The Orion Series in Fine Arts


"Robin & Mark & Richard III" - TRAILER from Penny McDonald on Vimeo.


Documentary Screening: Robin & Mark & Richard III

Tuesday, September 19
12:30pm – 2:00pm
Free and open to the public

Screening will be followed by a Q&A with the film's producers and co-directors,
Martha Burns and Susan Coyne.

An actor celebrated for his wildly comic inventions, and a renowned director of the classics discover a surprising kinship as they explore Shakespeare’s great tragedy, Richard III

The late director Robin Phillips was known both for his electrifying productions of classic plays, and as a transformational teacher. Actor Mark McKinney is a writer and performer best known for his work with The Kids in the Hall, Saturday Night Live, and the acclaimed TV series Slings and Arrows. Robin and Mark had not met before they began to work together on a piece from Richard III. They had no idea what might happen. There was to be no performance: just the adventure of two brilliant minds exploring Shakespeare’s world.

Over the course of three years, Susan and Martha filmed Robin and Mark (and eventually the actor Christine Horne) rehearsing at Robin’s home outside of Stratford, “infecting them” (as one of Robin’s students put it) with his own lifelong passion for Shakespeare. Over the course of the film, we see a tender intimacy develop between the three, based on a deep mutual respect. We experience their frustrations and root for their success, which takes the form of a giddy “graduation exercise” in the woods.

Shakespeare wrote: “It is required you do awake your faith”, and Robin Phillips lived this every day. His profound insights, his exacting standards, and his belief in the transformational power of theatre made him one of this country’s great mentors, one who touched the lives of three generations of artists. Some of these appear in the film, including Dame Maggie Smith, Brent Carver and Martha Henry. Though Susan and Martha did not know it at the time, Robin was quite ill, and would die shortly after the film was finished. This film is a love letter to a passionate, complicated, irreplaceable genius.


In Conversation with Martha Burns & Susan Coyne

Wednesday, September 20
12:30pm – 2:00pm

Available only to UVic Fine Arts students

All Faculty of Fine Arts students are invited to this intimate conversation with two of Canada's finest actors and writers, interviewed by professor Fran Gebhard. Join Martha Burns and Susan Coyne as they discuss their diverse careers on stage, writing for theatre, film and TV, and directing and producing several short films together. As well as working together on the acclaimed satirical TV series Slings and Arrows (required watching for theatre buffs!), they also collaborated on short films including How Are You? (an official selection for the 2008 Toronto Film Festival) and their new film Robin & Mark & Richard III (screened at Hot Docs Cinema in 2016).


Presented by the Department of Theatre

Martha Burns

Martha Burns has performed leading roles at the Stratford and Shaw Festivals and at theatres across the country.

Winner of the 2005 Barbara Hamilton Award for “excellence and professionalism in the performing arts”, she also received two Dora Mavor Moore Awards for her work in Trafford Tanziand The Miracle Worker and was nominated for three more. 

She is a founding member of Soulpepper Theatre Co., where she developed their youth mentorship and Soulpepper in School programs and performed her favorite role, ‘Winnie’ in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days.

She is a double Gemini winner for Best Actress for her leading role of “Ellen Fanshaw” in three seasons of Slings and Arrows and the recipient of two supporting actress Genie Awards for Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Love and Savagery. She received a 2015 best supporting actress nomination for the recurring role of Rebecca Baker in the Global TV series Remedy.

 With actor/writer, Susan Coyne, she wrote and directed the short film, How Are You?,which was an official selection for TIFF 2008.  With Ms. Coyne, she produced and directed a documentary about one of Canada’s most influential directors, Robin Phillips.  Robin & Mark & Richard III was screened at Hot Docs Bloor Cinema in April 2016.

Martha teaches acting at the National Theatre School. In 2016, she was the recipient for the Leslie Yeo prize for volunteerism. She has served on the boards of Canadian Stage, the Shaw Festival, Peggy Baker Dance Projects and the Toronto Council for the Arts.

She most recently worked with performers from Nunavut’s Qaggiavuut society to create Kiviuq Returns, a play based on elders’ stories about the Inuit’s most beloved Shaman hero.

Susan Coyne

Susan Coyne is an award-winning actor and writer, best known for her work as a creator and writer of the acclaimed TV series, Slings and Arrows, for which she won three Gemini and three Writers Guild of Canada awards.  

