No stranger to the Arts Club Theatre Company stages, Denis Simpson appeared in more than 20 productions over 25 years.
No stranger to the Arts Club Theatre Company stages, Denis Simpson appeared in more than 20 productions over 25 years. Photo: Arts Club Theatre Company.

The Arts Club Theatre Company has announced the Denis Simpson Fund, a new endowment that will directly support the company’s antiracism and inclusion initiatives. The fund is named after the late Denis Simpson, who died suddenly in 2010.

An actor, singer, writer, director, and choreographer, the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame inductee’s career began at the age of 19 in the original Canadian production of Hair at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre. He would go onto host the popular children’s TV series Polka Dot Door and was an original member of the a cappella singing group.

No stranger to the Arts Club stages, Simpson appeared in more than 20 productions over 25 years, including his Jessie Award-winning one-person show Denis Anyone? which described his experience growing up Black in Canada.

“Everyone who loves Denis knows he would be thrilled and humbled that this very special fund at the Arts Club is being established in his name,” says Simpson’s sister Gloria Reuben in a media release.

In addition to honouring Simpson, the fund forms part of the Arts Club’s Statement of Actions, which outlines the theatre company’s commitment to removing barriers to inclusion within the company, including those created by systemic racism. The fund will support ongoing initiatives such as apprenticeships, commissions and internships in support of that change.

Seeded with an initial $10,000 commitment from the Arts Club, the company hopes to raise an additional $20,000 by August 15. Proceeds from the live reading of Redbone Coonhound on August 14 at Dialled Up: An Arts Club Community Celebration will also go towards the fund.

“We’re glad to be able to honour Denis’s memory and legacy with this fund, which will be used to ensure that the Arts Club is an open and inclusive space for all artists, patrons, and staff,” says Arts Club executive director Peter Cathie White.

For more information and to contribute to the Denis Simpson Fund, visit artsclub.com.