Robin (Robert H.) Breon, a playwright and arts journalist for publications including American Theatre, died on Nov. 23, 2023, after a brief illness at the age of 75. Robin chose to make his home in Toronto and happily lived and worked in the city for more than four decades. He was an active participant in many fields with a lifetime of devotion to family, friends, and social justice.
Robin grew up in State College, Pa., a university town, where he made lifelong friends. Among these were members of the band Robin and the Hoods, which won the 1966 World Rock ‘N’ Roll Champions competition. It was in State College where he began his love of drama while participating with his family in community theatre.
Following his undergraduate degree in theatre and communications, a scholarship took him to an MFA program at Stanford University. But he took an alternative journey by joining Margrit Roma’s New Shakespeare Company, which played in parks and prisons in San Francisco. Robin both acted and administered the theatre, organizing a national U.S. tour. Later Robin completed a Masters of Education from Lehigh University’s Social Restoration Program, after which he taught drama at Abington Friends School in Pennsylvania.
In 1981, Robin returned to live permanently in Toronto after a brief stay there in the early 1970s. He served as arts critic for Guerilla, the city’s “underground” newspaper, and in 1972 became a founding member of the Toronto Drama Bench, nominated by Globe and Mail critic Herbert Whittaker. For much of the 1980s, he worked as administrator for Black Theatre Canada with founder Vera Cudjo. As a playwright, he authored The African Roscius (Being the Life and Times of Ira Aldridge), produced by Black Theatre Canada at the Alumnae Theatre in 1986.
Later in his career, Robin served as administrator and internship coordinator for University of Toronto’s Museum Studies Program. He also taught arts journalism for the U of T’s School of Continuing Studies. During this time, he served proudly as vice president of Steelworkers of Canada Local 1998. Most recently, Robin was an executive board member of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association, Toronto Labour Council’s Refugee Support Committee, a veteran for Chilean and South African solidarity, and writer for his Aisle Say Toronto website.
His large circle of friends spanned the globe, and he is deeply mourned by them, as well as by his wife Joan Simalchik, sister Barbara Anthony, and godsons Camilo Lanfranco-Sagaris and Daniel Lanfranco-Sagaris. He will be remembered for his generosity, the fragrant delivery of morning cappuccinos, his mischievous smile, skilled rhetoric, and ability to blend strategy with humor.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Actors Fund of Canada.
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