Evalyn Parry sits on an expanded version of the Tranzac Main Hall stage. Photo by Lodoe-Laura Haines-Wangda/Torontoist.
The Tranzac Club still has money woes, though things are looking up for the new year. While the Annex staple is raising money to cover its current operating deficit, Torontoist is conducting a series of interviews with musicians who have close ties to it. Up today: Evalyn Parry, a musician, poet, and theatre creator who’s been frequenting (and performing at) the Tranzac for decades. She is the co-founder of the Independent Aunties theatre company, an associate artist and the Young Creators Unit director at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and has spent the better part of this year touring her musical SPIN, about feminism and bicycles—using bicycles as instruments—across Canada.
EVALYN PARRY: My parents were Morris dancers, and were very involved with what has now become the Flying Cloud Folk Club—it used to be the Fiddler’s Green Folk Club. So I grew up coming to folk shows here, and Morris dance practices, and weekend events. I was part of a crew of kids who’d been coming here since I was 5 or 6, and we felt like we owned the place.
I don’t remember what was going on upstairs at the time—it wasn’t set up for rentals like it is now—but there were empty offices up there, so while the adults were doing whatever they were doing, we’d be upstairs hanging out, and playing hide and seek, So that’d be my earliest memories of the place, in the early to mid-eighties.
TORONTOIST: So, at that time, was the Tranzac still more for Aussies and Kiwis, or was it already a general purpose cultural space?
EP: It was already a very diverse cultural centre. The NAGS were doing their community theatre here. The reason I was here was because of my parents, and those groups didn’t have any Australian or New Zealander affiliations. For the last thirty years, the Tranzac has been this general purpose hub for Toronto arts and culture.
TORONTOIST: So you grew up here while your parents were doing Morris dance and Fiddler’s Green—when did you start performing here yourself?
EP: Well, in the last ten or twelve years, really. I moved away for university and for a while after, so when I came back, that’s when I got involved myself, performing as a grown up [laughs]. Since I moved back to Toronto, and have been working here, I’ve been coming to a lot of shows at the Traznac, and playing a lot of shows, in all the rooms. I’ve played in other people’s shows, and been to countless parties, and CD releases, and fundraisers and all the many other things the Tranzac is used for.
One thing my parents were also involved in, that continues—they’re not really involved anymore, but I am, a little bit—is a multi-cultural celebration in the Christmas season—a really inclusive, diverse celebration for this time of year. It’s a really nice community event.
TORONTOIST: So it’s not just music scenes, although there’s a great many here…
EP: Yeah, amazing music scenes here!
TORONTOIST: A lot of the other interviewees have spoken about the jazz scene, and folk scene, the singer/songwriters who use the spaces here. But the Tranzac is also used for arts fairs, and non-denominational celebrations, and all sorts of other events.
EV: Well, there’s not many spaces like it, and part of its charm is that it’s not a fancy building; it hasn’t been renovated in a while. It hasn’t been gentrified, or privatized; it’s owned by its members, and run by them, on a shoestring budget, sometimes, but it has that…well, “charm” doesn’t even cover it. It serves a real need for the community. In a city like Toronto, where there are so many pay-to-play venues, for musicians and performers, this is actually a place that’s accessible and affordable.
TORONTOIST: So a lot of the members have been coming here for many, many years. But a lot of the users of the Tranzac are predominantly younger. What do you think the Tranzac has to do to evolve, to become a club for these younger musicians and patrons, rather than just a venue?
EV: Well, that’s what, presumably, [this campaign] is saying, that if people want this place to stay, they need to see it that way.
Up next in the Tranzac Transcripts series: our final interview, with musician and producer Sandro Perri.