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The history of the Vancouver Little Theatre Association Nesbitt, Carol Dell 1992

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THE HISTORY OF THE VANCOUVER LITTLE THEATRE ASSOCIATION  by  CAROL DELL NESBITT B.F.A., The University of British Columbia,  1986  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS  in  THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Theatre) We accept this thesis as conforming to  the required standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA July,  ©  1992  Carol Dell Nesbitt,  1992  In presenting  this  thesis  in  partial  fulfilment  degree at the University of British Columbia,  of the  requirements  for an  advanced  I agree that the Library shall make it  freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department  or  by  his  or  her  representatives,  It  is  understood  that  copying  or  publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission.  Department  of  The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date  DE-6 (2/88)  AjL451  i  /99s,2  ABSTRACT  The thesis covers the history of the Vancouver Little Theatre Association (VLTA), one of the oldest amateur theatre groups in Canada.  The subject was chosen partly because of  the shortage of informative papers written on the histories of amateur theatre in Vancouver.  As there has been very little  written on this subject, the majority of the research was done with primary sources, most of which were in the VLTA archival collection at the City of Vancouver Archives. The VLTA was founded in 1921 by a group of people inspired by the art theatre movement in Europe.  The  Association proved to be very popular from its inception, and was able to buy a theatre building by its third season. The building was its home base until 1978.  The Depression at the  end of the 1920s dramatically affected the VLTA, and the company, once financially successful and widely accepted, much of its stability and following.  lost  From then on, most of  the history of the VLTA is a struggle for survival.  During  the Second World War, the Association helped with the war effort,  either by raising money for war charities or by giving  performances for servicemen.  At the end of the war,  professional theatre began to emerge in Vancouver, VLTA had much competition.  and the  This early professionalism led to  the building of Vancouver’s civic theatres in the late 1950s 11  and early 1960s,  as well as the founding of smaller,  alternative, professional theatre companies of the 1970s.  The  Little Theatre found that it could not compete with these new movements.  The Association’s position in the Vancouver theatre  scene was forced to change. The Introduction presents a brief overview of the theatrical ongoings in Vancouver before the inception of VLTA, as well as the reasons behind the creation of the Little Theatre.  Chapters Two to Five cover the main part of VLTA’s  history,  from its inception in 1921 to the selling of the York  Theatre building in 1978.  Chapter Six brings up to date the  rest of VLTA’s history and discusses whether the VLTA succeeded in its original mandates.  It also considers why  VLTA remained amateur, while other little theatres in Canada turned professional.  The thesis will cover the internal  workings of VLTA as a company, and its position in the Vancouver Theatre scene in comparison to other theatrical happenings in the city.  :iii  TABLE OF CONTENTS  Title Page  i  Abstract  ii  Table of Contents  iv  Acknowledgements  v  CHAPTER ONE Introduction  1  CHAPTER TWO The Early Years:  CHAPTER THREE Depression and the War Years:  CHAPTER FOUR After the War:  10  the 1920s  1930s and 1940s  56  1940s and 1950s  CHAPTER FIVE The Coming of Professional Theatre:  35  1960s and 1970s..  79  CHAPTER SIX Conclusion: VLTA after the York Theatre  102  Notes  114  Bibliography  123  Appendices Appendix A: VLTA Presidents Appendix B: List of Plays Produced by VLTA  125 127  iv  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS  I would like to thank the following people for their assistance, guidance and support: To Denis W. Johnston, an incredibly supportive thesis advisor, who, thankfully, inspired me to pursue Canadian theatre history. To the staff of the Vancouver City Archives, who were consistently helpful, not only with their time, but with their suggestions. To my family; Robert, Jean and Cathy Nesbitt, who would listen to me whenever I wanted to talk, and that has invariably proved to be all the time. To all my students, who took on some extra responsibilities this year to help me out. To Gay Scrivener, my mentor and my great friend. And finally, to my fiancé, Ted Holland, who has always been there for me. Thank you with all my love.  I dedicate this thesis to all of you.  v  HISTORY OF THE VANCOUVER LITTLE THEATRE ASSOCIATION  CHAPTER ONE  Introduction  The Vancouver Little Theatre Association (also known as the VLTA),  one of the earliest community theatre groups in  Canada, was established in 1921 and still exists in some form The VLTA was a leader in theatre in  to the present day.  Vancouver in its early years,  frequently providing support for It also proved to be an  other community theatre groups.  excellent training ground for actors who eventually moved on to theatre elsewhere,  either in Vancouver or other centres.  Some examples are: Dorothy Somerset, who developed the Theatre Department at the University of British Columbia; Fletcher Markie, a major figure in Canadian radio drama and later a Hollywood director; Thor Arngrim and Stuart Baker, producers for Totem Theatre,  one of the earlier professional theatre  companies in Vancouver; Norma MacMillan,  Thor Arngrim’s wife,  who achieved fame as a character voice for radio and animated films, most notably as the voice of Casper the Friendly Ghost; Joy Coghill and Sydney Risk, who created Holiday and Everyman  1  Theatre respectively,  early professional theatre companies in  Vancouver; Yvonne Firkins,  founder of the very successful Arts  Club Theatre of Vancouver; Bruno Gerussi,  one of Canada’s best  known television actors because of his nineteen years of work on the internationally-broadcast Beachcombers series; Bruce Ward, who created the Act Four Theatrical Agency; and Sharon Pollock, a Canadian playwright now based in Calgary.  The VLTA  became a source from which a substantial amount of theatrical growth in Vancouver was begun. The VLTA’s history. is at times eventful and exciting, and at other times tedious in its sameness.  Many of the same  problems plagued the company from its inception through its seventy-year history.  Except for the very early years,  lack  of funds was always an obstacle in its struggle for survival. The York Theatre, which the VLTA owned from 1923 until 1978, remained a burden to the company for many reasons. Nonetheless, the Association succeeded in keeping mainly volunteer community theatre alive in Vancouver for a very long time. Between 1886, when Vancouver was incorporated as a city, and 1921, when the VLTA commenced, a wide range of theatrical activities entertained the community. Hart’s Opera House (1887),  The first theatre,  doubled as a roller skating rink  when not in use as a theatre space.  Theatres erected over the  next thirty years served varying functions.  Some,  such as the  Vancouver Opera House built by the Canadian Pacific Railway 2  (next to the first Vancouver Hotel on the corner of Georgia and Granville), were created for legitimate theatre.  Others,  such as the two Pantages and two Orpheum theatres built before 1917, were for vaudeville.  A third Orpheum theatre, opened in  1 1927, is the only one of these theatres still in use today. Professional theatre can be divided into three main categories before the 1920s, when the VLTA was begun: vaudeville,  stock companies and American/British touring  companies. Vaudeville originated in the United States; and when the railway that linked Vancouver to the Northwest States was finished in 1904, the city was added to the touring circuits.  According to Robert Todd, theatre historian,  “Vancouver had required a rail link.  .  .  [and] its effect on the  theatrical life was not only to facilitate travel for touring performers, nearly all of whom came from the south, but also made Vancouver open to inclusion on the vaudeville circuits 2 that were developing in the Seattle area.”  Stock companies  too originated from other centres, but then took up residence in Vancouver.  (The theatre that the VLTA bought in 1923 was  at one time a stock company theatre.)  Finally, British and  American touring companies frequently visited Vancouver, using 3 the CPR Opera House as their “principal home”.  Vancouver  audiences were receptive, both financially and artistically, to the theatrical attractions imported to the city. Todd believes that by the mid 1910s touring of legitimate theatre was waning in Canada and elsewhere. 3  “Hindsight shows  by that time [1913] theatrical touring in North America was beginning to decline, well before moving pictures had made an 4 impact.”  Nevertheless, touring did not die out completely.  Companies kept coming to Vancouver until the Depression in 1929, but seldom thereafter.  At the same time, vaudeville was  growing in popularity: in 1912, the Vancouver Opera House was converted to a vaudeville house, and between 1908 and 1917 six vaudeville houses were either erected or converted from existing theatre buildings. Little documentation exists on amateur theatre of this time, with one notable exception.  In 1915,  six weeks after the  opening of the University of British Columbia, a lecturer named Frederic Wood began a student’s theatre group called the Players’ Club.  This club was so successful that it was soon  taking its own productions on tours throughout British Columbia. Another group that put on periodic amateur theatricals was the Vagabond Club.  No connection to the later Vagabond  Players of New Westminster, this organisation was made up of businessmen and professional people who enjoyed the Arts, and used the club as a way to share their mutual enjoyment.  This  sort of organisation was not uncommon in Canada at the time. Maria Tippett,  in her analysis of the arts in Canada prior to  the Massey Commission, for enjoyment.  states that such groups gathered simply  “It was the doing, the discussing, and the  sharing of one’s work that mattered to these society ladies, 4  businessmen and professionals.. .Achieving financial success or meeting with public approval through their involvement with culture and the arts was not necessary for these well-heeled 5 hobbyists.”  The Vagabond Club, not specifically interested  in theatre, would put on only one play per year.  Some  members, however, were more interested in starting a separate, full—time amateur theatre group. Unlike the Vagabond Club and other clubs of its kind, the founders of the VLTA realised that the kind of theatre company they wanted could not exist without audiences, nor without a receptive, volunteer support group.  Tippett goes on to  analyze this variety of organisation as well: most were aware that their activity entailed more than self-fulfilment and the entertainment of their They sensed that they should be reaching friends. outwards, trying to work towards some broader, more They knew, certainly, that general standard. something of this sort had to be done if the public were to be persuaded to buy tickets, paintings, or subscriptions. They were aware as well that their work needed an appealing content to attract an And above all they audience in the first place. knew that the making of culture demanded dedication, enthusiasm, and a good deal of energy not only to create and perform, but also to attend rehearsals.. .Nor did these groups draw solely upon the business, professional, and upper classes for There was, to be sure, ‘the social their members. satellite’ and ‘the dilettante who delights to dabble in anything that smacks of the Bohemian.’ But, as the American Drama critic Gertrude Lerner continued, there was also ‘the more spirited amateur who, after a day of work in factory or office, 6 spends his evening in artistic pursuit.’ The founders of the VLTA recognised there was a niche in Vancouver’s theatre scene needing to be filled.  While many  forms of theatre flourished in Vancouver, they were 5  predominantly professional.  And except for the Players’ Club,  whose membership was restricted to university students, few opportunities existed for participation of local amateur artists. The Little Theatre movement was strong in Europe by this time, and had swept the United States.  Leaders in this  movement included Europeans such as Gordon Craig, Adoiphe Appia, and Max Reinhardt, and Americans such as Sam Hume. The artistic ideals of such leaders inspired this group of people to create their own Little Theatre in Vancouver.  As well, the  founders were dissatisfied with the type of theatre being offered in Vancouver.  Popular theatre made up the majority of  productions presented in the city at the time:  such as  vaudeville, melodrama, and magic lantern shows (the predecessor to moving pictures).  The founders recognised the  desire among theatre—goers to see, or become involved in, locally produced legitimate theatre.  Although founded on high  principles, the company later became more of a community theatre forced to bend to the demands of its members and to financial restrictions. Initially, the VLTA became very popular, probably because it had effectively filled a void in Vancouver’s theatrical scene.  It might have remained so, had the Depression of the  1930s not affected it so drastically. The Depression was an important turning point for the Association: from then on, the VLTA never regained its previous stature, and frequently pined 6  for its early,  glorious years.  At certain times, the VLTA held an important rank in the development of theatre in Vancouver, 1920s and the early 1950s.  especially during the  It never permanently remained on  the forefront of theatrical movements in the city, however, as did other community groups such as the Winnipeg, London, or Ottawa Little Theatres,  or Hart House in Toronto.  The  difficulty it had maintaining its stature frustrated the VLTA, rendering it at times almost ineffectual. Why didn’t the VLTA turn professional?  The answer  probably lies in a conflict between its roots as an art theatre and its objectives as a community theatre. Ultimately, it remained an amateur,  community organisation,  in order to  provide a wide range of opportunities for people to participate in theatre.  Although many people went on from the  VLTA to professional careers, the Association itself remained ambivalent towards professionalism. And by the time regional theatres were being established elsewhere in Canada in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the VLTA had been overshadowed by a proliferation of amateur and professional groups.  Some other  little theatres in Canada eventually made successful transitions to professional theatre companies, theatre companies;  even regional  for example, Winnipeg Little Theatre  developed into The Manitoba Theatre Centre (MTC), and the London Little Theatre became Theatre London.  These were  companies which, unlike the VLTA, had maintained their 7  dominance in local theatre. When professional theatre was permanently established in Vancouver in the 1960s and 1970s, the VLTA at first attempted to compete on the same level.  It seemed that the Association  wanted to fulfil its mandate of being an amateur group, while at the same time command the attention and respect normally given to professional groups.  It remained frustrated in these  ambitions, which probably caused it irreparable damage. the theatre scene had changed in Vancouver, needed to change. change,  As  so the VLTA had  When it tried for a number of years to not  it floundered almost to the point of extinction, until  the mid-1980s.  At that point,  it was given new life by being  given a new direction, a new focus,  and a new name; the  Vancouver Little Theatre Alliance.  Now it is a non-producing  company,  in charge of a theatre space available for other  companies. One thing remained constant throughout most of the VLTA’s history: the York Theatre building.  The York,  located at the  corner of Commercial and Georgia Streets, was many things to the VLTA for the fifty-five years of its ownership: a source of income, to perform,  a drain on finances, a home, a burden, a free place an expensive place to operate.  So much of the  history of the VLTA is ‘caught up in the building.  It is as if  the York was the reason the VLTA was around for so long, well as the reason it was always thwarted. This thesis covers the history of the VLTA from its  8  as  inception in the early 1920s, to the sale of the York Theatre in 1978.  The thesis will examine the internal workings of the  VLTA as a company, as well as its position in the Vancouver theatre scene.  As very little has been written on amateur  theatre in Vancouver, this is primarily a historical paper, a building block for other analyses of Western Canadian theatre history.  So much Canadian theatre history has been written  about other centres in Canada, and yet so much of Vancouver’s theatrical history has been largely ignored.  In recent  research done on Heather McCallum’s exhaustive study on Canadian theatre resources for the Directory of Canadian Theatre Research,  I discovered an abundance of primary sources  on British Columbia theatre history at the city and provincial archives, and in personal collections.  This is a new and  exciting field, and should not be ignored by Canadian researchers, particularly university graduate students.  It is  exciting to be on the crest of historical analysis like this and to discover history that has not yet been documented.  The  object of this thesis, therefore, is to open another door onto the history of British Columbia Theatre by documenting the history of the Vancouver Little Theatre Association.  9  CHAPTER TWO  The Early Years:  1920s  The concept of a little theatre organisation for Vancouver started with two men, (Charles) Ferguson.  Sam Weliwood and C.A.  Ferguson, Weliwood and their wives lived  in Wellwood’s house in Grandview, on the east side of Vancouver.  According to the City Directory,  a bookkeeper,  Ferguson an artist.  the Vagabond Club,  Both men participated in  an informal organisation of professionals  who enjoyed the pursuit of the arts. previously,  Sam Weliwood was  (As mentioned  this had no connection to the later Vagabond  Players of New Westminster, which was started in 1937.) Sheila Neville,  later president of the VLTA explains;  As  “The  Vagabond Club of Vancouver was formed by a group of businessmen who enjoyed poetry, novels and the Arts.  They met  every Saturday evening in a restaurant at the corner of 7 Seymour and Dunsmuir.”  Every year, the Vagabond Club would  put on a performance of a play written by Club members. Frequently the plays would be performed at the Bursill’s Hall 8 on Pender Street.  Ferguson’s and Weliwood’s greatest  10  interest was theatre, particularly the little theatre movements that were sweeping Europe and invading North Charles Ferguson reminisces:  America.  “The Little Theatre movement was then beginning to Sam take hold and make some headway [in the world]. and I were interested and discussed the possibility Reinhardt’s intimate of such a thing in Vancouver. theatre, the designs of Urban, Jones, Lee Simonson and the Russian Theatre all interested us and gave 9 us ideas”. Eugene Benson and L.W. Conolly,  in English Canadian  Theatre, agree that international influences were important to the evolution of the little theatre movement in Canada.  “The  inspiration for the development of a genuinely Canadian Theatre came from the art theatres of Europe.. .Eschewing commercial ideology and expectations, the Little Theatre movement dedicated itself to innovation and experiment in dramatic production”  •b0  Weliwood and Ferguson were interested in creating an amateur little theatre similar to those in Europe and the United States.  They reacted to the theatre offered them in  Vancouver: no variation or participation.  The Little Theatre  movement, with its new outlook, gave them inspiration to try their own ideas.  Their greatest interests lay in the  direction of innovation and experimentation, particularly in They studied the work of Gordon Craig and Adoiphe  design. Appia.  Ferguson focused his attention on sets and Weliwood on  lighting.  Another influence for Ferguson was Sam Hume, a  director of Drama at the University of California at 11  ’ 1 Berkeley.  Hume had created a versatile set design when he  had been with the Detroit Arts and Crafts Theatre.  Sheldon  Cheney, an analyst of the art theatre, highly praised Hume’s design. Before describing Hume’s setting in detail, I wish to record my admiration for the impressive results The point to be remembered, if one is he obtained. interested in little theatre and art theatre economics, is this: while gaining superior results artistically, Hume spent for eleven settings not more than the cost of two average settings in other theatres. .The permanent setting included the following units: four pylons, constructed of canvas on wooden frames, each of the three covered faces measuring two and one-half by eighteen feet; two canvas flats, each three by eighteen feet; two sections of stairs three feet long, and one section eight feet long, of uniform eighteen inch height; three platforms of the same height, respectively six, eight, and twelve feet long; dark green hangings as long as the pylons; two folding screens for masking, covered with the same cloth as that used in the hangings, and as high as the pylons; and An arch and two irregular tree-forms in silhouette. The pylons, a large window piece were added later. flats, stairs, arch and window were painted in broken colour, after the system introduced by Joseph Urban, so that the surfaces would take on any 12 desired color under the proper lighting. .  .  .  The versatility and inexpensiveness of the design suited the budget of the founders of the VLTA. Ferguson remembers that in the summer of 1921, the two men built a scale-model set based on Hume’s design.  They  experimented with it, changing the pieces around in order to create sets for the numerous plays they had read. lit the model.  Weliwood  It suited the budget for a little theatre, and  was very adaptable and reusable.  Adaptability was important  to them, because the prospect of creating a theatre company 12  with no existing revenue meant that frugality was vital. Although Ferguson and Weliwood came from the Vagabond Club (as did numerous other founding members), the Club did not sponsor the VLTA.  As Ferguson explains,  “It simply happened that most  of our friends who had like interests were members of the Club.  U13  As Ferguson and Wellwood became more confident and enthusiastic about their set design and the idea of such a theatre company, they discussed the idea with other likeminded people.  They held an exhibition of the set, complete  with lighting, at the Wellwood home.  According to a brief  history of the Association written in 1933, the people who came to the earliest meeting at the Weliwood home became the founders.  These included Mr. and Mrs. Wellwood, Mr. and Mrs.  Ferguson, H. Bromley Coleman, Mr.and Mrs. H.H. Beeman, G.R. Ward, Mr. and Mrs. R.M. Eassie, and Aubrey Goodall. to Simrnonds,  According  everyone was enthusiastic at the first meeting.  The core group wanted to share the idea with the people of Vancouver,  so they arranged to have a public meeting.  Sam  Wellwood, acting as secretary, began writing letters to people he thought would be interested.  As well, there was a  paragraph inserted in the Daily Province newspaper, announcing to the public the upcoming meeting. The meeting was held in the summer of 1921, at the Board of Trade building,  corner of Pender and Homer Street.  precise number of people who attended is not known. 13  The Ferguson  remembered the names of at least seventeen people who came to 14 the meeting, but knew there were others as well.  