.
In 2008, Glyn Laverick purchased and re-opened the historic Regent Theatre in downtown Oshawa, and shortly thereafter named Joan as Artistic Director. Joan launched the Regent Young People’s Theatre at this time, and the Mansfields were responsible for bringing live theatre back to the Regent for the first time in nearly 80 years, with a youth production of Disney’s Aladdin. It was a sold out run in December of 2008, and a bright future was looking promising at the Regent. Sadly, shady showbiz reared its ugly head at the hands of the theatre’s owner – leaving contractors unpaid (including the Mansfields) – and the building once again closed. In late 2010, Ontario Tech University (then UOIT) purchased the building, refurbished it as a lecture hall and theatre, and the building once again opened under proper management. However, the Mansfields took a break, and hung up the hat for a few years.
In 2013, Zachary Mansfield encouraged Joan to revisit the idea of jjazmans productions. With the company having no resources at the time after lying dormant for over three years at that point, they agreed to start small, and on a volunteer basis before returning to professional theatre. That year, Zachary began his annual reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (which has not missed a single year since!). A success, the Mansfields began offering a September – June season of theatre in 2014, as Dancyn Productions. This model worked for a number of years, and in late 2016, the company had raised enough resources and capital to re-launch commercial theatre. During the time of the volunteer-based Dancyn, the Mansfields produced and presented: The Giver (2014), Tuesdays with Morrie (2015 – revived in 2016), A Christmas Story, The Musical (2015), Best Friends by Daryl Marks (world premiere 2016), RENT (2016 – a box office smash), The Rocky Horror Show (presented by – 2016), Peter Pan: A Panto In Neverland! (2016 – held over twice!), The Laramie Project (2017), Next to Normal (2017).
Dancyn Productions successfully produced Mamma Mia! at the Regent Theatre in downtown Oshawa – returning to our summer roots with a 24-performance July run.
Later in 2017, we produced a new production of Evil Dead: The Musical for a limited tryout run of six performances in an old banquet hall in Oshawa (also a professional production). It was a massive success, and would lead to its 2019 revival – selling out three months straight, before closing for scheduling reasons.
We heard from the public that some folks had a tough time shaking the fact Dancyn used to operate on a volunteer basis. The name was kept when we presented our second summer show We Will Rock You in 2018 – and then with the opening of our black box theatre in downtown Oshawa, the Mansfield’s Cabaret – we knew it was time to take the next step for our company and firmly plant its status in the commercial world.
Thus was born Silly Stages – who continues to be our associate company, presenting our annual professional pantos (always watch out for “a Silly Stages panto” on the posters – that’s how you’ll know it’s us!). Mansfield’s Cabaret was our wonderfully intimate black box theatre.
At the Mansfield’s Cabaret, not only did we present the smash-hit run of Evil Dead, but also hosted jazz, comedy, and drag nights, and mini musical tribute shows produced in-house. The Cabaret played host to our production of the Canadian thriller Any Night in the fall of 2019 – which thrilled audiences for only two weeks, and was an artistic achievement.
It was at the Cabaret, that Zachary Mansfield produced and wrote his first revue entitled The Music of the Night: The Music and Legacy of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Featuring a cast of 4 singing to backing tracks in the first workshop production, it sold out an entire weekend in May 2019. After revisions that summer, during which Silly Stages presented Disney’s The Little Mermaid at the Regent Theatre, The Music of the Night embarked on its Canadian tour, this time featuring a pianist and a narrator. It played Gananonque, Oshawa, Richmond Hill, and others. Despite the pandemic and a bit of cast shuffling, the show returned in 2021, playing Oshawa, Orillia, and Stouffville, taking its final bows. A new version of the show called ‘Til I Hear You Sing makes its premiere in Toronto in September 2022.
The Cabaret did not survive the pandemic restrictions, and closed in the fall of 2020. Since we no longer had a “cabaret”, that part of our name no longer made sense, and we finally settled on the official name of Mansfield Entertainment Canada as we come back and build back better post-pandemic with professional theatre that razzles, that dazzles, that entertains, and speaks to the heart.
We’re just getting started. See you at the theatre.