Resources: Ontario’s theatrical heritage in the spotlight

The Opening Act: Canadian Theatre History 1945-1953, by Susan McNicoll. Ronsdale Press, 2012.


Ontario Heritage Trust

Arts and creativity

Published Date:06 Sep 2013

Photo: The Opening Act: Canadian Theatre History 1945-1953, by Susan McNicoll. Ronsdale Press, 2012.

... the shelf

The Opening Act: Canadian Theatre History 1945-1953,by Susan McNicoll. Ronsdale Press, 2012. The conventional opinion is that professional Canadian theatre began in 1953 with the founding of the Stratford Festival. but Susan McNicoll asks how this could be, when the majority of those taking the stage at Stratford were professional Canadian actors. To answer this question, McNicoll delves into the period to show how in fact the unbroken chain of Canadian professional theatre began just after the second world war, when a host of theatre people decided that Canada needed its own professional theatre groups.

Drawing on personal interviews with many of the actors and directors active in the period after the war, McNicoll explores the role of such companies as everyman in Vancouver, new play society in Toronto, Canadian repertory Theatre in Ottawa, Théâtre du Nouveau Monde in Montreal, and many more. In 1953, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival ultimately showed the world that Canada was ready for centre stage, but the real birth of professional theatre happened in the years leading up to that moment.

The volume includes over 45 photos of scenes from plays of the time and selections from McNicoll’s interviews with such luminaries as Christopher Plummer, Joy Coghill, Amelia Hall and Herbert Whittaker. “This is a delightful trip through a time when English Canada’s theatre scene mercifully turned ‘pro’ and brought all us eager young hopeful thespians some dignity and recognition on our own home ground.” – Christopher Plummer

... the web

Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia – This online encyclopedia collects and disseminates information on plays, playwrights and theatre practitioners from across Canada.

National Arts Centre – The national arts Centre (NaC) raised its curtains for the first time in 1969. Created by the Canadian government as a centennial project during the 1960s, the naC has become Canada’s foremost showcase for the performing arts.

Ryerson Theatre School – Training the next generation of theatre and dance artists is an important task for all at the Ryerson Theatre school. The 2013/14 season will showcase the accomplishments of the four-year bachelor of Fine arts in performance program (acting, dance and production).

Shaw Festival – Inspired by the wit and passion of George Bernard Shaw, the Shaw Festival is a contemporary theatre that features a smart, provocative, potent and diverse mix of plays from the past and present.

Stratford Festival – with William Shakespeare as its foundation, the Stratford Festival aims to set the standard for classical theatre in North America. embracing a heritage of tradition and innovation, the Stratford Festival seeks to bring classical and contemporary theatre alive for an increasingly diverse audience. – This online directory provides information on live theatres and performing arts venues across Canada. study resources and a special section for children.

Theatre Museum Canada– The only museum devoted to celebrating Canada’s theatrical heritage.

Theatre Ontario– a charitable, not-for-profit association of professional, community and educational theatre organizations and artists with a variety of programs and services.