It was  agreed at this meeting that, because enough support was demonstrated, the founders should go ahead. At the next meeting later that summer, chosen,  officers were  as follows: R.L. Reid, K.C. E.V. Young S. Wellwood E.W. Lamprey H.H. Beeman and H.B. Coleman C.A. Ferguson S.R. Coombes G.B.D. Phillips and Mrs. A.H. Douglas Mrs. A.E. Delong  President Vice President Secretary Treasurer Directors Scenic Director Lighting Director Properties and Costumes Music Director  R.L. Reid, King’s Council, was a friend of Wellwood and Ferguson through the Vagabond Club.  The latter two asked for  Reid’s assistance in the Association because, as Ferguson explained in a letter to Reid,  “We knew of your interest in  literature and thought not only that you could handle a meeting but that you had understanding of the problems we 15 would have to meet.”  E.V.  Young, Vice-President, not at the  first meeting held at the Board of Trade, became involved through Mr.  Beeman.  Beeman had seen Young at the Imperial  Theatre on Main Street,  in B.C. Hilliam’s  “Follies”, and had  invited Young to participate in the Association.  B.C. Hilliam  was a North Vancouver actor, who wrote and produced local musical revues. At the preliminary meetings, the founders drew up a list of objectives for the theatre company. 14  For many years after,  this list was reprinted in the programme for each production of the Association: The object of VLTA is: To promote the study of Drama (1) (2) To produce high class plays by British and foreign dramatists, not ordinarily given by travelling companies. To encourage, and provide facilities for (3) the production of plays by Canadian dramatists. To develop the arts of costume and scenic (4) 16 design, and stage lighting. Meanwhile, two immediate concerns arose for the new Association: finances, and a performance space.  The  Association agreed to raise funds by having a paid annual membership, a practise common in other community theatres. With nothing to offer but enthusiasm, the VLTA asked the public to buy subscriptions in advance, promising on good faith to have a season of productions. In order to increase awareness and generate potential funds for the new local theatre, Sam Wellwood wrote an article for the Daily Province describing the Little Theatre movement. By outlining the impact of other such theatres elsewhere in the world, Weliwood wanted to convince Vancouverites of the importance of a similar organisation in their own city, perhaps in part trying to appeal to their desire for cosmopolitanism.  Wellwood referred to many of the people  involved internationally in the little theatre, such as Appia, His attack on the “two-dimensional”  Craig and Reinhardt.  theatre of melodrama pointed specifically to stage settings and lighting designs  -  Wellwood’s own main interest: 15  (Community theatres) were inspired by a reaction against both an effete romanticism in drama and what was regarded as an outworn convention in scenic representation, namely, the use of painted ‘drops’ or backgrounds in perspective. .Towards the close of the nineteenth century the ideal of stage lighting in our commercial theatres was the total elimination of shadows, a thing that does not occur in nature, and the play was so over-burdened with painted flat perspectives with impossible shadows depicted thereon, that the actor himself stood in danaer of 1 being regarded as a piece of painted canvas.’ .  He wrote of the successful little theatres of Europe,  some of  which started as amateur companies and later became professional.  But his focus in the article was to point out  the importance of the little theatre as an amateur institution.  He must have recognised that the city of  Vancouver would find it difficult to support a professional company of the likes of the Moscow Art Theatre or the Irish National Theatre in Dublin.  He also tried to emphasise the  democratic nature of community theatre, describing it as the theatre for everyone: A noteworthy feature of the little theatre movement is its democratic character and its discouragement It is not an affair of one of the star system. class. It finds room among its workers not only for amateur actors and actresses of ability, but also those whose talents are humbler perhaps, but no less necessary to the perfect ensemble, such as carpenters, scene painters, musicians, seamstresses, ushers, businessmen and so on, each in his separate sphere doing the thing he can for the good of things as they should be. By this means the drama is made once more, as in Shakespeare’s day, a living force in the community, reflecting the significance and beauty of life, which still underlies our drab conventions and voicing also the social tendencies of the time, the dreams and theories which may 18 become the actualities of tomorrow. In this article, Weliwood introduced the little theatre 16  movement as it transpired in the rest of the world, and to introduce the Vancouver Little Theatre to its future audiences.  He also wanted to get people interested in the  Association so they would join,  in order to generate needed  revenue. Personal contact proved to be another way of gaining members.  Ferguson and Weliwood approached Professor Frederic  Wood of the UBC Players’ Club, who eventually directed the first one-act of the VLTA’s first production.  Wood, in turn,  brought to the Association Dorothy Somerset, a very important early contributor not only to the Vancouver Little Theatre, but to Vancouver theatre as a whole. Finding a theatre space remained a problem. little choice, and little money to spend on rent.  They had They  discussed using a converted store, and Ferguson began to design generic set pieces that would fit into such a space. Then, one day in early fall 1921, Charles Ferguson walked by Templeton Hall, on the corner of Pender Street and Templeton Drive. It was a The door was open and I just walked in. stage. I told with [a] ready made little theatre I it together. Wellwood about it and we saw remember his delight when he found that the lighting He rubbed his system was equipped with a dimmer. hands together, ran his eyes over the overhead 19 lights and began to plan what he would do. Templeton Hall’s location was its biggest downfall and greatest concern to the committee organised to find a theatre space.  It was a long distance from downtown Vancouver 17  (Templeton Drive is two blocks west of Nanaimo Street).  As no  other acceptable options surfaced, the founders decided to try it. That began, as Ferguson recalled, many “hectic” weeks of preparation for the scheduled opening on November 3,  1921.  “Readings”, or auditions, were held at the Board of Trade for the three one-act plays of the first production.  Reticence  seemed to be the order of the day for these auditions. According to VLTA member D.A. MacGregor,  “there was quite a  crowd present, but at first all sat back like school children ° 2 afraid to do anything.”  Once the plays were cast,  rehearsals were held downtown, at the Board of Trade, or at the Hall. Most technical work was done at Templeton Hall.  Ferguson  hired two carpenters to help him make flats and set pieces. Wellwood and his assistant worked on lights and made frames for gels, and Ferguson designed an appliqué for the front curtain. stage.  They all worked in the gallery, a back room and the MacGregor complained that most of the workers were  never allowed to use the stage as “Weliwood was always tinkering there with his lights and his gelatin sheets and he 21 would chase us off”.  Jas Leyland, a VLTA member, remembered  the early days as a “hive of activity”: Night after night these workers came, working hard to get everything ready for the opening night...In fact we had sometimes too many and it was not easy to find work for all however eager they might be. Most members did something and there was an understood rule in those days that all members not 18  engaged in a play should assist in any way they found congenial and useful. They were busy times, but each one worked with a will at whatever he or she were best qualified for. 22 A fond reminiscence for the members was the meals prepared by Mrs. Weliwood and Mrs. Ferguson. recalled:  D.A. MacGregor  “A feature of these work nights was the little lunch  provided by the ladies and which we ate from dirty hands and 23 in our working clothes.”  And Leyland agreed:  “One of the  features of these work nights was the suppers in the upstairs room generally got ready by Mrs. Weliwood and Mrs. Ferguson. They were most enjoyable, and led to all kinds of discussion, frequently keeping us there until  ‘the wee sma’ hours’...” 24  Three one-act plays were chosen for the first production: Lonesomelike by Harold Brighouse, directed by Professor Wood; The Intruder by Maurice Maeterlinck, directed by Garfield and The Stepmother by Arnold Bennett, directed by G.H.  King; Warde.  (Appendix B contains a calendar of VLTA productions,  1921-78,  including dates, plays performed,  authors and  directors.) One mishap arose just before opening night.  It was  discovered at the dress rehearsal for The Intruder that the lights not only shone through the windows of the set, they also shone through the walls.  The members in charge of flats  laid them onto the floor of the auditorium area, and Noel Robinson began painting them. [Robinson]  According to Ferguson,  “He  splashed vigorously and put as much on the floor  and himself as he put on the flats. 19  We then had the double  25 job of cleaning the floor.”  This displeased the proprietor  of Templeton Hall, as he used the space for dances and he was concerned his floor had been ruined. The first production went ahead with the final touches of paint being put on the flats as the curtain went up.  The VLTA  President, Mr. Reid, gave an opening speech before the first performance, explaining the Little Theatre’s objectives, and expressing a hope that eventually the theatre company would be successful in becoming the city’s community theatre. The reviews by members and the local paper were mostly The Daily Province  positive for the first production.  described the play’s reception as “enthusiastic”. no review in the Vancouver Sun.)  (There was  Special mentions went to The  Intruder and to Charles Ferguson’s set design.  The Daily  Province’s review concluded: In spite of the fact that is was the first attempt of its kind in .the city, and that it marked the first public appearance of many of the actors, the performance went off very creditablr and with thoroughly professional regularity. 6 The members were satisfied as well, as indicated in reminiscences.  Praise was specifically offered to Mrs. Lukin  Johnstone, who played the granddaughter in The Intruder. Accolades came from other cast members, technical people and the reviewer in the Daily Province.  (Mrs Johnstone’s husband  obviously had great faith as well in her abilities, and in the theatre company  -  he was the first to buy a subscription  membership for the season.)  Leyland remembers that the VLTA 20  members considered the main weakness of Lonesomelike to be the 27 cast’s poor Lancashire accents.  The actors in  Stepmother were extremely nervous, noticeably enough to disrupt the performance.  Nevertheless, the consensus was that  the performances had been successful enough to go ahead with a second production. Many potential subscribers were much more interested in joining the Association now that it had succeeded in its debut production.  This led to a certain amount of initial  disorganisation.  Many new members wanted roles in the plays,  but not enough parts could be made available.  The VLTA  resorted to establishing memberships of different standings. There were ‘Members’, restricted to 200 spaces only, and these were the only people allowed to vote in the Association.  They  had to participate, either by doing technical work, acting, costume, refreshments or box office. ‘Associates’. vote.  The second level was the  They could participate as well, but had no  If a vacant space became available at the Members  level, it would be filled by someone recommended from the Associate status, on the basis of the amount of assistance he or she had given in the past season. membership was  The final level of  ‘Subscribers’, active only as audience.  Membership fees were payment for the season’s tickets. The fee was $5.50, which worked out to be $1.00 for each production plus $.50 entertainment tax for the full season. The general public (i.e. non—members) could purchase tickets 21  The price stayed constantfor  for each performance for $1.00.  (sometimes without the entertainment tax).  many years  The VLTA’s second production was scheduled for December 15—17,  The one—act plays chosen were Suppressed Desires  1921.  by Susan Glaspell and George Cram Cook, directed by Garfield A. King and David Bridal;  The Land of Heart’s Desire by W.B.  Yeats, directed by Herbert Beeman;  and The Lost Silk Hat by  Lord Dunsany, directed by A.E. Craddock.  Dorothy Somerset  made her first appearance in a VLTA production in Suppressed Desires. The process of production began once again. and sets needed to be built or found.  New costumes  According to the  programmes of the plays, many businesses were generous in especially furniture stores.  their loans,  The same companies  were still lending furniture to the Association more than twelve years later, as the stores were still being acknowledged for furniture and set pieces. This time, the performances received notices in both local papers.  The Vancouver Sun described the plays as The Daily Province felt the  28 “excellent in every respect”. theatre was  “making progress”, and that the musical entr’actes  between the plays were so good they would be well worth the 29 cost of admission on their own. The season continued with three more productions in the New Year,  on February 16-18, April 20-22 and May 25-27,  1922.  Each production consisted of three one-act plays for three 22  nights each. Quartette,  For the third production, the McIntyre  a family musical group,  joined VLTA as  entertainment for the interludes between the one-act plays. This Quartette continued to perform at VLTA productions for many years. In May 1922, the Treasurer informed the members that they had ended their first year with a surprising surplus of $15O.OO.°  The members enthusiastically decided to forge  ahead with a second season. to put on one-act plays. four productions.  For 1922-23, the VLTA continued  This format was used for the first  The reviews in the Daily Province ranged  from generally positive to strongly enthusiastic.  During this  season, the VLTA put on a production of Matches by local author Isabel Ecciestone MacKay.  This fulfilled one of the  company’s original mandates to support locally written works. The play, positively reviewed in the Daily Province, was described as “amusing and healthy”. 31 The VLTA started to attract attention from other centres. Roy Mitchell from Hart House Theatre in Toronto and Gilmore Brown of the Pasadena Players of California both came to view the Little Theatre in action.  According to Jas Leyland, Roy  Mitchell’s visit was not a positive experience.  Mitchell was  asked to assist in directing the upcoming Boccaccio’s Untold Tale. it,  The request turned out to be a mistake; as Leyland put  it was  “a case of  32 ‘too many cooks’”.  One reviewer said  of the production that one particular actor was so poorly 23  directed he gave the most important speech of the play with 33 his back to the audience.  Gilmore Brown’s visit, on the  other hand, was much more beneficial.  Brown and the people of  the Vancouver Little Theatre used their time constructively to 34 compare notes on their respective community theatres. As a final production of the season, the Association decided to do a full-length play instead of another evening of one-acts. The play chosen was J.M Barrie’s Dear Brutus, which opened in May 1923. production as  The Daily Province described the  “an artistic triumph”.  It is not too much to say that the association in this, its final and most ambitious effort of the at times season, reached a standard of excellence which will place approaching a professional status the Little Theatre movement on a permanent footing If there were those last night who in Vancouver. went to Templeton Hall prepared to make charitable allowance for a crude amateur production, they must have been agreeably disillusioned, for, despite handicaps, the comedy was staged with subtle artistry. -  -  The show was held over, running for a total of six performances.  Dear Brutus proved that the Association had  been accepted by Vancouverites. The second season did have crises as well.  Halfway  through the season, the proprietors of Templeton Hall notified the Association that it could no longer use the theatre. After some discussion, the Association was able to convince the proprietors to let them stay at least until the end of the current season.  At the end of the season the theatre company  had to leave. 24  Templeton Hall had never been an ideal theatre space anyway.  It had been convenient in that it had been available  and it required no renovation to be used as a theatre.  The  seating area of Templeton Hall was level, causing poor sight lines.  The heating in the hail was so inadequate that patrons  routinely brought blankets to the theatre.  The dressing rooms  were tiny, as E.V. Young later explained: The ladies dressing room was a glorified cupboard in one corner of the stage, and the mens’ dressing room a sort of boarded in shelf reached by was above it When the stage was in darkness, this trip a ladder. down the ladder always reminded me of the ‘facilis 36 est’ quotation so beloved of my Latin master. -  Even so, the Hall was the only option the Vancouver Little Theatre had had up to this point.  But when the second season  ended, it was time to look for a new home.  The theatre  company’s goal was to find something closer to downtown Vancouver.  At first the VLTA considered constructing a new  theatre, until estimates showed it would cost nearly $40,000. The Association decided to look for an existing theatre.  The  Alcazar Theatre on Commercial Drive was mentioned to the committee organised to search for a new theatre. The Aicazar Theatre had originally been built in 1913 as a recital hail.  The architect, John McCarter, also designed  the Kitsilano Theatre (now the Russian Community Centre on Fourth Avenue near Arbutus Street), the Georgia Medical Dental 37 building, and the Seaforth Armories.  According to an  article written in 1986, the building was commissioned by Robert J. McLaren, for Mrs. John Van Harlingen, a music 25  teacher. Developer MacLaren is said to have footed the money for the Alcazar, out of his love for Mrs. V.H. She wanted her own place; a recital hall [sic]. where she could teach, and perform her own concerts. Her husband, reputedly a wealthy lumberman, may not extravagance. have seen the need for this 38 According to Ron Wright, the present manager of the building, she stif fed”, meaning that she was poorly received, and within six months the theatre was dark.  Wright says,  “She  still inhabits the theatre, in guilt because she wants to be close to the place.  Afterwards, the theatre was home to  the short-lived Alcazar Stock Company until 1915, and then it was not used on a permanent basis until the Vancouver Little Theatre bought it eight years later.  The Alcazar was not  considered a good choice for the Vancouver Little Theatre for many of the same reasons Templeton Hall was unsuitable. was too far outside of the downtown area. seating,  It  It needed new  lighting, and painting, and the heating was  inadequate.  The positive aspects of the Alcazar were the  acoustics and the price of the building.  The committee went  to visit other theatre spaces, but the found them even less suitable than the Alcazar.  In the end, the committee  submitted to the members that the Alcazar Theatre was the best choice.  The Association bought the theatre for $4250.00, and  renamed it the Little Theatre. The projected estimate for repairs on the theatre stood at over $10,000.  As a money making venture, the members were  offered the option of buying bonds with issue-bearing interest 26  at 6%.  This meant that the members could invest money in the  Association in the form of bonds, and would be paid 6% interest on their capital investment.  When the bonds came  due, the members could either collect the money, or re-invest in the Association.  The members responded, and the theatre  sold enough bonds to begin renovating.  The building was  painted, but the seats could not be replaced by the beginning of the season.  An apology in an early programme asked the  patrons to be patient until new seats could be found. On November 7,  1923, the Vancouver Little Theatre opened  its third season, in its own theatre space.  The season  started with a three-act play, The Dover Road by A.A. Mime, directed by E.V. Young.  The new theatre space was opened by  Mr. Bransby Williams, a well-known American actor visiting Vancouver.  A lengthy article describing the evening  accompanied the review of the play in the next day’s Daily Province: At the close of the overture, Mr. W.G. Murrin, president of the association, stepped before the curtain and gave a brief history of the acquisition of the theatre building and said that, as it now stood, it represented the security to the debenture There was no other claim holders for their bonds. After reading telegrams nor mortgage against it. conveying the best wishes of Hon. Walter C. Nichol [Lieutenant-Governor, and patron of VLTA] and Mr. Vincent Massey the president introduced Mr. Bransby Williams, the veteran exponent of Dickens characters, who had been asked to open the theatre. Mr. Williams said that he was proud to have the opportunity to open a theatre whose members held It before them such high ideals for the drama. especially appealed to him on a night when Vancouver was wrapped in what he had always supposed to be With a few London’s particular brand of fog. 27  felicitous phrases and a reminiscent reference to ° 4 other days he then declared the theatre open. The reviewer, J. Butterfield, also made the point that the opening of a community theatre in its own theatre space was a triumph not only for the Association but also for the people of Vancouver;  for without the support of the community, the  theatre would not exist. Beyond any of the founders’ expectations, the Association’s first decade was a great success.  Membership  grew: by 1926 the total membership topped 1000, and by the end of the decade it exceeded 1500, in a city of 200,000.  The  theatre company was so important that the VLTA was able to rearrange the B.C. Electric schedules to make sure there would be trolley cars available for the patrons leaving the theatre at the end of the evening.  It became well-known across the  country, and was called the “famous Little Theatre” by other 41 theatre companies as far away as Quebec. Demands by members soon outgrew the original objectives of the Association.  One of the greatest problems facing the  Association was the call for roles in plays.  The Association  began to have problems deciding what its mandates should be. Should the Association exist as an art theatre, created to experiment, for the benefit of the few; or as a community theatre, to entertain, for the enjoyment of many?  Should  financial considerations outweigh artistic decisions? The Association quickly realised that three-act plays had more audience appeal than one—acts. 28  For a time, the  Association tried to do both, alternating between the threeact plays to please the audiences, and the evenings of oneacts, to fulfil its mandate as a company prepared to experiment.  VLTA found itself in a dilemma;  remain experimental  -  it was trying to  as it had originally set out to do  -  and  it was trying to please its enthusiastic audience by putting on plays that would be box-office successes.  The one-act  plays were ideal for the inexperienced talent, as short plays were not so taxing for an actor or director.  The audiences,  on the other hand, wanted to see polished performances of well-directed full length plays.  As well, the three act plays  were more financially successful at the box office than the one-acts. VLTA chose financial considerations over artistic and developmental, and made the decision to change its main season to full-length plays.  This was the first step the VLTA made  away from its original inspiration of the art theatres in Europe.  It was moving towards a new objective: to be a  community theatre for a growing city, aimed at pleasing the audiences rather than being at the forefront of theatre innovation.  