Donor Profile: Ken Gingerich and Michael Oakes
How did you first learn about Soulpepper?
Ken: Through a very dear friend of mine who unfortunately died a number of years ago – Marilyn Michener, who was also a very good friend of Albert’s. Marilyn introduced me to Albert and the rest, as they say, is history. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion to become involved because he just had such an amazing vision for what he wanted to do.
What has inspired you to continue your support for a number of years?
Mike: The more we saw of the productions, the more we wanted to come back and say “What’s happening next year?” The donations just became second nature after we realized that this is really great theatre.
Ken: We were made to feel welcome, always. We were made to feel like we were part of the family and that’s important.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about giving to Soulpepper?
Ken: I think that Soulpepper is unique in the city. There are other organizations that are also very very good, but I think that one of the things here is that it’s year round and the company has a very clear vision. Your commitment to outreach and community involvement…
Mike: I think that’s extremely important. Things like the Soulpepper Academy you don’t get in many theatre organizations.
Ken: And the fact that the productions are, let’s face it, top notch. Year in and year out they are the best in the city, if not the province. It’s an easy sell for people to become involved.
Why do you think the arts should be a priority for philanthropy?
Ken: When I was in my working life, I was a strong supporter of the arts because I firmly believed that the arts reach so many people, as many people if not more people than professional sports. There are all sorts of causes that you can give to – healthcare, social services and education, but the arts, broadly speaking, rounds out a community. You need all the various parts for a community to be whole.
Where do you see Soulpepper in 10 years?
Ken: Ten years from now, what we’d like to see, what I think we will see, is Soulpepper being a much more diverse organization. There is increasing diversity in terms of the ensemble and I think there is growing diversity in terms of the canon – the third part of that will be the diversity of the audience. And that’s tough and everybody recognizes that. But in a city as diverse as Toronto… Out of all the arts organizations, Soulpepper has a vision and a strategy laid out to do that. And we think you’ll do it.
Michael Oakes and Ken Gingerich, photo: Nathan Kelly.