As an actor, she has appeared on stages across Canada including several seasons at the Stratford Festival.

As a writer, she has adapted major works by Chekhov and Turgenev for the stage, as well as her own childhood memoir, Kingfisher Days. In addition to Slings and Arrows, she co-wrote the CBC miniseries The Best Laid Plans, and two films based on the Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables.  

With Martha Burns, she co-directed Robin & Mark & Richard III a documentary about the legendary theatre director Robin Phillips. Her first feature film, The Man Who Invented Christmas, will be released later this year.

Currently, she is a writer and producer on Amazon’s award-winning series, Mozart in the Jungle. Susan is a graduate of Queen’s University and the National Theatre School of Canada, and a founding member of Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre Company.

She was recently appointed to the Order of Canada.

Robin Phillips


Robin Phillips (1942 - 2015) was a director, actor, writer, designer, teacher.

An Officer of the Order of Canada and winner of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, Robin Phillips was regarded as an actors' director (he was known to ring a "perfection bell" in rehearsal for a moment of sublime acting). His stage productions marked by subtle cinematic realism, innovative attention to an extraordinary range of classical texts, and spare, muted design. Phillips will be remembered for sharing his remarkable vision in a way that manifested a new level of theatrical maturity in Canada.

Robin Phillips' acting and directing careers developed almost simultaneously. Trained at the Bristol Old Vic, he made his first professional appearances with the Theatre Royal in Bristol, followed by seasons with the Chichester Festival and then the Oxford Playhouse.

Phillips also co-starred in such films as Decline and Fall... of a Birdwatcher and played the title role in David Copperfield. In addition, he made 30 appearances in such TV series as The Forsyte Saga, The Avengers and The Saint, all in the 1960s. As early as 1961, Robin Phillips was an associate director of the Bristol Old Vic and in 1965 he was the assistant director of two productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company. By 1970, he was attracting attention as a director in London, Los Angeles and New York.

In 1971, Phillips documented a memorable film version of his London production of Strindberg's Miss Julie, starring Helen Mirren. Major directorial appointments at Chichester and for the Royal Shakespeare Company followed, leading to his artistic directorship of Greenwich's Company Theatre (1973–75) and then of Canada's Stratford Shakespeare Festival (1975–80). Phillips’ appointment instigated an initial nationalistic protest, but his workaholic tenure (he directed 35 productions in seven years) brought financial stability to the festival. He also gradually introduced a parade of international stars such as Dame Maggie Smith, Brian Bedford, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn and Peter Ustinov. Ill health and exhaustion forced his departure in 1980.

In 1981, Robin Phillips filmed Timothy Findley's award-winning novel The Wars. He returned briefly to acting in 1982, playing the title role in The Dresser at the Vancouver Playhouse. During the 1983–84 season, he ran London, Ontario's newly incorporated Grand Theatre. In 1984–85, he mounted four productions back in Chichester and a Theatre Calgary premiere of John Murrell's New World, and was associate director of the Lincoln Center in New York.

In 1986–87, Robin Phillips made a triumphant return to the Stratford Festival, directing Cymbeline and The School for Scandalon the mainstage and making the Tom Patterson thrust stage very much his own with a quartet of elegant Shakespeare productions and the classic double bill of Oedipus Rex and The Critic. At Stratford, Phillips was a natural teacher; in 1987–88, he recruited a Young Company that won a Tyrone Guthrie Award designed to help them found an actual new company. The idea did indeed, 10 years later, evolve into Toronto's highly respected Soulpepper Theatre.

In 1988, Phillips was in Edmonton to launch the Citadel Theatre’s 25th anniversary season with Arthur Miller's The Crucible and Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, a pair of productions that he innovatively linked together in a theme of witchcraft. In 1990, he was appointed director general of the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, where he stayed until 1995.