The resolution to focus on full-evening plays  solved one problem, but created others.  Now there were fewer  opportunities for inexperienced actors to gain practical knowledge without taking on the responsibility of a three-act play.  As well, there was less room for experimentation. The solution came in the form of studio productions, 29  known as Private Performances.  Private Performances,  established within the first four years of the Association, were held five times a year, for one or two evenings. were made up of one-act plays,  They  some locally written, and were  for members—only audiences, not the general public.  These  evenings filled a need in the organisation by providing a testing ground for new talent.  All new actors and directors  had to be involved in a Private Performance before granted the opportunity to work on a mainstage production.  It also let  the Association continue to live up to its mandate of encouraging new Canadian plays, and try new innovations in staging,  lighting or acting without the burden of potential  financial failure.  Private Performances permitted the company  to become more mainstream and be an experimental theatre as well. Studio productions such as the Private Performances at the VLTA proved to be a popular solution to this same problem in other little theatres.  The UBC Players’ Club was similarly  structured, and Sheldon Cheney states that many art theatres did the same. The Wisconsin Players and other little theatre groups have their workshop stages, whereon members try out their plays before carrying them out to The Moscow Art Theatre has its larger audiences. “studio” for the training of young actors and the The Theatre Guild has try-out of young ideas. arranged quarters in its new building for a school, It and already has its “junior” group of workers. also has followed the system of giving each season two or more special performances for its subscribing members of a play considered too “advanced” for its 42 larger public. 30  In the organisation, women outnumbered men approximately seven to one.  This made play selection extremely difficult.  Many suitable plays were rejected on the basis of the men-to— women ratio in the casts.  Play choice was a contentious issue  among the members even without the gender-balance problem.  In  the first few years, there was a play selecting committee, which was a group of five people from the Board of Directors. The system was changed when it proved unpopular with the members.  Three of the five on the committee would come from  the Association ranks and oiily two from the Board.  Play  choice was difficult from other points of view as well.  In  the 1926-27 season, when the Association was rehearsing its second production, the three subsequent plays already chosen for the season had to be abandoned and new plays found because of scheduling difficulties and royalty conflicts. strain among members.  This caused  The Association decided it was  important to start selecting plays early,  even before the  previous season had come to an end. In 1925, VLTA began the Vancouver Little Theatre Newsletter.  These newsletters included lists of upcoming  events, reviews of VLTA and other plays, stories,  letters from  members and international news of other community theatre companies.  The newsletter was published by Murphy and  Chapman, a local printing company, at no cost to members.  The  revenue came from the advertisements. The mood throughout the early newsletters was dissonant. 31  Members complained about practically everything to do with the Association: directing, acting, the executive, the plays selected, and quality of performance.  One important argument  discussed at length in the newsletter was the decision to run the theatre company with no paid artist-director.  Some  members felt it was extremely important to have a paid director, in order to keep the quality of the productions at a consistently high level.  The executive would discuss this  possibility, and always return to the decision that the theatre company could not afford to pay a director.  This  would not always satisfy the members, and the complaints would continue.  The company remained without a paid director,  nevertheless. editor improved  By 1928 the general mood of the letters to the -  either because the members were more  satisfied with the Association, or there was a tighter editorial rein on the newsletter itself. Another theme discernible in the newsletter is that of the Association’s condescension towards other community theatres.  There were always positive,  if somewhat  disparaging, comments and best wishes offered to any new community endeavour.  As well, many innovations to the  Association were announced in the newsletter. creation of a Play Reading Group in 1926.  One was the  Originally started  as a venue for discussion of plays, this group soon turned to play readings,  in response to pressure from the members.  gave performers and listeners alike opportunities to widen 32  It  their repertoire. Another innovation to the Association was the beginning of the Junior Group in 1929.  This group of young people  learned about drama and performed in their own productions. This branched off to drama workshops and classes for the adults as well, a venture that proved to be extremely successful.  The original performing Junior Group did not  venture as well.  After a few years it merged with the adult  drama classes. The original impetus for the creation of the Association was a desire to bring a certain kind of theatre to Vancouver. The founders were interested in innovation and experimentation; they did not want to put on superficial plays.  Pressure from a growing number of subscribers,  however, meant a change of focus.  Because of such pressure,  the Association was controlled by what the audiences wanted, not necessarily what the originators envisaged.  Subscribers  looked upon experimentation as something imposed by the select few of the executive.  Therefore, to keep the majority happy,  the theatre company had to place innovation where it was not intrusive.  The most visible part of the theatre company, the  mainstage performances, became more mainstream.  The demands  of the members also meant the Association had to diversify to Some of these diversifications  satisfy its immense following.  thrived, while others quickly faded or had to adapt to stay alive.  It took the force of a Depression to slow the growth 33  of the company.  At the same time,  however, an important  innovation was to bring new energy to the VLTA: the Dominion Drama Festival.  34  CHAPTER THREE  Depression and War Years:  1930s and 1940s  The gloriously successful early days of the Association were being replaced with difficult times.  The early 1930s  were frustrating for the Little Theatre, because of the Depression. improving. asset,  Financially, the VLTA’s situation was not The theatre building, which had once been an  now seemed to be a liability.  The theatre company that  had become overgrown and well-padded because of prosperous early years was struggling in a time when even streamlined organisations were suffering. The Depression had a profound effect on the VLTA at the end of the 1920s. three years  Membership dropped from over 1400 to 500 in  (1929-32).  The company worried about funding the  mainstage productions and other activities.  Pleas were made  in the Newsletter, asking lapsed members to re-join. was written by H.H.  Simnionds, the secretary,  This one  in December of  1932; The VLTA has managed to struggle through three difficult seasons of hard times, but if some great effort is not made to either increase revenue, reduce expenses, or do both, it will be very 35  difficult to make a successful finish to the present season. .While this position is serious, it is by no means hopeless, but I do wish that the ex-members, and other friends, would realise this season’s importance and make an effort to take out a membership to help the good work along. 43 .  How could the VLTA be so affected by the Depression?  All  organisations were beleaguered by the tough economic times, and an Association based on volunteer work for the primary purpose of entertainment was prime to succumb.  Some members  found the five-dollar membership fee difficult to pay, at a time of great economic stagnation.  The problem also lay in  the success the theatre company had achieved the previous decade.  With few setbacks during the l920s, the Association  had quickly flourished, well beyond expectations.  There had  never been difficult years of early troubled financial times during which the company could learn to curb excessive growth. Because of this, the company had become overextended. When the Depression came, the VLTA was completely unprepared, and not ready to suddenly change tactics.  Many  Canadian Little Theatres had begun near the end of the l920s, and had not appreciated the number of prosperous years the VLTA had enjoyed.  The other theatre companies had therefore  started streamlined and remained that way.  Vancouver-Little  Theatre did not conform quickly enough to avoid being lashed by the Depression.  Its early success amplified its downfall  -  the VLTA always compared its lean years to the good years, and did not try to find satisfaction in its later situation. Anger is evident in general correspondence: anger at 36  subscribers who were not returning to the Association.  The  contagious optimism of the early 1920s was replaced by deep disappointment and cynicism, feeding the growing dissatisfaction among subscribers and active members alike. Many responsibilities became difficult to execute, because the finances were not there to fulfil them.  A great  number of the notices, newsletters and minutes for meetings reveal an undercurrent of despair of the possible loss of the theatre company as a whole.  What should the members do?  No  one attempted to find outside financial help, perhaps because no one really anticipated the Depression, and possibly from a sense of pride: the company did not want to admit defeat. Another history of the company written by an unidentified member explains the situation: As with so many other organisations the depression hit the Little Theatre so quickly, or the directors hoped that it was only temporary, that they did not shorten sail soon enough to meet the storm.. The public seat sales fell off sharply and had a serious effect on the financial situation. .by the middle of 1931 old man depression seemed to have a stronghold on society, and VLTA, like most other organisations, was suffering from despondency or nerves, and the eleventh [season] proved to be the most erratic 44 season in the association’s career [to date]. .  .  The instability of that year was exemplified by the shifting of the Board of Directors for the 1931-32 season: At the annual meeting J.P.D. Malkin was elected President during his absence from Vancouver, and on his return was unable to accept the honour, so E.V. Young, who had been elected Vice-President, was made president and Percy Gomery was appointed Vice President. A.J. Greathed was elected Secretary, but later resigned, to be succeeded by G. Roy Kievill. G.F. Scott was elected Treasurer, soon to resign, 37  but on J. Barraclough, who had been appointed in his stead, leaving town Mr. Scott again took over the duties. The Directors elected were: Mrs. E.B. Clegg, Mrs. T.M. Ramsay, G.A. King, J.T. Flanigan, J. Barraclough, F. Johnstone and G.R. Kievill, but after the resignation of Mr. King, Mr. Greathed, and Mr. Barraclough, G. Hayward, Mrs. E.A. Woodward and H.H. Simmonds were appointed to fill the vacancies .‘ The people’s shifting interests in the company likely reflected their struggle to find and keep gainful employment. The 1931—32 season was important because of the growing possibility of a national theatre festival. Festival (DDF), Bessborough,  The Dominion Drama  sponsored by the Governor-General Lord  intrigued the Vancouver Little Theatre,  and it  helped to inject fresh energy into the VLTA and theatre in Canada in general.  In the fall of 1932, Governor—General Lord  Bessborough made a tour of Western Canada.  Although not a  tour concerned particularly with Canadian culture, Bessborough took time to speak with people involved in community theatres in the western provinces.  He went to the Vancouver Little  Theatre to watch a performance on September 8,  1932.  occasion, the Association remounted Outward Bound.  For the At the end  of the evening, Lord Bessborough went on stage to speak to the audience. Lord Bessborough was so enthused with the production that he kindly consented to address the audience from the stage. Then he emphasised the importance of the little theatre movement in Canada, and urged all members of the community to support the little theatre in its worthy effort to ‘keep the flag His flying for legitimate drama in Canada’. Excellency said that he was using his personal influence in bringing together all little theatres in Canada into a National Organisation with an 38  46 annual Drama Festival. When Bessborough returned to Ottawa, “personal influence”.  he made good on his  He and Vincent Massey, whom Bessborough  had made Chairman of the Dominion Drama Festival  (DDF) and  Col. Henry Osborne, who was Honorary Director, made plans for The first step toward the festival was  this national event.  the renowned meeting of October 29,  1932, held by Bessborough  at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, at which he presented the idea to representatives of community theatres of Canada.  Percy  Gomery, President of the Vancouver Little Theatre Association and representing the largest amateur theatre group in Vancouver, was invited to the meeting.  The concept of the DDF  was well accepted by those who attended. Bessborough and Massey created a format for the Festival. The first phase would be provincial eliminations, and then a final competition held in Ottawa.  Each province needed a  representative to take care of organising the provincial elimination round.  Henry Osborne gave the responsibility of  British Columbia to Percy Gomery, the meeting in Ottawa.  as he had been present at  This was much to the chagrin of Major  L. Bullock-Webster, president of the British Columbia Drama Association based in Victoria.  Bullock-Webster had met with  Lord Bessborough on the latter’s tour of Western Canada, and Bessborough told Bullock-Webster he would be a good choice as Provincial Representative.  Bessborough sent a note back to  Vincent Massey in Ontario, proposing this.  39  The note  unfortunately never made it to Osborne, the one responsible for choosing representatives.  Ignorant of what had passed  between Bullock-Webster and Bessborough, Osborne asked Gomery to head up the province’s responsibilities.  This led to many  difficulties and embarrassments, mostly on the part of the DDF organisers, but eventually all was resolved.  The problem was  partly solved by letting Bullock-Webster have a Vancouver Island elimination round before coming to the final provincial elimination in Vancouver. The Vancouver Little Theatre had its own eliminations before the British Columbia Regional Finals,  in the form of  two Private Performances, held on March 16 and 17,  1933.  adjudicator was Mrs. Jessica Foote from New York.  Frederic  Wood recommended her as an adjudicator.  The  The first evening’s  performance was Lonesomelike, directed by Mrs. J.G. Gibson, and Campbell of Kilmhor directed by C.J. Lennox.  The second  evening consisted of Boccaccio’s Untold Tale, Back to Methuselah and Helena’s Husband, directed by G.F. Dorothy Somerset and Mildred Battle,  Scott,  respectively.  According to the practice in British drama festivals, the adjudication adhered to a rigid formula. were judged under three main headings stage presentation.  -  The performances acting, production and  Under acting, marks were given for  characterisation, audibility of speech, tone and emphasis, and gesture and movement.  Production qualities marked were  interpretation, team—work, pace and sense of climax. 40  Stage  presentation dealt with scenery, properties, makeup.  lighting and  Fifty percent of the mark went to characterisation,  thirty-five to production and fifteen to stage presentation. Three of the five plays received high marks.  Campbell of  Kilmhor placed third with 80%, Boccaccio’s Untold Tale second with 85%, and Back to Methuselah placed first with 87%. Jessica Foote’s comments for this last play were full of praise.  She made mention of the difficulties of the part of  47 the Serpent, but said it was done “intelligently”. costume itself was difficult to create  -  The  and not easy to wear!  Bea [Wood] [The] snake costume was quite a challenge bought a set of men’s long underwear, made a cap in the This shape of a ski helmet and attached it to the neck. was all painted in diamond pattern, bronze-greenish etc. Yards of sacking were bought, sewn circular, [and] Every night of stuffed with excelsior and painted. production, Bea would proceed to the stage before curtain, get into position (legs thrust into the sacking The snake tail 39 ft long) and be sewn into position! The tail was draped over and around the stylised tree. with stage manager was always most worried about fire Bea sewn in, there was no way she could help herself if Green and purplish light and face any emergency arose. 48 makeup were used [as well]. -  -  -  Back to Methuselah then went to the Lower Mainland eliminations, where it also placed first.  It continued on to  the B.C. Regionals, where it was selected to represent the province for the Dominion Drama Festival finals in Ottawa, April 24-29,  1933.  The cast had performed the play three  times in eight days for three separate competitions, and had won every time.  (Boccaccio’s Untold Tale, second place to  Back to Methuselah in the VLTA’s own eliminations, went on to the British Columbia Drama Festival. 41  It won first place as  well as the Victoria Cup, against twenty-four other productions.) The cast of Back to Methuselah went to Ottawa for the DDF finals.  They competed against twenty-three other casts from  across Canada, plays both in English and French. third overall and second for plays in English.  They placed The play that  won the Bessborough Trophy for best production was The Man Born to be Hanged, put on by the Masquers Club of Winnipeg. The organisers of the DDF had decided, before the festival began, that they would have three prizes Bessborough Trophy for the best play overall,  -  the  an award for the  best play in English and another for the best in French. This, unfortunately,  caused some difficulty in the first  festival, because The Man Born to be Hanged, the play that won top prize and first overall, received both the Best Play in English award and the Bessborough Trophy, and the VLTA won nothing.  This caused a slight problem,  as other groups felt  that Winnipeg should not have received both: that Vancouver Little Theatre, who placed second in the English language category,  should have received the Best Play in English award.  Eventually, the rules were changed, and the Bessborough trophy was given as the award for the best play overall, and the other two trophies were then given to the next two best plays, one for a play in English and one for a play in French.  After  the 1933 DDF was over, The Best Play in English award was quietly taken away from the Winnipeg Masquers and given to the 42  Vancouver Little Theatre, possible”  “.  .  .with as little publicity as  .  The VLTA represented British Columbia at the ]JDF on two other occasions before World War II. during the war.)  The next year,  (The DDF ceased operating  1934, the VLTA went to the  DDF finals with Elizabeth the Queen.  it went in  In 1937,  tandem with the Strolling Players of Vancouver  -  the VLTA  doing The Last War and the Strolling Players performing The In 1935 the Embassy Players of  Barretts of Wimpole Street. Vancouver went to the DDF; Club of Vancouver;  in 1936 it was the Progressive Arts  1938 was the Beaux Arts Theatre of  Victoria, and in 1939 it was the Nanaimo Dramatic Society. The VLTA had one other chance to compete during these years, but for reasons discussed later, did not go. It was obvious to the Association that the amateur In 1932-33,  theatre festivals were popular.  over twenty  groups had competed in the BCDA festivals, as well as nine in The Vancouver Little Theatre  the BC Regionals for the DDF.  Association decided, as the leading amateur theatre group in the province,  to hold its own festival competition during the  following season,  1933-34.  This festival was to be separate  from both the BCDA and the DDF. The first VLTA Drama Festival was held December 15 and 16,  1933.  It was open to all amateur theatre companies of  British Columbia,  except the VLTA.  The festival was  adjudicated by Marjorie Reynolds, Dorothy Somerset and Leonard 43  Miller,  all from the Vancouver Little Theatre Association.  The participants for the first annual festival were the Madys Pridniore Brown School of the Spoken Word, the Mountain View Players Club,  two from the Miller Clay Studio of Dramatic Art,  the Forbes-Robertson Players of Victoria, and the Dadye Rutherford Dramatic Club.  This festival had a good response,  and the VLTA competitions continued for at least another four years. The VLTA was becoming well-known, but not always to its best advantage.  With the successes of the two teams at the  DDF and the BCDA festival in 1933, the problems concerning Major Bullock-Webster,  and the 1933 DDF Best Trophy in English  sensation, the name of the Association was certainly newsworthy that year.  In his President’s Report at the end of  the year, Percy Gomery tried to look on the bright side of the situation. Even aside from the distinguished notice brought to us by our teams competing outside the city, we feel that our publicity, in the matter of quantity, was All of it was not, about all that could be desired. again as usual, complimentary but it nevertheless kept the name of the Little Theatre before the public, so that, all in all, we feel that the ground is in fair condition for as large or larger membership 50 Even so, membership numbers remained unsatisfactory during the years of the Depression. a problem for the Association; bring in revenue.  The shortage of money was  it depended on membership to  The membership dues were not separate from  the members’ tickets; therefore the Association could not make 44  more money from members after they had bought a membership. The advantage to this style of membership, of course, was that the Association could get money at the beginning of the season, and be certain of the size of the houses for the coming year.  From this information, the Association was able  to tabulate the number of evenings to put on each play. During the Depression years, the number of performances per production decreased. performances.  In 1926,  each play averaged five  By the 1932-33 season, the plays were being By 1935-36, the plays  performed only two or three times each. were performed one night only.  That same season, they put on  four plays; the next season only three. Not everything was bad news for the Association.  There  had been growing a feeling of disenchantment within the Association before the Depression, but as the struggle for survival became more acute, the members attempted to pull together.  They were successful in part  -  the support for the  DDF eliminations and performances in 1933 was so noticeable, that the president made mention of it in his Annual Report. .1 am far from being above appreciating the spirit of co-operation in some ways the new spirit At the evident. been and agreement which has was membership the initial public production and personal feelings all appealed to that they sink this That the Theatre. disagreements in loyalty to appeal found a response was nowhere more manifest than at the Elimination contest we held to choose Five our team for the Dominion Drama Festival. performed. Each plays were prepared and faithfully left result the and producer naturally hoped to win, the yet when opinion, much room for divergence of Adjudicator announced the result nothing but good Every one of the defeated feeling was evident. --  --  45  teams became a supporter of its successful rival, which we have all been delighted to watch in its progress from one victory to another. 