Kareda, Urjo, 1944-2001 (Music critic, Dramaturg, Theatre director) : Urjo Kareda was born in Tallinn, Estonia, in 1944 and moved with his parents to Canada when he was young. He was raised in Toronto and was educated at the University of Toronto and King's College, Cambridge. He started freelance journalism in 1966 as an arts writer for The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star, and became film critic for The Toronto Star in 1970. In 1971 he succeeded Nathan Cohen as drama critic for The Star, a position he held until 1975. During these years, he also wrote film reviews for Maclean's.
In 1975, Kareda moved to Stratford to take up the position of literary manager at the Stratford Festival, working in collaboration with artistic director Robin Phillips. Kareda focussed on the commissioning and development of new plays, working with such writers and artists as John Murrell, Edna O'Brien, Hume Cronyn, Susan Cooper, Sheldon Rosen, Steve Petch, Larry Fineberg and Tom Cone, among others. He also co-directed Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost and John Murrell's adaptations of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and The Seagull with Phillips, as well as co-directing Edward Bond's The Woman with director Peter Moss. In 1980, upon Phillips's resignation from the Stratford Festival, Kareda and Peter Moss, along with director Pam Brighton and actor/director Martha Henry, formed an artistic directorate to succeed him. However, Stratford's Board of Directors fired the directorate after a very brief period.
Kareda returned to Toronto in 1981 and became director of script development for CBC Radio Drama under Susan Rubes. In June 1982, at Bill Glassco's request, Kareda succeeded Glassco as the artistic director of the Tarragon Theatre. Throughout his nearly two decades at Tarragon, Kareda devoted himself to indigenous script development and production by working closely with both established and novice Canadian playwrights. He became famous for reading and responding to the hundreds of unsolicited scripts sent to him by playwrights across the country each year. In addition, he founded a Playwrights Unit at Tarragon which nurtured more intensive work with half a dozen new or promising playwrights each year. Among the playwrights whose careers he championed and whose plays premiered at Tarragon are Judith Thompson, John Krizanc, Joan MacLeod, Ken Garnhum, Morris Panych, Guillermo Verdecchia, Steve Petch, Don Hannah and Jason Sherman. Other acclaimed playwrights whose work was produced at Tarragon include George F. Walker, David French, Erika Ritter, Ann-Marie Macdonald, Beth Herst, Ted Dykstra, John Murrell, Rachel Wyatt, Carole Frechette, Michel Tremblay and others.
A variety of highlights marked Kareda's career at the Tarragon. During his first season as artistic director (1982/1983), he brought Mavis Gallant's only play What is To Be Done? to the stage. In 1984, Tarragon produced Judith Thompson's White Biting Dog, the first of several plays by this notable playwright to receive premieres at the theatre. Also in 1984, John Krizanc's Prague premiered and subsequently went on to win a Governor-General's Award. In 1985 Eric Peterson played in Patrick Suskind's The Double Bass, which enjoyed considerable success and thereafter toured throughout the country. Martha Henry's long friendship and association with Kareda brought her to Tarragon in 1986 to act in Pal Joey; she returned three times subsequently as director and once again as actress in The Glass Menagerie in 1997.
In 1986 Tarragon continued its tradition of introducing productions of Michel Tremblay's plays to English-speaking audiences, when it toured Albertine, in Five Times in the United Kingdom and Canada. The next year, Joan MacLeod's Jewel and Toronto, Mississippi received their premieres at Tarragon; three more of her plays would be produced there, and Amigo's Blue Guitar would be awarded a Governor-General's Award.
In 1989, Ken Garnhum's Beuys Buoys Boys was premiered at Tarragon, as was the case with three of his later plays. Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid was revived at Tarragon in 1990, to critical acclaim. In 1991, Morris Panych saw the first of four Tarragon stagings of his plays, with the production of 7 Stories. The next year saw the premiere of Guillermo Verdecchia's Fronteras Americanas, which won the Governor-General's Award. Jason Sherman was similarly honoured for his Three in the Back, Two in the Head, which was first produced at Tarragon in 1994.
In the same season, Tarragon presented a Spring Arts Fair, during which the sketch 2 Pianos, 4 Hands by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt was produced. It was subsequently developed into a full-length play, which met with considerable critical and box-office success throughout Canada and the United States. Later productions which met with similar success included Gloria Montero's Frida K. and, in 1998, Jason Sherman's Patience. In the course of Kareda's career at the Tarragon, plays staged there received over 200 Dora Award nominations, as well as many nominations and winning tributes for the Chalmers Canadian Play Award and for the Governor-General's Award for Drama.
In addition to his dramaturgical work, Kareda continued his journalistic work. From 1991, he regularly contributed opera and vocal music reviews to The Globe and Mail, as well as writing for a variety of classical music magazines. In 1999 he began writing an arts column for Toronto Life, and contributed a variety of profiles on such figures as James Kudelka, Richard Monette, Jean Ashworth Bartle and others.
Kareda received the Order of Canada in 1995, and was awarded the first George Luscombe Award for Mentorship in the Professional Theatre in 1999. He was also awarded the City of Toronto Prize for the Performing Arts in 1999, and the next year received the M. Joan Chalmers National Award for Artistic Direction. Kareda died on 26 December 2001, leaving his wife, Shelagh Hewitt, and a daughter, Maia.