An interest in music was manifested in his 1991 inaugural Edmonton staging of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Aspects of Love, which toured to Toronto in 1992 and ran for six months at the Elgin Theatre, followed by a similar stand in Chicago and an American tour that extended its run into 1993. The Man from La Mancha, with its notable rape scene, was seen in Edmonton and in Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre (1992–93), followed by The Marriage of Figaro for the Canadian Opera Company later in 1993. With The Music Man (1994) and The Beggar's Opera (1995) completing his management in Edmonton, he returned to Toronto and The Canadian Opera Company in 1996 to adapt Beatrice and Benedict, and then, in 2000, to design and direct Verdi's Otello. Phillips also directed and designed Jekyll and Hyde (1996) for a small theatre in New York City. It ran for four years and garnered seven separate citations for direction and design, including the Drama Desk and NY People's Awards for 1997, and the Critics Circle for best director in 2001.

In 1998, Albert Schultz and the members of Phillips' Stratford Young Company lured him back to Toronto to be their mentor in the founding of the Soulpepper Theatre Company, and he directed their initial two productions at Harbourfront's Du Maurier Theatre —Schiller's Don Carlos and Molière's Misanthrope. He returned to Soulpepper in 2000 to direct the company's World Theatre Festival production of The Mill on the Floss.

In 2005, he was given the Order of Canada for his remarkable work in Canadian theatre, and in 2010 he received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Biography drawn from the Canadian Encyclopedia.

Mark McKinney

Actor and writer Mark McKinney studied politics and economics before becoming a founding member of the comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall

Mark turned to improvisational comedy at the Loose Moose Theatre Company in Calgary, where he met Bruce MCCULLOCH. They formed a duo called The Audience and headed for Toronto, where they joined forces with Dave FOLEY and Kevin MCDONALD of THE KIDS IN THE HALL comedy troupe. Scott THOMPSON would soon join them, and they attracted the attention of Saturday Night Live (SNL) producer Lorne MICHAELS, who saw their potential. He felt the troupe needed seasoning, however, and invited McKinney and McCulloch to join the SNL writing staff for two seasons.

In 1989 The Kids in the Hall debuted on the CBC in Canada and on HBO in the US. Along with the other four members, Mark McKinney was responsible for writing the series. It was nominated for three consecutive Emmy Awards in 1993, 1994 and 1995, and received nine GEMINI AWARD nominations, winning three times, for best performance in a comedy program or series in 1989 and 1993 and best writing in a comedy program or series in 1989. With a distinctly edgy and frequently surreal style, the show slowly gained a loyal fan base over its five-year run. McKinney, who was considered the best actor in the troupe, created the memorable Chicken Lady, Darrill the Excellent Guy, and the utterly misanthropic Headcrusher.

After five seasons with The Kids, Mark McKinney was invited to join the cast of SNL for two seasons. When he left that series, he turned to the stage and appeared in the classical works of Georges Feydeau and Richard Sheridan at the New York Roundabout Theatre Company and the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. He has appeared in numerous Canadian films, including Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (1996); in a Genie Award-winning performance as a neurotic dog psychiatrist in Bruce McCulloch's Dog Park (1998); and in New Waterford Girl (1999), Jacob Two-Two and the Hooded Fang (1999; as Mr. Fish) and Guy MADDIN's The Saddest Music in the World (2004). Other film appearances include Spice World (1997), The Last Days of Disco (1998), A Night at the Roxbury (1998), The Out-of-Towners (1999) and Superstar (1999).

Mark McKinney's television appearances include Seeing Things, Street Legal, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Don MCKELLAR's Twitch City, Mary WALSH's Hatching, Matching and Dispatching, Brent BUTT's Corner Gas, and the critically acclaimed Slings and Arrows (for which he won 3 awards from the Writers Guild of Canada along with co-creators Susan COYNE and Bob Martin, and two writing Geminis and a best actor Gemini for season 2).

In 2005 he took a recurring role in CTV's Robson Arms, filmed in Vancouver, and in 2006 he was invited to write for, and appear in, the series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. In 2008 McKinney became creator/senior producer for the series Less Than Kind, starring Maury CHAYKIN (who died in 2010), and in 2009 the Kids in the Hall reunited to film their eight-part miniseries Death Comes to Town, which began airing on CBC-TV in January 2010.

McKinney has appeared onstage in live theatre, including his one-man show Fully Committed. His writing credits extend to the CBC series Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays and he is executive producer of the Canadian comedy series Picnicface.

At the Banff World Television Festival in 2009, Mark McKinney was presented with the Sir Peter Ustinov Award for his contribution to film and television.

Biography drawn from the Canadian Encyclopedia.