51 Perhaps this camaraderie helped give the theatre company the motivation to combat the ravages of the Depression.  The  members of the VLTA, at this point, were proving to themselves that they were survivors, a prevalent theme throughout the rest of the VLTA’s history.  Gomery continues:  I feel that the out—going Board [of Directors] has accomplished one thing, viz; the laying permanently of that mournful ghost which has haunted our corridors at each of our new years to whisper tragically that the Little Theatre is going to the 52 dogs or is about to fold up and die. It seems that the fifteenth season was a watershed year for the VLTA.  There is mention of the Little Theatre building  being sold to a Mr. McEwen, a film distributer who wanted to use the theatre as a moving picture house.  The Secretary’s  Report at the end of the 1934-35 season states:  “For a time  the building was a distinct liability, but a satisfactory sale immediately turned it into an asset and more than provided against all outstanding indebtedness, 53 Association’s debentures.”  including the  As far as can be ascertained,  McEwen had a mortgage with the VLTA.  The Association had  difficulties with Mr. McEwen, because he did not make payments on time.  In the minutes of the Advisory Committee’s meetings,  Mr. McEwen’s name is mentioned frequently, generally on the topic that no one can seem to get in touch with him, and when contact is made, he promises to make payments generally in arrears), but he does not. 46  (which are  At one point,  there  is mention of suing Mr. McEwen.  It seems that McEwen was  proprietor of the theatre, and he would then rent it out, and was in arrears on his payments on the theatre because the tenants of the theatre were not paying him.  It was a  continual problem for the Association for the remainder of the year. Notwithstanding, the theatre company needed to take care of other business,  such as the productions of its regular  plays, and the new problem of finding a new theatre or renting another for current productions.  Searches for new theatre  spaces were mentioned in the minutes of the early months of the season, but as the running of the season continued, more time was taken up on actual production, rather than looking for a permanent new home.  In order to put on a season, the  theatre company rented theatre spaces.  The first three were put on at  Association put on four plays. the Stanley Theatre,  That season, the  on Granville Street.  The first choice  had been the Empress Theatre, as the Stanley did not have proper dressing rooms and washrooms, and there was a restriction on the choice of plays.  The cost of renting the  Empress turned out to be prohibitive, at about $300 for a dress rehearsal and two performances.  At one point the  Advisory Board decided to consider the Point Grey Junior High School auditorium.  Then H.H.  Simmonds, a member of the Board,  talked with the proprietor of the Stanley Theatre, who seemed interested in having the Association perform there. 47  He  suggested that the first $125 go to the Theatre,  the next $250  go to the Association, and the rest be split fifty/fifty. This was agreeable to the Association,  so on those terms it  was decided to have the performances at the Stanley. The theatre could seat 1225 patrons.  The Association  held all its Stanley performances on a Monday, with the dress rehearsal the day before.  An interesting note is that all the  programmes for this season were much glossier and more expensive than they had been when the Association was at the Little Theatre. The last performance of the 1935-36 season was held at the Auditorium at the University of British Columbia.  As  early as December, the University had offered the Auditorium to the Association.  The Association decided,  however,  not to  perform any plays at the University until after the March production.  The last play of the season, Mary of Scotland,  was performed for two nights. The VLTA’s entry for the B.C. Lazarus Laughed.  Regionals that year was  The Association was invited to take the  production to the final DDF competition in Ottawa. Unfortunately, because there was not enough money, the Association had to turn down the opportunity.  The regional  runner-up, Waiting For Lefty produced by the Progressive Arts Club, went in its stead, and placed second at the Finals. The next season the Association returned to the Little Theatre on Commercial Street.  The previous year’s sale of the 48  building fell through.  For the next few years, the theatre  company’s connection to the theatre building is obscure.  The  VLTA still owned the building, but the building was under a leasing contract situation:  in other words,  even though the  VLTA owned the building, the theatre was only available to the Association for a certain number of days per year.  If the  VLTA wanted to use the building for more days of the year, needed to pay rent for the space.  it  This is explained in more  detail in the next chapter. The theatre had been renovated, projection equipment.  and now contained film  To raise money, the theatre was  advertised as a rental space, for either film or stage productions. 1936-37,  In the VLTA’s first season back at the theatre,  only three productions were mounted.  The first,  If  This Be Treason, directed by Dorothy Somerset, had an enormous cast of forty-one people. casts.  The other two had much smaller  It seemed in this first year back at the theatre, the  Association tried not to over-extend itself. A perennial difficulty still plagued the theatre company: choosing suitable plays for each season. pleased with the plays.  Not everyone was  Yvonne Firkins aptly described the  divergence of opinion: Here are opinions about two recent productions which brought forth a lot of comment: of Mice and Men “Horrible, “Grand, give us some more like that.” This is disgusting.” “I had to take my family out. “Finest the last time I shall buy a membership.” Of The Guardsman play ever done in Vancouver.” “Tripe.” “Most attractive play I’ve seen for “Brilliant production, years.” “Not worth seeing.” -  -  49  Rotten.” brilliantly acted.u Such widely different opinions are expressed For this we should be thankful, about every play. for only among free peoples can theatres produce 54 what they like, and audiences say what they like. It was a frustrating situation for both the public and for members of the Association.  Sometimes this irritation would  spill over into the newspaper. A meeting was held a few days ago to discuss the future of the Little Theatre in Vancouver and there was some pretty plain speaking regarding the The citizens of our causes of its apparent decline. knocks for their hard some fair village came in for offerings and the lack of support for the various to failure well—to-do were berated for their maintain one of the oldest few cultural efforts provided for enjoyment and intelligent development It was significant that no mention of the people. was made of the quality of offerings or of the type of play presented by the players. Yet it seems to me that it is rather a waste of time to enter into long discussions about the apathy It of people in not patronising the performances. is rather like the parson who laments that his congregation is getting smaller and attributing this to the wickedness of the world rather than to his The churches would be filled own shortcomings. every Sunday and the SRO sign would be posted at the doors if the service were appealing enough and the 55 sermons were provocative and inspiring. Then the Second World War began.  Mention of the war in  the programmes is not predominant at the beginning of the war  -  who knew how all-encompassing the war would become?  As  well, the patrons were coming to the theatre for entertainment,  for escape, not to be reminded once again of  the devastation that was affecting their lives.  The theatre  company did not immediately get involved in the war effort. This could be because no one knew how long the war would last. Perhaps as well, it was in a state of disbelief that the world 50  was at actually at war again.  During the first year of the  war, the theatre was being renovated extensively: the old wooden seats were replaced with upholstered spring chairs, the ventilation system was replaced, the proscenium arch was updated, and the walls and ceiling were lined with acoustic tile.  The theatre was given a new name as well: it was now  called the York Theatre. name?  The reasons behind the choice of  It was short, which meant it was cheaper than a long  name to put on a billboard and in neon.  The renovations were  greatly appreciated; the theatre became much more comfortable. The acoustics, which had always been good, were now considered by reviewers to be almost perfect.  One reviewer also noted it  was refreshing to sit through a performance without being disturbed by the creaking of the old chairs. With renovations complete, the theatre re-opened for a performance of Yes, My Darling Daughter on February 8,  1940.  His Honour The Lieutenant—Governor and Mrs. Eric Hamber were present for the performance.  The reviews, although agreeing  on the comfort of the seats and the quality of the performance, could not decide on the size of the audience. The News-Herald, on Friday February 9, the day after opening, 56 said that it was a “distressingly small audience”. Vancouver Sun said on the same day:  The  “A representative  57 audience filled the now comfortable theatre to capacity.” Nevertheless, it was generally considered that the renovations improved the theatre.  “This marked improvement in the theatre 51  will be welcomed by all lovers of the legitimate drama and there is no doubt that under the new conditions members of the association will be imbued with fresh vitality in their aim of producing the best plays and upholding the time-honored traditions of the stage.” 58 After the first year of war and the Association’s nineteenth season were both over, the VLTA was able to announce to its members that it had succeeded in donating five hundred dollars directly to war charities.  This began a drive  within the Association to help the war effort, which succeeded in benefitting the war and the Association at the same time. The next season, the theatre chose to raise money for the war by using sponsors.  As a fund-raising scheme, a sponsor  would buy a number of memberships from the Association at the normal price, then sell them to its own members at a higher rate.  The Association benefitted because they could sell all  the tickets for a performance.  The theatre company’s first  sponsor was the Mount Pleasant Lions Club, and soon other organisations joined in.  The connection between the Vancouver  Little Theatre and the Mount Pleasant Lions Club was a long and happy one.  Even after the war, when the Little Theatre  was breaking its ties with other sponsors, links with the Lions Club. the war,  it maintained its  As Jessie Richardson said after  “we feel we cannot discard [the Lions Club] like an  old shoe which is of no more use to us, after all the years of happy association which we have had.” 59 52  It was a money-making  scheme for both the theatre and the sponsor, who was also raising money for the war effort. The theatre company had a desire to carry on, despite the difficulties created by the War.  It now had a greater calling  to inspiration: keeping morale up during the war, not only among the active members, but the audience members as well. Comedies were prevalent during the War. stated,  “Comedy,  occasionally,  As one VLTA programme  is not only welcome but very  necessary these days to help us to maintain our sense of 60 proportion as well as our sense of humour.”  Maintaining a  sense of proportion was true not only in Vancouver, but in other parts of the world as well: The British Government have found from the experience of their first war years that it pays to In times of restricted encourage amateur Drama. recreational activities, anything that will take people out of themselves, even for a little while, will send them back to their jobs with renewed pep. This applied to those both actively interested in 61 the drama and the audience. This was motivation enough for the VLTA to persist in the dark days of the War. As the War continued, the Association wanted to do even more for the cause,  and pushed its own board of directors to  help provide theatre performances for servicemen. 1942-43 season, Shows  During the  for example, with the help of the Service  (a group dedicated to bringing entertainment to the  troops), the VLTA toured Arsenic and Old Lace to some military bases in B.C. In its final programme of that same season, the VLTA 53  reflected that, at the outset of the season, it had doubted it would be able to put on its customary quota of five productions.  It succeeded in doing so, and within a year the  VLTA was commenting on the major growth of the Association. It has been interesting to watch our audiences grow We are not sure if it is in the last few years. because we are improving or that people are just getting used to us but we feel quite proud of the On hearing that the attention we are receiving. Montreal Repertory Theatre gives seven performances of each of its five plays we felt rather deflated, but when we learned that the theatre holds 210 in place of our 450 we bounced right back, especially when we consider the difference in population 62 between the two cities. It seemed that, for the VLTA, the War was stimulating growth, and it was getting back some of the feeling of its old glory days. From the successes of the early years to the very bad times during the Depression, to a renewed organisation, the Association had experienced a great deal.  An article on the  Vancouver Little Theatre in 1936 captured the plight of the Association in one sentence:  “[It] had high aims, and merely  63 to survive was not one of them.” now, more mature.  The VLTA was more sober  It had also proven to itself and others it  was a survivor. The Association would soon face new challenges.  The end  of the war was imminent, as was the VLTA’s twenty-fifth anniversary.  To succeed, or even to survive,  ready to change. to survive,  it needed to be  Although the VLTA had had to struggle simply  it had risen to the stature of the leading amateur 54  theatre company of Vancouver.  Other less experienced theatre  companies looked to the VLTA for guidance, resources.  leadership and  Perhaps the VLTA did not have the following it  wished, but it had a reputation to uphold.  55  CHAPTER FOUR  After the War:  1940s and 1950s  The Second World War was over.  War efforts of the city  of Vancouver were now being refocussed towards recreating a way of life left behind six years earlier. At the Vancouver Little Theatre,  supporting the war The VLTA  effort had helped to maintain a sense of purpose.  had a responsibility to buoy the spirits of the people of Vancouver, provide cultural experiences for the civilian population,  and entertain troops stationed nearby.  it needed to stay afloat through the war years. was over,  To do so,  Once the war  a general feeling of concern permeated the company  that there might not be a continued interest in community theatre.  Looking at its past history, the VLTA had cause to  be concerned as it entered a new phase. The first phase of the Association, during the 1920s,  had  definitely been its heyday, but had given way to bad times during the Depression of the 1930s.  The sense of purpose  provided by its war effort had pulled the VLTA out of its slump.  With the war over, the future of the VLTA was unclear. 56  Would the theatre return to the glorious times of the 1920s, or to the constant financial struggles of the 1930s? Little Theatre, with great tenacity,  The  chose to persevere after  the war in the hope that the people of Vancouver would include the VLTA in their new lives. The Mount Pleasant Lions Club,  once the war was over,  decided to continue to sponsor evenings at the VLTA.  During  the war, the Lions Club sponsored one night per production, which increased to two in the spring of 1945, cessation of hostilities in Europe.  just after the  The Lions Club sold  season’s tickets to the people in their own organisation for $6.25,  then gave the $5.00 membership fee to the VLTA, and  kept the rest.  This enabled the VLTA to schedule a minimum of  three performances per production.  The theatre company found  sponsorship so lucrative that it actively sought other patrons as well,  such as the Venture Club, the Beta Sigma Phi  Sorority, the Business and Professional Women’s Club, the University Women’s Club, the League of the Empire and the YWCA.  Unlike the Lions Club, most of these organisations  sponsored performances on an ad—hoc basis. As other sponsors became interested, more performances were added,  and the  Association was able to put on five performances per production. Sponsorship quickly became a contentious issue for the artistic aspect of theatre production.  Some members felt that  sponsorship restricted its choice of plays. 57  In an address to  an unidentified discussion group, Mrs. Jessie Richardson, President of the VLTA for 1948-49, Association’s  -  expressed her  -  and the  feelings on the sponsorship dilemma:  We needed help and they needed help, so it became a mutual aid society, but, it restricted our choice of Sponsors do not bring the public who want to plays. see a living stage play[:] their public has to buy tickets and it is going to use those tickets to get its money’s worth, which means that you use box office plays. .we had to cut practically all our 64 plays to prudish society’s ideas of decency. .  When the Association realised it might be able to continue with five performances per production without sponsors, decided to go without.  it  As stated in the earlier chapter, it  chose not to completely cut its ties with its oldest ally, but as Mrs. Richardson said, the company would no longer conform to the Lions Club’s restrictions: they are to be warned right at the beginning of the season that our program is not going to be restricted in their favour, they have to take experimental and educational plays as we see fit to include them in the program, and I believe we have educated them to the point where they will not rebel and will stay with us... [we are still playing] five nights, which means that our audiences[,] even those who only used to come because they had to, are becoming theatre conscious, and appreciate the plays for their true worth, living pictures of assorted 65 phases of life. Before the decision was made to sever relations with sponsors, there would be acknowledgements in each programme of the sponsors for the production and their involvement (i.e., which nights were they sponsoring, what was the sponsor using the money for), as well as general advertising to the public for more sponsors.  During the next season, 58  1948-49, there is  little or no mention of sponsors in the programmes.  The Lions  Club is mentioned infrequently, and there are no more requests for other sponsors. This did not last long,  however.  Within two or three  years, the appeals again appeared in the programmes, as did names of sponsors other than the Lions Club.  The theatre  company obviously could not survive without the sponsors, even if sponsorship did restrict the choice of plays.  In fact, a  representative from the Lions Club attended a VLTA board of directors meeting early in the 1951-52 season.  He not only  offered financial assistance to the theatre company, but also gave instructions to the theatre company on what was and was not acceptable: Dr. Barton, representing the Lions Little Theatre Committee, met with the board of directors to offer Dr. the sponsorship of the Lions as in past years. Barton voiced the complaint that the York Theatre was unattractive and that any brightening up would He also asked receive the support of the Lions. that the Vancouver Little Theatre not sell memberships in the foyer of the York Theatre at five dollars ($5.00) as the Lions sell their tickets for He was six dollars and twenty-five cents ($6.25). He also assured that this would not happen. requested that October 5th be not a performance date as the Lions would be out of town on this date. Then Dr. Barton suggested that the last production Mrs. Firkins date be not so late in the season. [president of VLTA for the first half of the 1951-52 season] told Dr. Barton that there would be only five productions this season and that any special events that might occur would be within that time. It was suggested by Dr. Barton that some attention Dr. be given to the heating of the York Theatre. a cost of the of estimates .that if said. . Barton to were given Theatre York for carpet the them.. . they perhaps would help to finance this 66 important item.  59  This situation illustrates well the dilemma in which the Little Theatre found itself  -  the struggle between idealism  and practicality, financial or otherwise  -  which is reflected  frequently in the fifteen years following the war. The Association had many dreams for a successful theatre company with a large membership,  financial freedom to do  anything it wanted, as well as a centrally located theatre building which would attract even more theatre-goers.  The  facts were that the VLTA had a small membership which hovered somewhere around 500, insufficient financial support, a theatre space far away from the centre of a city most of whose inhabitants seemed disinclined to travel the distance to go to the York Theatre, and a reliance on sponsors which restricted its choice of plays.  Despite this, the theatre company,  in  the face of constant frustration, still dreamed it could be popular with the general public in Vancouver.  Perhaps one day  it would have that coveted centrally located theatre space, if it really believed it would happen. The theatre company had many plans for what it needed in a theatre space.  The VLTA wanted a new or newer building that  would incorporate all aspects of the Association  -  scene shop,  rehearsal and studio space, workrooms, theatre, office, social area (i.e. a green room), all within easy access of the audiences and close to transit lines, accessible part of town. sprawled across Vancouver.  in an appealing, more  As it was, the Association was The York Theatre was on the east 60  side,  the workrooms,  rehearsal space and office were spread  around on the west side, the offices either in the same place as the workrooms, downtown, or in a local music store. were any of the spaces permanent.  Nor  (other than the theatre itself) very  After the war, the workrooms were moved three  times in two years. In the fall of 1946, an all-purpose space was offered to the Association.  Mr Lester Prosser, a miner, offered the  building at 1147 West Broadway to the theatre company, charge for five years.  free of  His generosity perhaps was inspired  because his wife was acting in the VLTA plays. Association accepted Prosser’s offer, building was never actually used.  Although the  for reasons unknown the  Perhaps it did not pass a  fire marshall’s inspection for use as a theatre, or the zoning regulations would not allow a theatre space there, Lester Prosser backed out of the deal. had to move to another, Hall,  less desirable,  1021 West Hastings.  or perhaps  In any event, the VLTA location at Moose  By 1948, the VLTA was down to one  rehearsal room at 603 West Hastings, which Jessie Richardson described as Often three major productions inadequate. • . .most are overlapping one another, and studio productions of three one act plays have to be squeezed in a odd Group meetings have to be held in houses or times. I small office space, which is very unsatisfactory. know there is the argument that if the members are keen they will not mind where the activity is carried on so long as they are doing something I connected with theatre, but I don’t agree. believe unity counts for a great deal in the success of any organisation, all work should be carried on under one roof in that way making it the home of 61  theatre  67  The York Theatre could not be used for such a purpose. As is was far from the city centre, it was not a desirable choice anyway, but it was unavailable for other reasons.  The  theatre had been leased as a movie house in the 1930s, because there was a risk of losing the theatre on account of taxes. This meant that the Association had limited use of the building,  even though VLTA owned it.  