The work on this site features a sampling from some two decades worth of stage directing, as well as from some independent film making projects: documentaries, shorts, and feature screenplays.
Directing for Mercury Theatre, Mercury Stage Productions, and Mermaid Parade, I’ve been proud to present challenging plays and musicals from a modern international repertory - dimensional, entertaining, thematically resonant theatre; contemporary drama from a wide range of voices, genders, and cultures.
To the extent that it’s ‘difficult’, wordy, witty, poetic, provocative, topical, relevant, risky, compassionately sympathetic to ‘foreigners’, and gives presence and soulful expression to the dispossessed – this has always been the kind of play I’ve aspired to produce and direct with excellence - shows that are both emotionally and intellectually engaging.
But a director is only as good as the projects and the casts he chooses. I’ve been privileged to work on scripts crafted by singular, imaginatively bold playwrights, in collaboration with wonderfully talented actors and musicians, ingenious designers, conscientious stage managers. Audiences too were loyal and creative participants in their response to these experiences.
Owing to the inevitably egocentric constraints of self-promotion however, the advertisements displayed on this site highlight my work as a director.
Drawn mostly from Charlene Olson's documentary “Seeing Place”, revised by Dan Cremin, the excerpt here touches on my basic approach, goals, and ideals as a director - still relevant years after the photo below was taken.
Artistic Director - Mermaid Parade 2012/2011
THIS WIDE NIGHT (two productions)
Producing Director - Mercury Theatre Toronto 2007-1982
BAAL / PTERODACTYLS / LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR AND GRILL / MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM / ROAD / BRILLIANT TRACES / DAYS AND NIGHTS WITHIN / THE TOOTH OF CRIME / FORTY DEUCE / MESSIAH / AGNES OF GOD / THE THREE PENNY OPERA / THE BRIDES / TALKING WITH… / MY SISTER IN THIS HOUSE / LEE HARVEY OSWALD / AMERICAN DAYS / HITTING TOWN / FAITH HEALER / SEASCAPE / PEOPLE ARE LIVING THERE /HOMEBODY KABUL (co-director) / THE CARETAKER (co-director)
Freelance Theatre work, Toronto
WOYZECK (Shaw Festival Director's Academy) / MARVIN GAYE (Donald K Donald Productions) / WOMAN WITH A CAMERA (Fringe) / TICKLE ME (4 Play Fest) / THE SHADOW OF A GUNMAN, WAITING FOR GODOT, JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK, PHILADELPHIA, HERE I COME (Toronto Irish Players)
Freelance Theatre work, Montreal
HELLO AND GOODBYE, THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES (Phoenix Theatre) THE ZOO STORY, THE AMERICAN DREAM (Revue Theatre) / THE YEAR OF THE HIKER (Saoirse)
FILM MAKING (Feature, Shorts, & Documentary Directing)
THE RIVER YOU STEP IN (2017), INFIDELITY / OURS, MINE, YOURS / FAITH HEALER / A TEMPEST ON SNAKE ISLAND / PORTAGE
Screenwriting (dramatic features)
IN SITU (2019) * ASTONISHED LIVES (2018) * THE RIVER YOU STEP IN (2016) * BAAL (with Rose Cullis) / SOMEONE ELSE / RESTLESS - THE BALLAD OF HANDSOME NED (with Noel S. Baker)
Upcoming (dramatic features)
IN SITU (in Pre-Production with Aliyah Productions, shooting Winter 2020) ASTONISHED LIVES (in Pre-Production with Aliyah Productions, shooting Fall 2020)
THE RIVER YOU STEP IN (COMPLETED 2018 - 100 minutes, wide-screen, color. ) Screening in New York at Anthology Film Archives; and in Toronto at The Royal Cinema, and at The Grand Gerrard Theatre.
MURDER BALLAD (Musical Theatre) (TBA)
The School of Art and Design, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Dawson College, Montreal.
Canadian Actors Equity Association / ACTRA.
“Jon Michaelson is a director who analyses a script with diligence, thoughtfulness, and imagination. He works with actors with care and courage. The resulting productions are always dynamic and fully realized.
I couldn't say that Jon, whose work I am happy to have followed for a long time, is either an “actor's director” or a “writer's director”, because he is both. He seeks out writing that leads to fine performances, and he knows how to cast and direct so that fine performances bring the writing fully to life.
Jon never panders, to his collaborators or to his audience. Nor is he tempted by self-indulgence. He knows how to create moments of wonderfully intense intimacy, and is a master at carefully orchestrating dramatic tension."
Michael Springate, former Artistic Director of Playwrights Workshop, Montreal; as well as of The Prairie Theatre Exchange, Winnipeg; and of the Factory Theatre, Toronto. He is also a playwright, and a novelist (“The Beautiful West & The Beloved of God”, and a Vancouver based feature film writer and producer.
“I have admired Jon Michaelson's work as the Artistic Director of Mercury Theatre for many years. I have seen many of his productions and they have been consistent in their excellence. Repeatedly, he has demonstrated his flair for selecting challenging and entertaining scripts, which he has cast and directed in a way that delivers first class performances. "
Atom Egoyan, Academy Award nominated Director
"Michaelson has the ability to dig into a script and and get it onto the stage in a way that uniquely serves the play. He also works terrifically with actors. His work can be wonderful because he really does strive to find a style for each play that is fresh for the occasion. (His production of "Road" was a real highlight of the season.) He's an intellectual without being stodgy, and a true person of the theatre.”
Larry Fineberg, playwright
“Jon Michaelson is renowned and respected for his musical theatre direction." (re. "Baal".)
Director Sarah Stanley, former AD, Buddies in Bad Times, Toronto; Associate AD, NAC, English Theatre
“Without a doubt Michaelson's production of "The Tooth of Crime" was the most exciting Sam Shepard work I’ve ever seen done in Canada.”
Ron Singer, Chairman, York University, Theatre Dept
“Congratulations on Mercury Theatre's fine production of “The Three Penny Opera”. The production values, imagination and theatrical energy were first rate.”
Rita Davies, Exec Dir, Toronto Arts Council
“Jon Michaelson is a talented, imaginative and energetic stage director. In his running of the Mercury Theatre, Michaelson has made a significant contribution to drama in this city.”
Kenneth Sherman, Poet; Professor, Sheridan College of Applied Arts and Technology
"Your work is highly recommended to me by John Murrell."
Sarah Schulman, Lit Agent, NYC
"I can think of few directors who could stage this work - (Alan Bowne's play "Beirut") - without flinching. Jon Michaelson is one of those few."
Jerry Doiron, General Manager, Necessary Angel Theatre Co.
“Our advisors commented that Jon Michaelson is very talented and noted his ability to link with the community.”
Nathan Gilbert, Exec Dir, Laidlaw Foundation
“As a director and realizer of dreams, Jon has been the most positive and important influence on the Toronto Irish Players. In everything he does there is conviction, caring and special creativity. "
Jonathan Lynn, President, TIP