Prof. Sky Gilbert
Prof. Sky Gilbert

“A bit bent, like Sky.” That’s how Brendan Healy, artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, described a sign pole in a Toronto laneway renamed last month for prolific writer and U of G professor Sky Gilbert.

A truck had run into the post a day before the Oct. 30 unveiling of a new sign behind the theatre commemorating the playwright and Buddies co-founder.

Gilbert, a professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies, says the bent pole might be an appropriate marker for him. So is the laneway itself, a cul-de-sac described as “beautiful and challenging” that is tucked away behind the theatre where Gilbert served as artistic director for 17 years.

Back in his Massey Hall office on campus, Gilbert downplays the idea of commemoration but lauds the alley renaming project for drawing attention to minorities, including the gay community.

“What’s important about it is that marginal figures like me who stand outside the literary and theatrical mainstream are honoured by established places like the City of Toronto,” says Gilbert.

“Playwright, director, professor and drag queen extraordinaire” is how Gilbert is described in Compulsive Acts, a new collection of essays and interviews about his work edited by Toronto writer David Bateman and published this past fall.

Sky attended the signpost unveiling along with family members, including his 88-year-old father, Schuyler Sr. “He’s always been very proud of my work.”

Located in Toronto’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood, Sky Gilbert Lane is only a few blocks from Luscombe Lane. The latter was renamed for the late George Luscombe, a drama instructor at Guelph and the founder and director of alternative theatre troupe Toronto Workshop Productions.

That company formerly occupied the theatre space that is now home to Buddies in Bad Times.

They’re virtual neighbours on campus, too. The George Luscombe Theatre occupies U of G’s MacKinnon Building, across the walkway from Massey Hall and Gilbert’s office.

What Guelph location would be appropriate to rename for Gilbert? He declines to speculate. “It’s silly to be commemorated. You live your life.”

Gilbert has written more than 40 plays. His new one-act play, Commercials for Hamilton, will open this month in Hamilton, where the playwright lives.