As Jessie Richardson  described the situation in a 1949 brief to the Massey Commission: By the contract [between the VLTA and the lessee] the VLTA is allowed the use of the theatre 18 days a year for 6 periods of 3 days each and the 2 Sundays prior to these periods for rehearsals, free, and all This other days used are rented from the lessee. extra time is composed of 2 extra days for each production (as all productions run for 5 days each) and any further Sundays needed for rehearsals or For 8 years of the contract only building of sets. 5 periods were used but during the last 2 years a children’s play has been produced between Christmas and New Year, in addition to the other 5 major productions, so that the full 18 days allowed by the 68 contract are now used. The Association then goes on to eloquently describe its plight to the Commission: We feel that the VLTA fills the need for active participation and audience appreciation in theatre as well as any amateur organisation can, but it is restricted in its scope by the fact that although it has a theatre of its own, that theatre is poorly situated from the point of view of both audiences and members, being in the east end of a city which covers a large area and in which most of the participants live miles away from it and by the fact that being leased, only a limited period of time The lease still during a season can be spent in it. has five years to run before the theatre reverts 69 back to the organisation for full time. 62  Even though the theatre would eventually revert back to the Association, the building itself was still poorly situated. In the 1990s it seems remarkable, to those of us who know Vancouver, that a theatre situated on Commercial Drive would be too far away.  Nevertheless, the area was difficult to  access, and once there, it was rather hazardous.  The roads  were unpaved in places, the area muddy, and the street poorly lit.  The theatre was built in an under-developed part of  town, with open fields beside it.  There were streetcars that  went along Commercial, but they did not run all night for the convenience of people working late at the theatre. The concern with wanting a suitable theatre space was perhaps the most important issue facing the theatre company. The members certainly felt that most other problems stemmed from this.  The membership drive might help and more revenue  might be generated if the theatre was closer to the downtown core.  Moreover, a better location might draw greater support  from the citizens of Vancouver,  so that the responsibilities  would not fall on the hard-working few. In discussing its situation the Vancouver Little Theatre frequently compared itself to the London Little Theatre in Ontario.  The London Little Theatre, perhaps the most  successful little theatre of that time in Canada, was so popular it had a waiting list for members.  This must have  been vastly frustrating to the Vancouver-based Little Theatre. Jessie Richardson tried to find some valid reasons for the 63  “This may be because London is a wealthy  disparity:  residential city and not a large commercial city like Vancouver with a cosmopolitan and transient population.  .  .  .there is [also] a staff of paid employees in  ° 7 this organisation”.  Also, the London Little Theatre space  was located in the Grand Theatre, right in downtown London. This reason of course helped fuel the Association’s desire to have a more centrally located theatre. The comparison between the two little theatres gave Vancouver Little Theatre a sense of inadequacy.  It was  difficult for the Little Theatre to accept that even Tacoma, Washington had a little theatre that boasted a membership of over 3,000, and that Vancouver, a city much larger, with the one of the oldest little theatres in Canada, was struggling to keep its 500 members. In 1946,  its twenty—fifth anniversary, the VLTA started a  campaign to increase the membership to 5,000.  At all times  during this promotion, the company had the support of the media, who frequently championed its cause.  As one article  put it, The theatre is enjoying a revival and the continentsize resurgence of interest in the stage emphasizes the many handicaps under which Vancouver’s Little This is the Theatre has struggled for so long. Theatre Little our of twenty-fifth anniversary Canada. The kind in its of organisation, the oldest credit great reflects achievement of a 25th birthday on the group of enthusiasts who have kept the movement alive, but does no credit to Vancouver as a cultural centre.. .Conscious of Vancouver’s theatrical backwardness, our Little Theatre leaders are promoting a drive to swell their membership to 64  5,000 and ensure sufficient financial support to guarantee a centrally-located community playhouse The for the presentation of regular productions. calibre of the actors and the quality of plays offered by the Little Theatre are now of such a high order that the organisation should be given every Anything less possible encouragement to expand. will offer a rude rebuff to a group of talented enthusiasts and their supporters and amount to a sad reflection on Vancouver’s civic spirit and cultural outlook 71 Despite all efforts, the Little Theatre could not greatly improve on the size of its membership.  By 1948 it reduced its  goal to only 1500 members, a number easily achieved in the 1920s but unobtainable in the 1940s. The VLTA tried to keep alive its dream of a new theatre building.  One of the VLTA’s recommendations to the Massey  Commission was to “look into the need for community buildings for all cultural activities and particularly of a size suitable for theatre productions, and where necessary lend financial assistance in order that all Canadian cities and 72 communities may have such buildings.” During the summer of 1948, two members started to investigate the costs of building a new theatre.  Alfred  Evans, head of the Building Committee, and Yvonne Firkins, Production Manager for the 1948-49 season, talked with architects and builders and were told that it would cost $100,000 to build a theatre west of Granville on Broadway Avenue.  Another option was to build a quonset hut, a type of  pre-fabricated building, similar to the nissen huts which dotted the campus of the University of British Columbia during 65  the Second World War.  Although the huts were cheaply made,  they sometimes proved satisfactory as theatres.  The original  Frederic Wood Theatre at UBC was created in 1952 from two army The Association preferred the  huts put together in a T-shape.  idea of a purpose-built theatre, however, thinking it would be best situated as part of a community centre.  The VLTA wanted  then to rent the theatre space out to other organisations at a 73 “nominal rental” when the company was not using it. Ideally, there would also be other rooms in which members could have meetings and rehearsals.  As Jessie Richardson  explained: This may seem like a dream, but so must the idea of the theatre we now own have been when the It is not impossible, and organisation first began. there is plenty of money if we can persuade people to part with it for such a venture, and we are 74 quietly planning toward this end. As it happened, the VLTA was stopped in its plans because of movements toward building a new civic theatre in downtown Vancouver. During the summer of 1949, a civic project was proposed by City Planners: a new auditorium and public library.  Also  included in the complex would be an 800—seat performance venue, which the city planners referred to as a little theatre space.  The VLTA, thinking that it would get very little  support if it tried to raise funds for its own building with a possible civic theatre pending, decided to stop any future fund-raising campaigns and hoped that the plans for a civic theatre would not take long to get under way. 66  Besides, if the  city built it, then the Little Theatre would not have to raise the money and pay for building the theatre itself! (It was over four years before the proposal was ready to go before the voting public in a by-law, December 9,  1953.  By  the time it went through, the proposal was for a civic auditorium and a 750-seat theatre.  In 1953, when the by-law  passed, the Association was down to 350 members.  No civic  theatre space was actually available until 1959.) After the war, changes happened on the artistic side of the theatre company as well as on the business side.  By the  1949-50 season, the Board of Directors decided it was time to hire a full—time professional Producer-Director.  They felt  that it was no longer feasible to run a theatre on an entirely volunteer basis.  People did not want to give as freely of  their time as they had in the 1920s.  The Association felt a  solution to the problem lay in hiring someone whose sole interest was in the success of the theatre. young Englishman,  The VLTA hired a  Ian Dobbie, who had come to the  Association’s defense in an earlier public squabble. The Association had put on a production of While the Sun Shines, directed by Phoebe Smith, as its opening show for the 1948-49 season.  According to newspaper reports, the cast was  rather young and inexperienced, and it was a difficult play, “even high class professionals had no easy task of putting [it) over in London.” 75  Constance MacKay, the theatre critic  for the News-Herald, wrote a biting review, entitled “Little 67  Theatre Farce Effort Dies a—Borning”. The second act, which contains some of the most aimless dialogue ever written for the stage, seemed endless.. .The play was recently done here in a film version, with a cast of exceptional suavity and skill. .thus handled it made a pleasant evening’s But such trivial fare must be presented recreation. with the most exquisite perfection to be endurable. In the hands of amateurs, no matter how good, these Unfortunately the frothy productions die the death. cast chosen this week is youthful and inexperienced. It Nor are the actors even well chosen for type. 76 was an unfortunate evening all ‘round. .  .  .  Ian Dobbie, responsible for the direction of the next production at the Little Theatre, defended While the Sun Shines.  Dobbie was not a member of VLTA, nor was he In a  personally involved with this particular production. letter to the editor of the News-Herald, he attacked professionally and at times personally  —  -  Constance MacKay.  That the second act, according to Mrs. MacKay, .some of the most aimless dialogue ever contained written for the stage” can only be described as The English theatrical profession arrant nonsense. critics, of which Mrs. MacKay theatre the London and opinion that this act majority knows nothing, hold a for modern English written is the funniest ever that Mrs. extraordinary And I find it comedy. farce between difference MacKay does not know the should anyone deplored that It is to be and comedy. theatrical so advertise her complete lack of j udgement “.  .  Dobbie, who had recently come from England, was a director, producer, actor, writer and elsewhere.  —  all for the London stage  He had come to Vancouver during his travels,  and while here had decided to get involved with the local theatre scene.  One of his main quarrels with Constance MacKay  was that he felt Vancouver’s theatre needed constructive 68  criticism only.  “Vancouver, as yet not theatre-conscious,  sorely needs criticism on the few productions it is privileged to see.  But the criticism must be constructive and competent,  78 not an eruption of ill-versed cant.” This reply to MacKay’s review led to a war fought on the editorial page of the newspaper and in the VLTA box office. Constance MacKay wrote a reply to Ian Dobbie’s letter the next day, defending her review, and saying that “Some of his letter is probably actionable, but it is hardly worth a busy woman’s 79 time to bother.”  The editor, feeling responsible for having  published Dobbie’s letter in the first place, in a footnote just below MacKay’s reply,  said:  “We are sure that Mr. Dobbie  in the heat of his clash on points of criticism did not intend to cast any personal aspersions on Constance MacKay and that no one would interpret his remarks in any such way, no matter how these two persons differ in their opinion on the subject 80 at issue.”  Others joined the fray.  Harry C. Lampkin,  calling himself a “mere theatre-goer”, in a letter to the editor sided with Dobbie, feeling that Dobbie’s letter was written in “just indignation at an unfair and unnecessarily unkind criticism...Mrs. MacKay evidently believes that to be worth her salt as a ‘critic’, she must deliver a solid ‘blast’ now and then,  81 let the axe fall where it may.”  Bernard Braden, a prominent Vancouver actor, felt that Constance Mackay was right in her attack of the play.  In an  eloquent letter he explained his position on the situation and 69  his opinion of Dobbie’s attack: Like Mr. Dobbie, I am a professional entertainer staying for a short time in Vancouver. Unlike him, I call Vancouver my home, and in the years before I left the city I found much to admire in many Little Theatre productions. It was for that reason that Constance MacKay’s criticism of “While the Sun Shines” struck me as being more important than the performance of the play... [It] was bad theatre and bad entertainment. It was therefore important that someone let the Little Theatre know that it cannot get by on the grounds that it is a worthy enterprise. It must also deliver the good [sic]. Mrs. MacKay said just that, in no uncertain terms, and it is to be hoped that those responsible will profit from her frankness...With regard to Mr. Dobbie’s personal reference to Mrs. MacKay it seems to me that a man who will thus refer to a lady is hardly the man to accuse her of writing an “ill bred 82 bout of verbiage.” The discussion was so widespread that it became the topic of a news column in a rival paper the country.  —  a column syndicated across  Elmore Philpott of The Vancouver Sun observed  that, as result of this review and surrounding controversy, everybody connected with the theatre got boiling They really buckled down to prove to the mad. public that the critics were wrong and that both the They did just plays and players were not so bad. that. By the end of the week they were turning out Unless I miss my a really worthwhile performance. guess that row was the luckiest thing that ever I’ll bet my hat the happened to our Little Theatre. place will be packed out before the end of the season. For when you are a public person or a public institution you never need worry about being It’s when nobody knows the centre of controversy. whether you are dead or alive that you have to worry 83 Perhaps one of the reasons the Association hired Ian Dobbie as director was because it felt, with him at the helm, the VLTA would be in the news a great deal.  Within a few  short months of being in Vancouver, Dobbie had become high 70  profile in the theatre conununity.  Although the VLTA was known  in Vancouver’s theatrical circles, it did suffer from not having a high enough profile in the rest of Vancouver society. The Association certainly felt the threat of no one knowing whether it was dead or alive.  With Dobbie at the helm, his  well—known outspokenness had the potential to keep the Association in the limelight. Dobbie was thirty years old when the VLTA hired him as its professional Producer/Director.  He was the first full-  time paid Artistic Director the theatre company had ever had. According to a published article about Dobbie, he already had fourteen years experience in British theatre, everything from stock companies to London’s West End.  During the War he had  qualified himself to be an electrical engineer, but as soon as the powers that be realised he was an actor, he was sent off 84 to entertain the troops in army shows.  By the end of the  War, he was building a theatre of his own, which he ran until he was forced out because of high taxes.  In his “final word”  on the argument between him and Constance MacKay, he states one of his reasons for coming to Canada. Canada’s greatest admirers state that Canadians are Criticism is a uncritical of themselves and others. symbol of shaking democracy’s proudest possession European encroachment upon this sacred free speech. right was one of the things which brought me to the North American continent. -  Originally, when he came to Canada, he wanted to work outside of the theatre.  “I was a logger at Campbell River.  Finished up as a rigging slinger too, by golly. 71  Then I was a  fruit porter.  You know, the guy who humps fruit onto a  trolley for loading on trucks. 86 my shows these days.”  My fellow porters come to see  Within the first eighteen months of  his being in Vancouver, he directed Deep Are the Roots at VLTA and The Glass Menagerie at New Westminster’s Vagabond Players. The programme of Deep Are the Roots reports that Dobbie was planning on moving to Hollywood.  Instead, he was  He did not.  Director/Producer for the Little Theatre within a year. Dobbie’s job at VLTA, as Jessie Richardson described it, was to: produce all plays and direct as many as it was This in no way found necessary for him to do. plays but if another from directing members excludes any play it is his for director is not available 87 done. duty to see that it is In fact, he directed three of the five plays that first season.  (There was also a sixth production,  not directed by Dobbie.)  a Christmas play,  His greatest personal achievement in  his first year was a production of Noel Coward’s Peace in our Time,  a play Coward himself refused to produce because of its  large cast and demand for props.  The VLTA’s production  therefore was a North American premiere.  The situation  explained in an article in The Daily Province: Ian Dobbie, who will direct the play, wrote to Mr. Mr. Coward and asked to be allowed to produce it. Coward not only gave the required permission, but himself instructed his agents, Doubleday and Co., to The play release it for performance in Vancouver. was never produced in New York because Mr. Coward refused to pay the exorbitant expenses involved in a The play of this type if performed in that city. fast action and the extraordinary number of hand properties necessitates the use of these properties 72  was  at every rehearsal right from the start, which, in turn, make it imperative to have a property crew on 88 hand at all times. Dobbie had a reputation for being an extremely hard worker, and very demanding. terribly bad temper.  He also had a reputation for a  “Casts of the plays he directs wince at  his cutting criticism, stuff their fingers in their ears when he rants and raves.  89 But they think he’s wonderful.”  Later  in his career, when he had moved on from the VLTA and was working for Totem, his reputation and his temper went with him.  “In Totem’s Tony Draws a Horse,  Bruce Busby (who is also  stage manager) plays the part of a man who every night walks into a bar and takes a spite shot at a large painting of a sailor.  We wonder who suggested that director Ian Dobbie pose  90 as the sailor.” During Dobbie’s term as director, the VLTA decided to launch another extensive membership drive.  At the beginning  of his tenure, the membership was just over 500, and the board wanted to increase the numbers to 1500.  By the end of  Dobbie’s time at the VLTA two years later, the number of members had increased only to 694. Artistically, however, Dobbie’s first year was considered successful.  The majority of the members liked the work he  did, but, according to Dobbie, the Board of Directors “bucked 91 him at every turn”.  The Board felt he was a difficult  person with whom to work.  There seems to have been a  difference of opinion as to who had the final say, and this 73  caused tension between Dobbie and the Board.  Dobbie wanted  more control in the productions, as The Vancouver Sun reported:  “Ian would like to come back in the fall, but he  would like ‘more scope, more opportunity to broaden the organisation’.  He feels ‘it is useless to hire a man and then  92 not give him any authority.’” The Board of Directors decided to hire Ian Dobbie for one more season, perhaps hoping that the tensions of his first year would not be repeated in the second year. the tensions remained.  Unfortunately,  Of the seven productions put on that  season (one was a revival of an earlier production and one was a Christmas play), Dobbie directed all but two.  In his report  at the annual general meeting at the end of the year, the retiring President of the Association said that he thought the year had not been a success, financial or otherwise. Len [Timbers, president of VLTA] made it perfectly clear that he ‘was disappointed with the results’ of He felt that the great membership this season. drive, which the professional director was to lead, Membership went could not be considered a success. And in spite up from 579 to 694 during the season. of the increase of new members, for the six productions put on this year there were 8817 seats sold, compared to 7812 seats for five shows last year, which according to Len is 100 persons less per The shortcomings of the season, Len thought, play. The choice of plays due to several factors. were lack of good actors; there was a was below par; the city to draw over there was more competition all the theatre crowd than there has ever been before, and the fourth factor was ‘the difficulty of working 93 with a professional producer.’ Deciding to hire a professional producer was a risky undertaking.  The producer would conceivably demand 74  professional standards from all participants in order to put on a high-calibre show  -  and Dobbie was exceedingly demanding.  As well, there was possibly a negative effect on morale for the volunteers, who were working for free while Dobbie was being paid. At least one Vancouver commentator on local theatre thought the decision to give up Ian Dobbie was unwise.  Paddy  Daly of the Vancouver Sun, in her regular column “Happenings in the World of Drama”, twice cautioned the VLTA to reconsider its decision. It would be wise if the board of directors of VLTA weighed very carefully the pros of keeping Ian Dobbie as Professional director, and fumed less on Have they ever had the mechanics of the the cons. theatre and the back stage crew in such competent hands And again: It didn’t take the drama clubs in town very long to Several learn that Ian had some time on his hands. groups have asked him to direct a play for them, but We will lose Ian says he turned them all down. about the best head there has been in Little Theatre circles when Ian leaves, and he is surely the You only have to ask any who hardest of workers. you of the They’ll tell 5 him. with backstage worked a 9 stop. without times he worked 48 hours After Ian Dobbie left the VLTA, he became involved with Totem Theatre, a new company in Vancouver and one of the first local professional theatre organisations in the city. In the early 1950s, Vancouver became an active centre of professional theatre growth with new companies such as Everyman, Totem and Holiday Theatre.  For the Vancouver Little  Theatre this was an exciting and sobering time. 75  Finally  Vancouver audiences were prepared to support professional theatre companies, and that was a source of satisfaction to the company.  The VLTA felt justified in taking some of the  credit for the growth of the professional theatres, as they had “drawn the majority of their players from the ranks of the Little Theatre.” 96  The VLTA felt, with pride, that  “commercial theatre here [was] a direct outgrowth of amateur 97 activity”.  As Margaret Rushton, then President of the  Association, explained in 1953: Through good times and bad, continuously for thirtythree years, the VLTA members, imbued with the spirit of the founders and inspired by a love of theatre, have succeeded in keeping the flame of drama burning brightly, developing talent in many branches of theatre arts and in so doing undoubtedly preparing the way for the professional companies I believe which were established two years ago. that the Vancouver Little Theatre Association has 98 fully justified its existence. But the professional theatres also had a detrimental effect on the Association.  The competition for audience members and  competent actors was fierce. improved at VLTA,  As the quality of the plays  so did their expectations from actors; and  when the good quality actors left to go to paying jobs, the VLTA was left with no audience and fewer able experienced actors. This caused ripples in many directions.  