Elizabeth Szathmary Theatre Scholarships created

Elizabeth Szathmary, actor, dancer, choreographer and writer, was an accomplished and dedicated artist who left a lasting legacy to the Toronto arts community and a generous endowment to the York community.

Szathmary, who died of cancer on March 28, 2003, had the distinction of being one of the longest continually working female theatre directors in Canada; her career spanned 34 years. She was a graduate of the High School of Performing Arts in New York City and subsequently toured the world with various performing arts companies including the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. 

Right: The late Elizabeth Szathmary: actor, dancer, choreographer, writer and donor to York

In 1975, she founded the Inner Stage Theatre in Toronto where she served as artistic director until her death. The mandate of the theatre was to bring to children and families an understanding of cultural diversity, and by mounting productions that connected myths and ancient traditions with contemporary issues. “The greatest gift Inner Stage has to offer children is the love of life and hope for a fulfilling future,” Szathmary once remarked.

York, with its long history of fine arts education, international orientation and multicultural makeup, was designated as a fitting home for a donation from the winding down of her theatre company. The York University Foundation received a donation of $70,000 which, when matched with the Ontario Trust for Student Support program, creates an endowed scholarship fund of $140,000. The Elizabeth Szathmary Theatre Scholarships were inaugurated this year with the awarding of four scholarships valued at $1,750 each to full-time undergraduate students in the Department of Theatre in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts who have completed two years of study as theatre major. Future awards will be given out to students in the fall term.

The Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections housed in the York University Libraries has also received the theatre’s historical archives and $5,000 for maintenance and preservation of the materials which include texts, photos, audio reels and audio and video cassettes. Among the more unique items contained in the collection are daily journals, correspondences, script blocking and staging notes, press kits, posters and scrapbooks of newspaper clippings.

Stephen McNeill, friend of Szathmary and a former player with the theatre, has been instrumental in shepherding the gift to York. “I’m delighted that Elizabeth’s memory will be honoured with these scholarships," said McNeill, "and that the preservation of her archives will be accessible to assist those students who wish to study her life’s work.”

Left: Stephen McNeill, a friend of Elizabeth Szathmary and a former player with the theatre

“Donations of such collections provide the foundation for original research by faculty and students at York University,” said Michael Moir, University archivist and head, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections. 

“Some of the money given along with the artifacts will be used to transfer tapes from analogue to digital format. This corresponds with the University’s mission statement which advocates the pursuit, preservation and dissemination of knowledge," said Moir.

Donations to the Elizabeth Szathmary Theatre Scholarships support York to the Power of 50, the largest fundraising campaign in York’s history. For more information or to donate, contact York University Foundation at 416-650-8210 or e-mail contact@yorkfoundation.yorku.ca.