Rubess the director: a short history

Baņuta Rubess directs her passions.  She directs the works of Baņuta Rubess, contemporary work, mutlidisciplinary pieces, Oscar Wilde and Aspazija, musicals, opera.  Now and then she has the opportunity to create visions which fall outside traditional theatrical parameters.


She has  worked with:


In Latvia:


Daile Theatre

Latvian Concert Productions

Latvian National Opera

Liepaja Theatre

National Theatre of Latvia

New Riga Theatre

New Theatre Institute

Ri-Be-Ja Mute


In Canada:

Banff Arts Centre

Factory Theatre

Froth Productions

Great Canadian Theatre Company

Nightwood Theatre

Playwrights' Workshop Montreal

Tapestry New Opera Works

Tarragon Theatre

Theatre Columbus

Theatre Direct

Theatre Passe Muraille


.. and others...


Early work


... in English

Banuta cut her theatrical teeth working in collectives rebelling against traditional authorities such as an author or a director, or even a stage. Together with English luminary Neil Bartlett, she founded THE 1982 THEATRE COMPANY, an international ensemble which created work collectively.  Subsequently, she remained in Canada, where her first success was THIS IS FOR YOU, ANNA , also a collectively created piece.




Until 1988,  Baņuta mostly worked as a writer, until she directed the premiere production of GOOD NIGHT, DESDEMONA by Ann-Marie MacDonald for Nightwood Theatre. This clever comedy established Nightwood as an important part of the Canadian theatre culture and launched MacDonald's career as a writer.  Banuta's production was extended over several years and toured across all of Canada.


Banuta's work took a major shift when she began to explore the world of music theatre and opera.

She broke new ground with BOOM, BABY, BOOM!, a jazz play commissioned by and premiered at the Du Maurier World Stage Festival, Toronto, 1988. The production's achievement was recognised by a nomination for a Dora award, Outstanding Production.


Boom Baby Boom


... In Latvian

At the age of 17, Baņuta founded an amateur theatre company, Pēdējie āksti (The Complete Fools), with whom she created multi-media performances combining poetry wtih skits for the Latvian diaspora.  The company was instantly controversial.  In 1978, Baņuta presented her first large production, Varoņdarbi (Heroica), a musical with her text and direction, composed by Dace Aperāne.  This show premiered at Place des Arts, Montreal and caused a scandal.  Needless to say, subsequent productions in New York and Toronto were sold out.


This enfant terrible phase ended in 1987 with her next Latvian musical, Tango Lugano, composer Dace Aperāne.  This satirical ghost story about East-West relations was received with acclaim, and honoured by an award from the World Free Latvian Association.  Tango Lugano t toured to Latvia in 1990, where it was greeted with standing ovations by audiences in the thousands at the Daile Theatre.


The 1990s.


... in English, in Latvian

In 1992, visionary arts activist Susan Serran was hired as the Artistic Producer of Theatre Passe Muraille, [links uz ] a mainstay of alternative theatre in Toronto which had fallen into decay.  Serran immediately hired Banuta as one of her two trusted Artistic Associates.  Within one season, under their leadership, Theatre Passe Muraille bounced back.  Banuta's most significant directorial works at the theatre were her production of Timothy Findley's The Stillborn Lover,1995, nominated for six Dora awards, including Outstanding Production and Outstanding Direction; and her interpretation of Wajdi Mouawad's Wedding Day at the Cromagnons in 1996, with Arsinee Khanjian in  her first theatrical role.


An extraordinary event in Banuta's directorial biography was the production of Aspazija's The Avenging Woman, co-directed with Neil Bartlett for the Kabata Theatre.  Created at a time when Riga was still barricaded against the Soviet military, it was honoured as best production of the season by Latvian theatre critics. The Avenging Woman toured in a unique bi-lingual version to the Berkeley Stage in Toronto in the summer of 1991.




The 21st century


In 1998 Baņuta moved to Riga where she was immediately given creative carte blanche  by Alvis Hermanis of the New Riga Theatre. The result was the ground-breaking RONDO, an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's LA RONDE. Sex was the prism through which Rubess dissected the socio-political shifts in Latvian.  The audience was separated into 5 groups and each scene in the play was performed five times in different parts of the theatre, from the cloakroom to a toilet. The show was always sold out from opening to its last showing in 2001.  Rubess directed another four productions with the New Riga Theatre ensemble.


Baņuta won the Best Director award in 2003 for her production of AN IDEAL HUSBAND by Oscar Wilde at the Liepaja Theatre.


Since 2000, she has directed over a dozen productions involving  music - ranging from Andrew Lloyd Webber to  a ten minute opera about a diva's shoe collection. 


Some productions combine her skills as a dreamer, a writer, a director and adventurer.  One of her personal favorites is ESCAPE FROM TROY created for a beach and rehearsed next to a forest full of fearful memories.

Escape from Troy


Her last site-specific work in Latvia was the production MRS. BENJAMINS, commissioned by a hotel housed in a  mansion formerly owned by Mrs. Benjamins herself - a publisher and fashion maven who perished in Siberia during World War Ii.