It prompted  Yvonne Firkins, president of VLTA for the season beginning in the fall of 1951, to resign half-way through the season, on the grounds “that the local picture had changed; and that it had been taken over by Everyman and Totem Theatres. 76  Therefore,  she felt she could do nothing for the It meant that some plays scheduled to be  99 organisation.”  performed in the season had to be changed, as there were not enough actors to play the parts.  It meant that the semi  professional gloss of VLTA’s shows seemed tarnished in the light of true professional theatre.  As Margaret Rushton put  it, We amateurs were delighted when professional theatre We felt that Vancouver was came to our city. growing up and at last there might be a chance for many talented actors to make a living in the west. We realised that we would have to raise our standards in order to compete and we accepted the After two years of hard work we have challenge. We seen our audiences dwindle, our membership drop. organisation of policy and realise that some change 100 will be necessary if we are able to exist. Even though professional theatre was a threat to the success of amateur theatre, the two types of organisations worked closely together, always giving each other support. Margaret Rushton concluded:  “In spite of all these problems we  have maintained the friendliest relations with the professional groups and we have done many things to help each other.  I am constantly assured by the professionals that our  101 (amateur) existence remains important to them.”  The VLTA  certainly helped the professional theatre groups with essentially free publicity.  Frequently the other groups would  be mentioned in the Little Theatre programmes, and the VLTA felt it was important to tell their audiences that they should support theatre  -  of all kinds.  One such plea for support  appeared in the programme for Thieves’ Carnival: 77  You have probably noticed “Keep Theatre Alive” this sentence on our bulletins, posters and programmes. It is quite self—explanatory, and yet You will have we would like to say a word about it. noticed that we did not emphasize the “Little Theatre” because we feel that all theatres in our professional as well as city have to be kept alive because we the many small amateur groups existing believe that theatre is an integral part of a growing city like ours, and only by patronage will it be able to assume and retain importance in the community and thus contribute to its development. .We must KEEP THEATRE ALIVE and expand its scope so as to reach many, many more people, some who have never seen a play before. .We want to give the many talented young people a better chance to learn the craft of the theatre, to develop, and if they so wish, attain a high professional status alongside other professional men and women, and so make their contribution to their community in their 102 chosen profession. -  -  —  .  .  One of the changes in policy considered was to amalgamate There were 28 drama  the amateur drama groups of Vancouver.  groups that had representation on the Community Arts Council in the early 1950s, and had they merged, would have likely been a behemoth. which to deal,  It would have been an incredible force with  if its size didn’t destroy it first.  However,  the VLTA never did anything more than consider the option of merging with other drama groups. By the mid-1950s, the professional theatre companies had folded.  It seemed that Vancouver was not quite ready for  professional theatre after all.  After the demise of  professional theatre, the Association mourned the loss, prided itself that it had helped the cause immensely, but acknowledged  -  perhaps more to itself  survived. 78  -  that it, the VLTA, had  CHAPTER FIVE  The Coming of Professional Theatre:  1960s and 70s  Vancouver’s new civic auditorium was complete and ready for use by the beginning of the fall of 1959. it was named the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.  Once finished,  The Vancouver  Little Theatre Association put on its full 1959-60 season at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (also known as the QET). The members of the VLTA believed that the final production of the previous season,  1958-59, would be the last  of their mainstage productions ever to be performed at the York Theatre.  The Association did not make plans to sell the  theatre, however, nor did it rent the theatre out full-time to another organisation.  The York Theatre was to be used instead  as a rehearsal space, a scene shop, a performance space for the Workshop productions, as well as a revenue source for the Association through periodic rentals to other organisations. The Association was excited if apprehensive about leaving its theatre of 36 years.  Nevertheless, performing at a new  theatre was a challenge it was ready to take on.  There were  obvious advantages and disadvantages to moving to the QET. 79  One of the greatest advantages was the location of the new theatre.  Finally, the VLTA was performing downtown!  move boosted the organisation’s morale.  This  Vancouver was finally  ready to have the Little Theatre as part of the main theatre scene,  in a downtown space.  In an organisation that had  believed it was largely ignored by the Vancouver theatre-going public, this was recognition long overdue.  With so much high  profile at the QET, the VLTA membership increased to well over 600.  Before the move to the QET, membership had been hovering  around 500. The VLTA had long anticipated performing in the civic theatre complex.  Although a little theatre space had been  planned in conjunction with the auditorium, completed first.  the latter was  The VLTA was tired of waiting for the city  to begin building the little theatre space,  so decided to go  ahead with plans to mount the 1959-60 season in the main auditorium. The Association had a few hesitations about the move. The York Theatre had 450 seats,  and even then the VLTA could  not always fill the theatre for performances. 2800 seats.  It was a true opera house,  theatre space!  The QET had  not an intimate little  The stage was huge as well.  actress in the second production at the QET,  Gay Scrivener,  an  remembers that  “it was like running across a great barn!” The Association presented a season of five plays  -  Visit  to a Small Planet, Dial M for Murder, A View from the Bridge, 80  Tea and Sympathy and Tunnel of Love.  The season was  reasonably successful and attendance was good: patrons attended the season’s plays.  almost 3600  According to the VLTA  the attendance was good: with a little arithmetic the picture is not so rosy.  On average there were five performances of  each of the five productions that season.  That works out to  approximately 720 patrons per production, or fewer than 150 audience members a night.  This is in a theatre that seats  2800 people. Some of the disadvantages began to surface as the season continued.  One of the most overwhelming difficulties the  Association faced was that it was a non-union company performing in a union house.  It was necessary for there to be  at least one member of IATSE (the technicians’ union) at the theatre at any time the VLTA was there. had to be paid by the VITA,  The members of IATSE  not by the civic theatre.  Hiring  technicians was a major expense for the Little Theatre Association.  As the VLTA was an amateur theatre company,  none  of its participants was paid regularly except for token fees to the directors.  As Guy and Marion Palmer explained in an  interview: GP: We didn’t realise [what] we’d be up against.. .once we got in there, [there was] the IATSE union crew.. .the thing that cooked it [for VLTA] was that when we said, “Where’s the curtain pull?”.. .they’d say “Its right here, just tell us You’d have to hire the guy for four what you want.” hours to open the curtain, and he goes away and has his coffee until you finish with the show and then Oh, of course in he pulls the curtain down again. the interval if he’s there he’ll do it for free, as 81  long as you hire him for the minimum of four hours. There was [also] a union man staying there doing you could bring your own props props and costumes but you had to have the union crew and costumes standing by. MP: In those days VLTA paid just one person and that They paid seventy five dollars to was the director. the director and that was the only money to change hands in terms of hiring. .When they had to pay a They had a stage manager, that cooked it for them. hard enough time scraping together the director’s fees! GP: We went in [to the civic theatre] with high hopes that we would be accommodated on rent and things like this, certainly until the civic theatre [The attitude got going, because it takes a while. at first was] “Please come on in!” but that 103 disappeared pretty shortly. —  -  .  The tremendous expense of the union house was something the theatre company had not experienced before.  In one  example cited, a union charge of $74.00 covered the setting of 104 four chairs on the QET stage. Nevertheless, the quality of the plays was good, and although the season was expensive, the Association wanted to continue at the QET.  But near the end of the first season,  the QET started to change the rental arrangement.  Instead of a  percentage of the house, the civic theatre demanded a daily rental fee.  Originally, the Little Theatre would clear 25% of  the box office returns. $400 rent per evening.  Now they had to contend with paying The QET then informed the Little  Theatre that the space would only be available for three nights per production.  Meanwhile, there were difficulties  with the IATSE union. At first the union had agreed to let the members of the Little Theatre build their own sets and bring them into the 82  QET, but that policy changed. ‘.  As stated in the VLTA minutes:  .in the beginning we were assured it would be alright to  build our own sets, but it appears now that only sets bearing 105 the Union Label are allowed into the QET.”  Then another  agreement was reached where the Little Theatre Association was allowed to build its own sets, with some restrictions.  Again,  from VLTA minutes: [it is] John Read gave a report on Actors’ Equity impossible to have equity players work in the QET Stage hands have ruled unless they have a waiver. that equity actors have to be paid...Gail McCance [of the QET] wanted assurance that none of the actors in the forthcoming play will be paid otherwise the scenery would have to be made in a union shop. 106 -  In negotiating with the City, the VLTA suggested the civic theatre pay for the union help out of the $400 rent. The theatre declined, but agreed to reduce the rental rates. The rate would remain at $400 if there was a good house, but if the house fell below 700 patrons, the rent would be $350, and if the audience fell below 650, the rent would be $300 a night.  The VLTA asked for more than three nights per  production, but the civic theatre “was quite definite about 107 our being allowed three nights only for each production”. The VLTA had to reconsider its position with the civic theatre.  “The board has to decide a) if it is possible for us  to continue another year at the QE, b) shall we be forced to 108 put on future productions at the York Theatre?”  After all  of these new developments, the Association opened the discussion to the members. 83  A general meeting was held May 1, people in attendance. 650 members.)  1960, with only forty  (At this point there were approximately  They were told it would cost the Association at  least $6000 to go back to the QET: The Majority’s argument seemed to be that if we could afford to gamble $6000 and risk going into the [QET] we could afford to gamble $6000 and renovate A lengthy discussion persued our own York Theatre. Pointers mentioned was [sic] the necessity [sic]. of the York for workshop, rehearsals, etc. Some were of the opinion it would be suicide to return to the York and that our membership would drop considerably ...Mrs Rushton (past president)...considered staying at the QET a challenge and advised we should stick Mrs. it out until the small theatre [is] built. 109 that we stay on at the QET. Rushton moved. .  .  A secret ballot was then taken.  The results were: 21 in  favour of going back to the York Theatre,  16 to remain at the  QET. The results were a surprise to some members of the Association.  A number of people, possibly those involved in  the Board of Directors, wanted the Association to return for another year to the QET.  They decided that this vote could  not be considered binding as there were only forty people involved.  A letter, presumably written by the Board, was sent  out to all members requesting that they come to the Annual General Meeting. The letter was slanted toward convincing them to choose the option of returning to the QET. We do not feel that this vote was sufficiently large enough to be indicative of the wishes of the majority of the 650 members of the Association. This is a most important decision and one that could seriously influence the future course of amateur dramatics in Vancouver.. .We urge you to attend this meeting and encourage you to cast your vote in 84  favour of remaining at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre ° 11 for the ensuing year. The letter went on to explain why it was important to stay at the QET: Financial-during the past year VLTA undertook an ambitious program in the initial move to the QET. It has been successful and we believe that with a concentrated effort the next year at the QET could even considering the increased also be a success It is our opinion that a return to the rental fee. York Theatre would create insoluble financial problems. Productions-the productions in the past year at the QET have shown a high level of accomplishment and in our opinion this is primarily the result of the This quality was plays being staged in the theatre. not apparent in the previous year at the York Theatre. Members—an informal poll of our members, and therefore our audience, indicates that a substantial loss in number would result from a return to the An effective membership drive York Theatre. following up past year’s successes should result in a significantly larger membership if we stay in the QET. —  The downtown theatre responded strongly to the news that the VLTA was not going to return.  John Panrucker was the  QET’s manager and VLTA’s contact at the civic theatre.  In a  letter to VLTA’s president Dorothy Goldrick, Panrucker wrote: I cannot but feel, particularly after Tunnel of Love, that it would be a tragic mistake for you to desert the QE Theatre.  ,112  The Annual General Meeting was held on June 20, 150 people attended.  1960.  The letter to the members must have  worked, as the vote was reversed:  103 voted to remain at the  Queen Elizabeth Theatre, and 43 voted to return to the York Theatre.  The motion was carried, 85  and the Association chose to  return to the QET  -  for at least another year.  The 1960-61 year was the fortieth anniversary for the VLTA.  The theatre company made plans to put on a full season  of plays at the QET, restrictions.  even with the added expenses and time  In a review of the first play of the season, the  Daily Province’s drama critic was sympathetic to the situation that faced the VLTA. Very soon after the Queen Elizabeth was opened to them, VLTA members discovered it was as much a curse as a blessing and they will not be really comfortable until the new small theatre is completed. Their presentation of “The Bride and the Bachelor” exemplified their discomfiture, for Yvonne Firkins had to fill this enormous stage with a set describing a single room. Sound, too, presented a problem which was not resolved, and then only And, besides, they partially, until the second act. have never felt completely welcome in this community theatre which likes best to cater for the big “name” shows. They’ll do well even to pay their way out of the QE this season because of the change in their contract 113 Nevertheless,  the QET still seemed to be a better choice to  the VLTA than returning to the York Theatre.  Unfortunately,  the relations between VLTA and the QET soured early in 1961, over a conflict of scheduling dates. VLTA had scheduled to put on “Crime and Punishment” at the QET January 5,6 and 7.  Then it was discovered that two of  the dates had been rented to the Vancouver Symphony Society, here explained in the Vancouver Sun: as a result, the VLT agreed to accept split dates. It claims the [civic] board then agreed to absorb the extra costs involved of striking the sets and putting them up again. When the final contract was received from the board there was no mention of the absorption of the extra costs and the VLT was 86  also told that it had to negotiate direct with the As a result, stagehands’ union (IATSE) for labour. the VLT was faced with big extra costs which it 114 could not meet from a three night revenue. At this point,  the amateur theatre company took on the civic  auditorium commission by accusing them of defaulting on a contract,  and then it cancelled its booking with the QET.  The Association looked for a new venue. to return to the York Theatre.  It did not want  The VLTA ended up at the  International Cinema, the original CPR Vancouver Opera House. The International Cinema allowed the Association to perform in its non-union house for eight nights instead of the three offered at the QET. The civic auditorium commission, displeased with this outcome,  issued a statement outlining its position:  The VLTA has received the greatest consideration in respect of rentals and the use of facilities at QET in recognition of the fact that the productions of the association are better suited for presentation in the small theatre (adjacent to the QET) when it However there is a point beyond which is completed. the management of the QET cannot go in servicing or subsidizing the VLTA or similar groups since the provision of grants is the prerogative of the city The and not the [civic theatre] commission. involved of dates arrangements for the exchange certain concessions to the VLTA which the commission The late cancellation by believed were acceptable. VLTA of what had been considered by the theatre management as a firm booking has caused a loss to the theatre which has had to decline other more remunerative bookings for the dates which are now vacated 115 The civic commission did not consider any legal action against the VLTA, as there had not been a signed formal contract.  VLTA, on the other hand, wanted to follow up with a 87  claim.  VLTA made a petition to the city to consider its  position in the conflict.  After a couple of months of  consideration and investigation, the city “denie[d] any 116 liability”.  VLTA still wanted to stand its ground, and  argued that should receive some sort of compensation.  “The  question that could show double booking to have put us out financially is focal; we probably could not make a case out of Panrucker dealings with us; but we should claim for losses on tickets  --  117 as a non-profit organisation.”  VLTA also wanted to petition the civic commission to make the new Playhouse a non—union house,  for the benefit of  organisations such as VLTA itself. After discussion it was decided that a letter be written to the board of Administration, City Council to get permission by stating purpose, to go before City Council to propose that the new smaller civic It was hoped that two theatre be a non-union house. other organisations could be represented in this plea (people already using the QE) as well as other 8 representatives observing this hearing. Nothing came of this.  The new Playhouse theatre, which  opened in 1962, was also a union house, and there is no more documentation about the Little Theatre petitioning the city for compensation.  The rest of the Little Theatre’s 1960-61  season was played at the International Cinema.  Total  attendance was only half that of the previous season, with 1700 patrons. The next season the company returned to the York Theatre, as there seemed no other option.  Returning was frustrating.  As the York aged, it needed more and more upkeep, which took 88  money that the theatre company did not have.  A committee was  made to consider the situation of the company’s finances: [The problems are) that of raising money to restore the York Theatre to a reasonable condition of Its present ailments are a operating efficiency. nuisance and a continual drain on the general funds Its appearance also is not one to of the VLTA. attract people who once go there, to re-attend. It has a run—down neglected look, which, if overcome, would to some degree offset its unsuitable location . [the other problem is] that of raising money for • the VLTA’s general funds so that it can continue to 119 finance its productions at a proper standard. A year and a half before, when VLTA was in its first year at the QET,  the Fire Marshall inspected the York Theatre.  the VLTA minutes reported,  As  “The Building Inspector commented  on cleanliness and appearance but felt that he would be doing ° 12 VLTA a favour if he condemned the building.”  To fix the  theatre completely would have cost a great deal, but VLTA did not want to be in the York Theatre anyway.  Its solution was  to continually patch the building together,  in order for it to  be just barely satisfactory. Even the theatre’s usefulness as a revenue-generating source had diminished. the theatre,  Because of the rundown condition of  it was difficult to rent the space to other  groups when VLTA was not using it. grow.  The Little Theatre decided to apply for a tax relief  for property taxes owed in 1962. down.  The debts continued to  The City turned the VLTA  As the Daily Province reported, Aldermen said Tuesday they saw little sense in subsidizing the LTA’s playhouse on Commercial Drive. Not when the City’s own QE Playhouse is standing So City Council held up a empty on most nights. 89  request from the Little Theatre for a grant equal to Council asked its auditorium its unpaid 1961 taxes. board to review the whole subject of amateur The idea is to theatres with the association. encourage the Little Theatre to use the city’s Playhouse and perhaps to sell its money-losing York Theatre 121 It seemed the solution was to spend money the Association did not have.  The VLTA began to negotiate with the civic  theatre to use the new Playhouse space for the 1962-63 season, as suggested by the City Council.  At one point, the Little  Theatre had wanted to be the first group to perform in the new space,  “in view of our 40 years of operation and more than 200  , but no request seems to have been made to 122 plays produced” the City.  Nonetheless,  the VLTA was still the first amateur  theatre group to perform at the Vancouver Playhouse. Daily Province reported:  The  “Many groups have said that the  Playhouse is beyond their budget,  so it is very encouraging to  see the VLTA ignoring the pessimism and giving the place a 123 whirl.” well  -  The Playhouse was beyond the VLTA’s budget as  the expenses for a five day run were high, as the VLTA  minutes reveal: $75, 5 Estimate re using Playhouse: Rehearsal $400, sets $750, Union wages nights’ rent $200, royalties $50, $200, Transportation $100, programs and posters $300, props publicity $100, Miscellaneous $150,tickets $75, Director If we could sell 1280 $100, totalling $2500. 124 seats at $2.00, we could cover costs. -  -  -  -  -  —  -  -  -  -  —  —  The Association was hoping to sell 1280 seats for one production:  only a year earlier the VLTA had succeeded in  selling only 1700 seats for an entire season. 90  Meanwhile, Vancouver.  a new amateur theatre movement was growing in  The Metropolitan Co—operative Theatre Society, a  loose confederation of smaller amateur groups, was starting to collect members.  Some members of the society were the  Richmond Community Theatre,  Emerald Players, Vancouver Theatre  Guild, Vagabond Players, Greater Vancouver Opera Society, Burnaby Players, and North Shore Light Opera Society. decided to join as an  ‘outside’ member.  VLTA  This gave the Little  Theatre the option to put on plays other than at the Metro Theatre space.  (‘Inside’ members were expected to put on all  of their productions at the Metro Theatre.) another option,  This opened  should the Playhouse not fit into VLTA’s  plans. VLTA’s first production at the Playhouse, Write Me a Murder, was well received. The Daily Province reported it was “a very satisfying production for which credit must also go to the comfort of the Playhouse which is conducive to enjoyment, and a contrast to the group’s spartan and rather sleazy 125 headquarters, the York.” The VLTA was now performing in a more suitable theatre than the QET auditorium.  It was producing plays downtown, and  the plays were looked upon as semi-professionally produced: at least the plays were being performed at a professional house. VLTA was not being handicapped by a decrepit theatre, large a theatre.  nor too  This meantthat VLTA’s performances were  being judged on the same level as the other professional 91  productions in the city. because of its handicaps. the professionals.  Before this, VLTA was forgiven much Now it was competing on a par with  This meant as well that it was open to the  criticism the other professional theatre companies had. Men! Oh Women!,  Oh  its second production at the Playhouse Theatre  space, was evidently panned by a critic, and the audiences stayed away. press.  VLTA could not completely overlook the bad  The company sent out a thinly-disguised grievance  letter to its members. Shall we delve into the reasons why this wellShall we produced play did a box-office belly-flop? bemoan the fact that an overwhelming part of Vancouver’s theatre going public is so fickle that it accepts a newspaper critic’s personal scale of Shall we suggest preferences for plays as its own? that while the VITA after 42 seasons is still striving to overcome the severe limitations of available time and money inherent in an amateur organisation in order to play a responsible role in the cultural environment of Vancouver, the local newspapers have long since abandoned their responsibility of developing a public truly informed about local affairs in this are? Away with such the play’s the thing! So useless recriminations a whopping be may it [sick .and the show.. with one success! 6 -  Unable to accept the criticism with grace and carry on, the VLTA felt the need to complain.  The reviews suggested that  the VLTA was not up to the professional standards developed by others in the city.  Perhaps the Association, too accustomed  to its handicaps, assumed all criticism would continue to be considerate. For two or three more years, VLTA struggled to compete with the downtown theatrical scene. 92  It performed in a variety.  of venues  -  the Playhouse, the Metro,  International Cinema  —  it even returned to the QET for a benefit performance for the SPCA.  By 1964,  the organisation realised it could not compete  with the other companies.  The VLTA minutes stated:  “We are  not competing with the Playhouse or Metro, but have a unique 127 position in having a working theatre and training ground.” By 1965, the company chose to move back, permanently, to the York Theatre.  Apparently the old familiar York,  for its  faults, was more comfortable than the new theatre scene in This explanation was given to the members:  Vancouver.  necessity, the programming has changed with the years.  “Of When  the QE complex was built, with great courage we moved our major productions downtown,  first to the QE and then to the  Now with professional theatre in Vancouver and  Playhouse.  strong amateur groups in the Greater Vancouver districts, we 128 have returned to our beloved York.”  Ironically the York  Theatre, once considered an albatross around VLTA’s neck, was now called beloved. The Vancouver Little Theatre Association had, as the years passed, become too spread out.  It had been putting on  mainstage plays in numerous different locations, workshop productions,  sometimes at the York,  the Extension Department at UBC. Theatre.  as well as  sometimes through  It rented out the York  It felt it needed a green room space, and rented a  room above the grocers next door (for which it had to pay extra rent).  It was involved with festivals 93  -  not only the  DDF, but others such as the one-act play festivals and the It did benefit shows.  BCDA.  Theatre.  It was involved with the Metro  It owed money to numerous groups.  The general  upkeep of the York Theatre took up a vast amount of time and energy  -  most minutes from board meetings for the VLTA are  more suggestive of a board for the running of a building than for the running of a theatre company. contain,  from this period,  The VLTA’s archives  a 25 page list of different  executive positions and the job descriptions for each.  The  positions described were: President, recording secretary, corresponding secretary, vice president (producer), treasurer, chairman of stage department, chairman of business department, chairman of publicity and public relations department, chairman of play selection and casting department. STAGE DEPARTMENT: stage manager, chairman of properties, costume manager, lighting manager, scenic manager, sound manager, makeup manager. BUSINESS: box office manager, ushers manager, maintenance manager, programmes manager, house manager. PUBLICITY: Publicity manager, reception manager, social manager, CASTING AND PLAY SELECTION: play selection manager, casting manager, 129 play reading manager. It was a constant struggle to motivate people to carry out all these responsibilities.  Frequently the same faithful few  would complete the necessary work. faithful would resign, Theatre was being run.  Often some of these  frustrated with the way the Little Helen Bristowe, a member of the Board  of Directors in the early 1960s,  resigned her position for  this reason; It is my considered opinion, after working with the Board the past year and a half that they are not now working efficiently as an entity and do not have any 94  positive programme of policy which is enforced. Both these situations will have to be rectified I feel if VLTA is to go ahead, which it must inevitably do, or go backwards, and I feel we should be leading theatre groups in this area, not lagging 130 behind. Meanwhile, despite the problems, the Association wanted to run like a professional company  -  expecting the kind of commitment  from the members that a professional theatre would receive from paid employees.  In his report to the Annual General  Meeting in 1962, Eddie Calvert, Director of Productions, out his expectations for an ideal theatre company.  laid  His  demands are much too idealistic, especially for amateurs devoting their time and energy for free: I believe an organisat-ion of our size and potential requires either a salaried full-time producermanager, or else several dedicated people who will devote all of their spare time to the organisation, so that it will operate in an efficient and I also believe that the professional-like manner. of this organisation any or only way the VLTA degree of with any exist can survive and nature enthusiasm with burning a success, is to have people People with professional attitudes for theatre. like punctuality, co-operation, tolerance, and a passion for knowledge and experience leading to perfection in the artistic and technical fields. Where this passion is missing, the results will 131 always be mediocre and amateurish. -  —  -  Everything pointed to the fact that the company was losing its edge. The situation improved for a short time, when the Association again hired an Artistic Director.  In 1965, John  Parker directed The Father, and then was hired to be the Artistic Director for the company. dedication to the cause.  The Association liked his  The quality of the plays improved 95  under his administration, and the financial situation even improved slightly for at least one of his years as Director. The financial improvement was short-lived, however, and the company continued to run on donations. dwindled.  The spirit of the Association was seeping away.  In 1968, Theatre.  Membership also  a party expressed interest in buying the York  The organisation was vaulted into action.  sell the theatre? VLTA faced?  Was that the solution to the difficulties  Could it make do in another space?  find another space? to something else.  Should it  Could it even  In the end, however, the buyers moved on Nevertheless, the possibility reawakened  in the members a desire to take some positive action, and to stop the theatre company’s aimless drifting. Early in 1969, the Association sent out a notice to the members asking them to come to a meeting in which the future of the Vancouver Little Theatre would be decided.  Some of the  alternatives were a) to federate with the Metro Theatre, b) to sell and move to a central site, c) to stay, redesign and renovate, or d) to stay, replace the roof and carry on at the York.  A meeting was held on April 22,  1969, with 50 people in  attendance (the membership stood at around 300 at this point). They voted unanimously to renovate and redesign the York Theatre.  This was not the easiest option open to the VLTA,  but the members wanted to stay on.  As The Vancouver Sun  reported, VLTA thought it needed a new home. But when the membership got right down to a decision, the old 96  York theatre at 637 Commercial couldn’t be abandoned, in spite of her leaky roof, crowded dressing rooms, menageries of mice and location back in the glamourless east side of town. .A majority of those members were in the younger age bracket, [President John] Neville added, pointing out that the nostalgia was more a love of the theatre than a wish to hang on to ‘the good old days’ by any group of older members...’ No one, it seems, can bear to part with the cumbersome old lady who has mothered so manz on the way up,’ reported the VLTA news sheet. .  The members enthusiastically wanted to do major changes to the building, but started by doing inexpensive renovations. As the VLTA newsletter reported:  “[The building committee  have] been seeing bank managers, construction experts, 133 engineers, and, finally, stars!”  The first thing to be  finished was a new roof, completed in the summer of 1969.  A  new scene shop was then built beside the building, the lobby was extended into the old scene shop, the front of the 134 building was given a “facade-lift”. $12,000.  This first phase cost  Before the first phase was even complete, the In  Association had run out of money to cover the renovation. The Yorker the organisation made a plea for more money.  “At  this vital stage, we are making progress, however MORE money is needed... If each of our 300 members donated $20.00, the total of $6000 would immediately solve our financial 135 problems.”  Any other phases planned were put on  indefinite hold, as the cost of the first phase had become so high. At the end of that season, John Parker resigned.  1969-70, Artistic Director  “My decision is for purely personal 97  reasons,” he wrote.  “It would be easy for me to serve as  A[rtistic] D[irector] for the rest of my life. personally most rewarding.  ii136  It was  With his leaving, the  Association lost a most dedicated Artistic Director, who was interested in the welfare of the theatre company, whether it was being successful or not.  The next few years saw a  succession of Artistic Directors, none of whom had the dedication of Parker, and none stayed longer than a year. Artistic Director for 1970-71 was Jace van der Veen,  The  for 1971-  72 Michael Berry, and for 1972-73 Michael Ball and his wife, Sharon Pollock.  The constant turnover in Artistic Directors  reflected the spiralling downward movement of the Association. Near the end of the 1972-73 season, there was another offer to buy the York. to sell or not.  A special meeting was held to vote on whether As The Yorker reported,  Walter Shynaryk chaired a special meeting of twenty members, a bare quorum, who decided the direction in which VLTA would move, or stand still, or retrogress The offer to buy the for the next season or two. York by the Patel brothers was voted down almost Eleven of those present offered to unanimously. Good work in some capacity to keep VLTA afloat. The way the local initiative grants Luck to them! are cutting across established patterns of local 137 drama, they will need it in great gobs. Vancouver’s theatre scene was shifting away from community theatre.  New professional theatre companies were  springing up everywhere, most of them small and experimental. Such companies such as Tamahnous and the Arts Club, as well as the regional theatre company, the Playhouse, were finding success in Vancouver, and this was taking its toll on the 98  VLTA.  Many of the professional theatre companies begun at  this time are still producing plays in Vancouver, most of them Many of the early  financed in part by government grants.  grants were initiated from the Local Initiatives Programme mentioned above.  VLTA had become the ‘old-fashioned’  theatre in Vancouver.  style of  Theatre—goers were now more interested  in the new theatre movements. The editors of VLTA’s The Yorker, newsletter of May 1973,  in their last  expressed the frustrations permeating  the Association. “In Desperation”; We have been trying all this season to overcome the feeling that we are wasting There just don’t our time putting out a Yorker. seem to be sufficient members and former members who are interested in VLTA’s diminished activities... When last did the few VLTA members still actively feel a sense of excitement when planning activities For many reasons, including for the next season? factors beyond their control, a sense of duty and a feeling of pressure has replaced the spontaneity, the sharing of experience and the small and large Then, of course, the fewer they get the triumphs. grimmer the going becomes compared to what it used 138 to be. An open and lengthy discussion ensued at the Annual after an unsuccessful season.  General Meeting that year,  The  members wanted to determine what to do with the future of the theatre company,  and their York Theatre:  The rest of the meeting was devoted to a general, wide ranging, rather inconclusive discussion of past at the end of a dismally and present problems It is felt that appointment of unsuccessful year. an Artistic Director unfamiliar with the group is The general not appropriate at the present time. feeling of those present certainly was that VLTA should continue its activities but that efforts must be made to ensure good quality productions.. .There -  99  were many comments, complaints and suggestions during the discussion and no attempt was made to record them, the purpose of the meeting being to have an open discussion to which everyone everyone did! 139 contributed -  It was decided at the meeting that the Association should try to continue, but that it was a good idea to decrease the numbers of productions per season.  Within four years, the  company was down to two productions per season, due to lack of funds and audiences.  The problem was addressed at an  Extraordinary General Meeting in March 1977: full scale VLTA presented only 2 productions mount, our to expensive too are productions has been theatre the poor, and have been audiences for workshops are giving We rented. heavily children and adults to provide training in theatre technique that is not available elsewhere and an Next year, if there is no opportunity to perform. situation and there is money improvement in the heavy rental demand, VLTA may stage only one major production and concentrate on “recreationaP’ members-only productions with short rehearsals and runs 140 -  •  The positive side to the increased rental of the theatre was that it opened the possibility of generating enough revenue to renovate the theatre. more renovation earlier. $100,000.  -  In 1975-76, consideration was given to  a completion of Phase Two planned six years  Renovation costs in 1975—76 were estimated at The estimates quickly escalated to $360,000.  Some  money was raised, and there were small renovations completed, as the Association continued to apply for more funding. By 1977, all possible sources of funds turned down VLTA. No other options were available.  Then at the beginning of the  1977-78 season, the Building Inspector delivered the final 100  death blow to the York Theatre.  “Building inspectors advise  that unless a new fire escape and sprinkler are installed 141 immediately the theatre will be closed down.”  Until these  safety renovations were completed, VLTA could not use the theatre, either for its own productions, or as a rental space. If it did,  it would be liable in case of an accident.  Again, the question of what to do with the York was brought up for discussion at an Extraordinary General Meeting, held November 7, decision:  1977.  This time,  the members made the final  sell the York Theatre.  As soon as the decision was made, the organisation looked for a buyer.  By March of 1978, the York Theatre was sold.  Always optimistic, the VLTA felt that the move would bring life back to the Association, whose membership had drastically dwindled to a meagre 65 people.  “While it will be readily  understood that the inevitability of the sale was faced by VLTA’s Board with considerable reluctance,  it was also  realised that the move gives an opportunity for a new lease in life to Canada’s oldest surviving amateur theatre association.  ,,142  101  CHAPTER SIX  Conclusion: VLTA After the York Theatre  After VLTA sold the York Theatre in the spring of 1978, the money from the sale of the building was put into long-term deposits, most of which would not come to term for five years. Otherwise, the most important item on the agenda was to find a new home.  Fifty-five years of memorabilia in the form of set  pieces,  costumes, props and equipment needed a new storage  space.  The first temporary location VLTA moved to was 1880  1/2 Ontario Street. over a lumber yard,  The  ‘new space’, as it was dubbed, was  and lasted one season,  1978-79.  VLTA was  able to put on two productions that season, both played at the Metro Theatre. Festival.  It was also able to put a play into the B.C.  By the end of the season,  space, at 748 Richards Street.  it had found another  Within the first year there  was a revolt among the members against the board of directors: it was felt that the board was not leading the Association in the direction the members wanted.  This led to a new board,  and a new President, Mary Ann MacNeill, and new plans. Mary Ann MacNeill, with her husband Robin, were 102  interested in seeing VLTA try a new tactic. board,  As members of the  and sometimes as presidents, the MacNeills had enough  power to change the direction of the company within the next four years. on hold,  They were able to convince the board to put VLTA As  and to create a professional company instead.  Cohn Funk,  later VLTA president, explained:  “VLTA would be  the administering body, but there would be [a professional] repertory company underneath VLTA called the Vancouver Repertory Theatre.. .basically VLTA was just forgotten about 143 completely except on paper.”  It was supposed to be a  full-fledged professional theatre,  complete with salaries and  contracts. Funk was involved at the time as an actor. actors were not getting paid.  But the  The feeling among the actors  towards the board and the people making decisions was very discordant.  VLTA was also beginning to create a bad  reputation for itself. The problem finally came to a head in the summer of 1982. The Vancouver Repertory Company was supposed to put on a performance at Robson Square, when,  in an ugly scene,  the actors revolted and refused to go on stage. remembers,  some of  Funk  “I believe Robin had to go out and make an  announcement to the audience that the cast wasn’t going to go ahead and do the show.. .there [were] a few of us that were really upset about what was happening.”  This was the only way  that the actors felt they could have their voices heard against the injustices they felt they were receiving from the 103  board.  The actors had signed contracts, but the board was not  fulfilling its part of the contract. Many of the actors involved at the time felt that trying to make VLTA into a professional company went against the original objective of the Association, that it should remain a community theatre.  At this point, Cohn Funk decided to take  matters into his own hands. I was personally so angry at what had happened that set it straight, somehow, we were. .determined to. find out what the hell was going on, or at least get So. .1 actually snuck a new group working in there. into the studio, and stole their constitution, because none of us had any access to [it].. .we had to climb over the wall. .  .  .  .  Cohn Funk was interested in trying to get back to the Association’s mandates, but knew that it would be impossible to try to make the theatre group exactly the way it was.  He  recognised that change was needed, but he still felt that it was important to keep the spirit of community theatre alive. By taking the constitution, he was able to find out what options were open to the members who felt the same. I realised that all we needed was ten people who were members to sign a piece of paper so that I could call an [extraordinary] annual general looked up And so for the next month I. meeting. and got all these people, drove all around town signatures, and I mailed a letter to Robin and Mary Anne [MacNeihl] saying, we members of VLTA are calling an Annual General Meeting. .  Nineteen people showed up.  .  When they got to the meeting, they  discovered a letter under the door.  It was a letter of  resignation from Robin and Mary Ann MacNeill.  At this point,  Cohn was elected President, because most people felt that 104  because he had gone to so much trouble, he truly had the Association’s best interests at heart, and would work to reunite the company. At this meeting,  it was discovered that VLTA was $30,000  in debt, from the failure of the professional venture.  As the  money from the sale of the York was in long-term deposits, was not available to pay off the debt.  it  “That pretty well  scared everybody away except about four of us who determined we would try to deal with this.”  They discovered they could  defer payments on the debt by using the interest payments from the term deposits to pay it off.  (When the money in the long-  term deposits became available, they were able to pay off the remaining debt, as well as put some money towards other theatrical ventures.  The VLTA donated $10,000 to the  Shakespeare Festival: unfortunately the Festival folded the next year.  They also started trust funds within the VLTA;  money towards helping develop new scripts, or new theatre companies.  According to Cohn, by the time they left in 1985,  a majority of the capital had been committed in one way or another.) This started a year of redefining the direction of VLTA, as well as finding a suitable performance space.  The workroom  on Richards Street functioned mainly as a storage area, but not as a place to perform.  “Our goal was to find a space.  Unless we had a home we would be just like the [Vancouver] Repertory Theatre.  The Rep[ertory] Theatre never had a home, 105  so there was no identification.” The solution came in 1983 in the form of Heritage Hall on Heritage Hall was run by a co  Main Street at 15th Avenue. operative volunteer group,  called The Main Source.  The Main  Source’s constitution for using the building made it necessary for there to be a cultural body using part of the building. The cultural body originally involved with The Main Source was AVA, or Avenue for the Arts.  The VLTA became involved with  AVA, and AVA and VLTA were given the use of the basement. Within the year, VLTA was having problems with AVA.  AVA  wanted to use the area for storage only, but Cohn Funk and Connie Brill,  Cohn’s future wife,  performance space.  saw it as a potential  When AVA stopped paying the rent, VLTA  broke off ties with it.  The Association was able to join The  Main Source on its own, because of the VLTA’s non-profit status. The basement needed much work.  It had been used as a  storage and construction area, and it was unfinished.  There  was garbage everywhere, as well as a large puddle in the middle of it.  Cohn Funk and Connie Brihl moved into the  space and started to clean it up.  They also started to think  about what they could use it for, and what function VLTA should perform in the theatre scene in Vancouver.  As the  space was too small to support royalty-paying productions, they decided to stage new locally written works. Many people had been disenchanted with the way VLTA had 106  been going for the first few years after the sale of the York Theatre, and at first were sceptical about the new VLTA. Connie Brill discovered this when she tried to interview Dr. Dorothy Somerset, one of the original members of the VLTA. The first half hour was spent with Dr. Somerset She explained that VLTA had interviewing us. She acquired a bad name ever since the late 1970s. wanted to know what right we had to use the name, how we would be different from other companies, if we planned on turning professional, and would we be She had numerous VLTA if it wasn’t for the money. questions on how Cohn Funk came to have control of Connie answered her questions and VLTA funds. assured her that our intentions were to restore theatre to its amateur status and that it was our task to earn the right to use the name, and clear any negative feelings the community or old-timers have toward the Little Theatre. .Dr. Somerset concluded that she had not been interested in the theatre any more but having talked with us, she now She said if anyone asked her about the ‘new’ was. VLTA she would say we were a group of young people who ought to be given the chance and support to She said the proof was in the prove ourselves. eating and that if the old-timers came out to support us then we had earned the honor of using the name 144 .  •  The VLTA succeeded in producing new plays for two seasons.  Then in 1985, Connie and Cohn realised that having  a family was also important to them, and they wanted to hand VLTA over to someone else.  Their biggest fear was that  someone would want to take it over simply to acquire the money from the sale of the York, it as a free rehearsal area.  or to take over the space to use They wanted to see the space  shared by several interested parties, not for it to be dominated by one group.  At this point, they decided to make  the Association into the Vancouver Little Theatre Alliance. 107  The VLT Alliance would function as an umbrella organisation, making available an affordable space for other community theatre groups, thus carrying on the tradition of the old It meant that the Association would cease to be a  VLTA.  producing company: now it would be an organisation to run a theatre space.  Cohn Funk explains:  In a way it’s unfortunate that it’s not the Vancouver Little Theatre Association ‘Company’ It [VLTA] has that’s running that [place]. indirectly died out, but the problem is it had such baggage in terms of what it was.. .and it’s unrealistic to think they would ever reach that profile again, because it is a community [theatre]. I mean, people volunteered for everything back then.  The impetus for the VLTA came from the art theatres of Europe. time,  Not content with the entertainment available at the  some forward-thinking individuals created the Vancouver  Little Theatre.  They tried to capture the imaginative  creativeness alive in the art theatres elsewhere in the world. Unfortunately, the focus quickly shifted from this ideal to a theatre company whose financial situation dictated its direction.  Many of the early choices for plays reflected the  interests of those members dedicated to the art theatre, but later plays chosen were geared for the audience’s entertainment.  Innovation, once a driving force for the 108  founders, was relegated to the studio-type performances, order to avoid risking financial collapse.  in  A company born out  of the ideals of the art theatre was transformed into an organisation that catered to the pleasure of the general public. By the 1930s, the Depression was affecting all facets of life, and film was starting to have an impact on the entertainment world.  Then the Second World War brought some  meaning back to the importance of VLTA, as the company saw itself as important to the well-being of those still at home. As professional theatre began to be explored in the early 1950s, VLTA suddenly had stiff competition, which had a twosided effect: VLTA had to compete for audiences, but also its standards rose in order to keep up with companies like Totem and Everyman. The presence of a civic theatre building in Vancouver in the late 1950s and early 1960s was initially an exciting prospect for VLTA.  But when the theatre was there,  and the  company had to contend financially on a professional level, was a trying and sobering experience.  it  Finally VLTA recognised  that it could not compete on a professional level.  For  another fifteen years it laboured to find its niche in Vancouver’s theatre, and continued barely to hang on. the VLTA sold the York Theatre, and severed old ties.  Then The  Association sank further into debt, and lost what was left of its reputation before it found a new objective.  109  The York  Theatre is still standing, and it is mostly used as a The exterior has been painted  rehearsal hail for rock bands.  with a large and colourful mural.  According to the manager,  it may be pulled down in the very near future. Theatre has changed a great deal in Vancouver since the inception of the VLTA.  Most of the present emphasis in the  city is on professional theatre, but there are some amateur It is not possible to say that the  theatre groups as well.  theatre groups thrive because being in theatre in this society means a constant struggle for survival.  All of the  professional companies are subsidized by government, in some form or another.  Theatre must compete with other forms of  electronic entertainment such as movies and television, which are more popular than theatre to the general public. VLTA’s struggle for success was not unique to the Association.  Its story is similar to that of many little  theatres who have had to contend with mass entertainment and changing societal values.  And,  like many other organisations,  VLTA found it hard to accept things it could not change. Perhaps the people who were involved in VLTA were too close to the subject to be objective enough about it.  Perhaps, as  well, they did not want to let go of what was familiar, and change with the times.  As Connie Brill put it;  You have to adapt to a new world, instead of saying, The world “Why can’t we recapture the old glory?” has changed, [and we need to ask] “What do we do to Once you find your fit in? Where is our niche?” It niche, you will have your own glory once again. won’t be the same ever, because theatre in society 1’]_ 0  is a lot different than it was back then. I mean that was [the] entertainment, going out to the theatre. And as other forms [of entertainment] come in, then it becomes a very different story altogether, so you have to learn how to adapt and find out what is needed in the community that we can fill with the tools we have. Looking back on the original objectives of the VLTA,  it  is possible to see which ones were achieved, and which were sacrificed.  The first is “to promote the study of drama.”  It  is possible to say that its tenacity alone achieved this mandate.  In its seventy-plus year history, the VLTA put on  hundreds of mainstage productions.  It continued to perform  “private performances” or studio productions on and off throughout its history.  It periodically conducted classes for  acting, direction, and production. playwrights, workshops.  It promoted new  either through production of their plays or in It provided a venue for other companies, both at  the York Theatre and at Heritage Hall.  It promoted other  theatre groups, and supported local theatre of all types.  In  this mandate the VLTA succeeded. The second is “to produce high class plays by British and foreign dramatists, companies”.  not ordinarily given by travelling  This mandate relates mostly to the early years of  the VLTA’s existence.  The VLTA did put on plays the  travelling companies did not; many of the plays were ones being done by little theatres elsewhere.  As the decades  passed, the VLTA still favoured the foreign plays to the works done by Canadians.  This ties into the third objective,  111  “to  encourage and provide facilities for the production of plays by Canadian dramatists”.  This objective, although not on the  forefront of the Association’s activities, did promote local works.  The last,  “to develop the arts of costume and scenic  design and stage lighting,” must have been restricted all along by financial considerations, and was, perhaps, the personal desire of the two founders,  Sam Weliwood and Charles  Ferguson. Other unwritten mandates existed.  The VLTA, once  established,  lost some of its importance during the  Depression.  For the rest of its existence, the Association  tried to get back the old glory, but never completely succeeded.  As well, its original impetus, to be a little  theatre in the same tradition as the art theatres of Europe, dissipated when financial considerations began to override artistic decisions. Unlike some other little theatres in Canada, VLTA never turned professional.  On the other hand, many theatre people  who began at VLTA did become professional.  VLTA was a source  for talented young performers such as John Drainie, John Gray, Joy Coghill, Rosemary Malkin and Sam Payne; and for directors such as Jessie Richardson, Phoebe Smith, Yvonne Firkins and Ian Thorne. Many people who have been influential in the theatre scene began at the Vancouver Little Theatre Association.  The wealth of talent that went on to create  theatre elsewhere made the Vancouver Little Theatre 112  Association’s existence an important factor in the growth of theatre, not only in Vancouver, but in Canada.  113  NOTES  CHAPTER ONE 1. Peter Guildford, The Development of Professional Theatre in Vancouver, M.A. thesis, Vancouver, University of British Columbia, 1981, pp. 12—13. 2. Robert B. Todd, “Ernest Ramsay Ricketts and Theatre in Early Vancouver”, Vancouver History, Vol. 19, No. 2, February 1980, p. 17. 3. Robert B. Todd, “The Organisation of Professional Theatre in Vancouver, 1886—1914”, B.C. Studies, No. 44, Winter 1979-80, p. 6. 4. Todd,  “Ernest Ramsay Ricketts”, p.  22.  5. Maria Tippett, Making Culture: English-Canadian Institutions and the Arts before the Massey Commission, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1990, p. . 7 6.  Ibid., Pp.  9—10. CHAPTER TWO  7. City of Vancouver Archives (hereafter CVA), Sheila Neville Collection, Add.MSS 807, File 4, manuscript written by Sheila Neville for Chuck Davis’ The Vancouver Book, 1975. This quotation, n.d. [1971-74?], was not used in the book. 8. CVA, VLTA Collection, Add.MSS 41, Vol. Ferguson in a letter to R.L. Reid, August 1, 9.  Ibid, p.  1.  5, File 4, 1935, p. 1.  Some spelling corrected silently.  10. Eugene Benson and L.W. Conolly, English-Canadian Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1987, p. . 45 11. Ferguson,  Charles  bc.  cit, p.  Theatre,  1.  12. Sheldon Cheney, The Art Theatre, New York, Benjamin Bbom, Inc.., 1925, pp. 204—205. 13.  Ferguson,  bc.  14.  Ibid., p.  2.  15.  Ibid., p.  3.  cit., p.  2.  114  16. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 15, File 4, H.H. Simmonds, History of The Vancouver Little Theatre, n.d. [1932?] 17. Sam Wellwood, 30, 1921, p. 12. 18.  A  Brief  “The Community Theatre”, The Daily Province, July  Ibid. bc.  19. Ferguson,  3.  cit., p.  20. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 5, File 4, D.A. MacGregor, letter to H.H. Simmonds, July 27, n.d. [1934 or 1935?], P. 2—3. 21.  1.  Ibid., p.  22. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 5, File 4, Jas Leyland, Little Theatre”, n.d. [1933?], n.p. 23. MacGregor, 24. Leyland, 25. Ferguson,  bc.  bc. bc.  cit., p.  bc.  1.  cit. cit., p.  “Clever Amateurs in 26. November 4, 1921, p. 4. 27. Leyland,  4. One-Act  The  Plays”,  “Little 29. December 16,  Theatre is Making 1921, p. 35.  30. Leyband,  bc.  Clever  Progress”,  bc.  bc.  The  Sketches”, Daily  The  Province,  The Daily Province,  cit.  33. “Fine Productions at December 1, 1922, p. 3. 34. Leyland,  Province,  cit.  31. “Notable Opening of the Little Theatre”, October 20, 1922, p. 25. Leyland,  Daily  cit.  “Little Theatre is Scene of Three 28. Vancouver Sun, December 16, 1921, p. 16.  32.  “History of the  Little  Theatre”,  The  Daily  Province,  cit.  35. “Scores Hit in “Dear Brutus”; Tenth Production of LTA Artistic Triumph”, The Daily Province, May 3, 1923, p. 13.  115  an  36. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 5, File 4, E.V. Young, letter to Mr. Reid, August 11, 1935. “Facilis est” is a Latin proverb, meaning “It is easily done”. Young is probably using it ironically. 37. CVA, VLTA Collection, second acquisition, Add.MSS 597 F 6, Pamela Tranfield, “The New York Theatre” (typescript), July-August 1986, n.p. 38.  Ibid.  39.  Ibid.  40. J. Butterfield, “The Little Theatre Opens”, The Daily Province, November 8, 1923, p. 16. 41. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 5, File 4, R. Beveridge of the Westmount Dramatic Club, letter to H.H. Simnionds, no date [1933-34?]. “We wish you every success with your history of Vancouver’s famous At the time, VLTA was trying to accumulate Little Theatre.” information on other little theatres in Canada, as it was writing The history was cursory; not the a history of its own company. major work VLTA planned. CHAPTER THREE 42. Cheney, pp.  96-97. Theatre  News,  “History of VLTA”, no author,  1933.  “Secretary’s 43. H.H. Simmonds, December 1932, Vol VII, No. 3.  44.  CVA, Add.MSS 807, File 1,  45.  Ibid.  46. Letter from VLTA to members, 47. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. papers, March 17, 1933.  14,  Column”,  Little  September 17,  1932.  file 2, Jessica Foote, Adjudication  48. CVA, Add.MSS 807, File 3, No author [Dorothy Somerset?], note reminiscing about the production Back to Methuselah, n.d. 49. Betty Lee, Love and Whisky, Toronto, Simon and Pierre, 1973, p. 119. 50. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 1, Percy Gomery, Report for the Annual General Meeting, May 8, 1933. 51.  Ibid. 116  President’s  52.  Ibid.  53. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 7, H.H. Simmonds, Secretary’s Report for the Annual General Meeting, 1934-35 season. 54. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol 13, File 1, Yvonne Firkins, Little Theatre Proudly Comes of Age”, unknown paper,  “Vancouver’s n.d. [1941?]  55. George Wright, “Casual Comments by George Wright”, Herald, March 29, 1937, p. 9.  The News-  56. “Little Theatre Group Scores in Sparkling Comedy”, Herald, February 9, 1940, p. 2.  The News-  57. Stanley Bligh, “Fine Comedy Draws Full Attendance”, Vancouver Sun, February 9, 1940, p. 8. 58.  Ibid.  59. CVA, Add.MSS 807, File 6, Jessie Richardson, Problems of Larger City Drama Groups”, 1948, p. 3. 60. Programme for Thunder Rock, March 16-18, 61. Programme 1942.  for  The  Importance  of  and  1942.  Being Earnest,  62. Programme for The Willow and I, April 3-6, 63. 4.  “Progress  June  15—17,  1944.  “The Little Theatre”, The Daily Province, October 28, 1936, p.  CHAPTER FOUR  64. Richardson, p. 65.  3.  Ibid.  66. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol 1, VLTA Minutes of the Board of Directors, September 4, 1951. 67. Richardson, p.  2.  68. CVA, Add.MSS 807, File 5, Jessie Richardson, Brief to the Royal Commission on the National Development of Arts, Letters, and Sciences under the Chairmanship of the Right Honourable Vincent Massey, 1949, p. 1. 69.  Ibid. 117  70. Jessie Richardson,  “Progress and Problems”, p.  71. CVA, Newspaper clippings under VLTA, unidentified paper, October 22, 1946.  “Wanted:  1. A Playhouse”,  The 72. Jessie Richardson, Brief to the Massey Commission, p. 3. other recommendations were “That Government scholarships be given to young Canadians showing exceptional promise in the art of Theatre. . . [and] That Little Theatres and like community groups of non-profit distributing calibre be exempt from amusement tax...” 73.  The Little Theatre News, Vol.  74. Jessie Richardson,  1, No.  1, August 1948.  “Progress and Problems”, p.  75. Elmore Philpott, “Big October 27, 1948, p. 4.  Little  Theatre”,  The  3. Vancouver  Sun,  76. Constance MacKay, “Little Theatre Farce Effort Dies a-Borning”, The News-Herald, October 19, 1948, p. 3. “London Stage Director Disagrees with Critic Ian Dobbie, 77. Constance MacKay”, The News-Herald, October 22, 1948, p. 7. 78.  Ibid.  79. Constance MacKay, “Constance MacKay Replies to English Producer Dobbie”, The News-Herald, October 23, 1948, p. 9. 80.  Ibid.  81. Harry C. Lampkin, “Critic vs. Critic”, The News-Herald, October 30, 1948, p. 11. 82. Bernard Braden, “Canadian Professional Asserts Critic Constance MacKay Was Right”, The News-Herald, October 25, 1948, p. 9. 83. Philpott, p.  4.  84. Naomi Lang, “Gruff but Gifted: Director Ian Dobbie may heap insults on actors’ heads but they all agree ‘he’s temperamental but terrific’”, B.C. Magazine, January 10, 1953, p. 7. -  85. Ian Dobbie, “Non-Repentant Crfitic [sic] of Critic”, The News Herald, November 3, 1948, p. 7. 86. Quoted by Lang, p.  7.  87. Jessie Richardson, Brief to the Massey Commission, 88. 35.  bc.  “Coward Play Premiere”, The Daily Province, March 11, 118  cit.  1950, p.  89. Lang, p.  7.  90. Noreen Petty, p. 23.  “In Spotlight”, Vancouver Sun, November 29, 1952,  91. Paddy Daly, “Happenings in the World of Drama”, Sun, June 24, 1950, p. 6.  The Vancouver  Ibid.  92.  93. Paddy Daly, “Happenings in the World of Drama”, Sun, June 30, 1951, p. 6.  The Vancouver  Paddy Daly, “Happenings in the World of Drama” August 25, 1951, p. 6.  The Vancouver  “Happenings in the World of Drama”,  September 15,  94.  95. Paddy Daly, 1951, p. 10.  96. Programme for Tovarich, December 952. Sedawie, Norman 3, File 25, 41, Vol. Add.MSS 97. CVA, “Strangulation Faces Dramatics”, The Vancouver Province, n.d. 98. Margaret Rushton, President’s Notes in VLTA programme for Room Service, October 1953. 99. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, Minutes of a Special Meeting of the Board of Directors, January 31, 1952. bc.  cit.  100.  Quoted by Sedawie,  101.  Ibid., quoted by Sedawie.  102. VLTA Programme for Thieves’ Carnival, January 1954. CHAPTER FIVE  103.  Guy and Marion Palmer,  interview, January 29,  1992.  104. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 3, VLTA Minutes, February 27, 1961. 105. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 4, VLTA Minutes, May 1, 1960. 106. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1960. 107. CVA, 1960.  Add.MSS 41,  Vol.  1, File 3, VLTA Minutes, August 15,  1,  File 2,  119  VLTA Minutes,  April 10,  108. CVA, 1960.  Add.MSS 41,  Vol.  1,  File 2,  VLTA Minutes,  4, 1, File 41, Vol. Add.MSS CVA, 109. Extraordinary General Meeting, May 1, 1960. 110. n.d.  CVA, Add.MSS 41, [1960?].  111.  Ibid.  Vol.  1,  File 4,  VLTA  April 10, Minutes,  Letter to VLTA members,  112. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 3, John Panrucker, Dorothy Goidrick, June 6, 1960.  letter to  113. Ben Metcalf e, “There’s more than ‘two planks and a passion’ The Daily Province, to Little Theatre’s offering today”, September 17, 1960, p. 18. 114. Mike Tytherleigh, “QET is deserted in Theatre Battle”, The Vancouver Sun, January 11, 1961. 115.  Ibid.  116. CVA, 1961.  Add.MSS 41,  1,  Vol.  File 3,  VLTA Minutes,  March 28,  In unrelated developments concerning the “Panrucker 117. Ibid. dealings”, John Panrucker was arrested and tried for theft and He was accused of breach of booking agreements in 1960. He received a stealing over $20,000 and forging paycheques. four-year sentence, served two and a half years, and then was It seems he had served a two—year deported back to England. jail term in England for similar charges, to which he never He had been the general admitted when he emigrated to Canada. manager for the QET since October 1957. 118. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 3, VLTA Minutes, February 27, 1961. 119. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. Meeting, November 9, 1961. 120. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1960.  1,  File  4,  123.  of  Committee  1, File 3, VLTA Minutes, December 7,  121. “City Balks at Theatre Group Grant”, June 20, 1962. 122. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1960.  Report  The Daily Province,  1, File 3, VLTA Minutes, November 3,  The Daily Province, August 14, 120  1962.  124. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol.  1, File 4, VLTA Minutes, March 1962.  125. Mike Tytherleigh, “Little Theatre Goes Over Big”, The Daily Province, January 30, 1963, P. 16. 126. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. April 1963.  25,  File 5, VLTA Members’ Bulletin,  127. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 4, VLTA Minutes, November 11, 1963. 128. VLTA programme for The Father, November-December 1965. 129. CVA, Add.MSS positions.  41,  Vol.  1,  File 4,  VLTA list of Executive  130. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 4, Helen Bristowe, Sheila Neville, February 15, 1964.  letter to  131. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 3, Eddie Calvert (Director of Productions), Report to the Annual General Meeting, June 20, 1962. “Facelift for a Gallant 132. September 12, 1969, p. 4A. 133.  CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol.  134.  Ibid.  135.  CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol.  Old  Lady”,  The  Vancouver  17,  The Yorker, May 1969.  17,  The Yorker, Fall 1969.  Sun,  136. CVA, Add,MSS 41, Vol. 17, John Parker, excerpt from his letter of resignation, quoted in The Yorker, Spring 1970. 137.  CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol.  17, The Yorker,  138.  CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol.  17,  Spring 1973.  The Yorker, May 1973.  139. CVA, Add.MSS 596 F 1, File 2, VLTA Minutes, June 22,  1973.  140. CVA, Add.MSS 597 F 3, File 7, VLTA Minutes, Extraordinary General Meeting, March 22, 1977. 141.  CVA, Add.MSS 597 F 4, File 4, VLTA History Highlights.  142.  Ibid.  121  CHAPTER SIX 143. Cohn Funk and Connie Brihl interview, May 1, 1992, Banff, Alberta. All other quotations not annotated in this chapter are from this interview. 144. CVA, Add.MSS 597 F 6, File 7, Transcript of Interview with • Dorothy Somerset, conducted by Connie Brill and Kate Hull, August 28, 1985.  122  B IBLIOGRAPHY  Most of this paper is drawn from the archival collection of The collection is large,  VLTA at the Vancouver City Archives.  and covers many aspects of the theatre company’s existence. There are two main VLTA acquisitions at the Archives,  one given  (CVA Add.MSS 41),  to the city by Sheila Neville in 1971 by Connie Brill and Cohn Funk in 1985  the other  (Add.MSS 596 and 597).  These collections contain all of the correspondence, minutes, photos and most of the articles and programmes used in this paper.  Other manuscript collections used were:  Sheila Neville (Add.MSS 807) Phoebe Smith (Add.MSS 57) Yvonne Firkins  (Add.MSS 93)  E.V. Young (Add.MSS 1064) As well, the CVA newspaper clippings  (both the Major J.S.  Matthews’ and the CVA collections) and pamphlets listings were used. Some interviews were conducted,  as well as informal  conversations. January 29, April 14, May 1,  1992  1992  1992  Periodically  -  -  Guy and Marion Palmer, Vancouver  Connie Brill, by telephone  Cohn Funk and Connie Brill, Banff, Alberta  -  -  Gay Scrivener, Vancouver  123  Finally,  the following books and articles proved useful:  Benson, Eugene, and Conolly, L.W. English-Canadian Theatre. Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1987. Cheney, Inc.,  Sheldon. The Art Theatre. New York, Benjamin Blom, 1925.  “Clever Amateurs in One-Act Plays”. Vancouver, November 4, 1921. Davis,  Chuck.  The Daily Province.  The Vancouver Book. Vancouver,  J.J. Douglas,  1975.  Guildford, Peter. The Development of Professional Theatre in Vancouver. Master’s Thesis: Vancouver, University of British Columbia, 1981. Johnston, Denis W. Up the Mainstream. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1991. Lee, Betty. Love and Whisky. Toronto,  Simon and Pierre,  1979.  “Little Theatre is Making Progress”. The Daily Province. Vancouver, December 16, 1921. “Little Theatre is Scene of Three Clever Sketches”. The Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, December 16, 1921. MacGowan, Kenneth and Melnitz, William. The Living Stage. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice—Hall, Inc., 1955. Meiklejohn, J.M.C. “Theatre in Ottawa in the 1930s: A memoir Edited by Denis Johnston”. Theatre History in Canada! Histoire du Theatre au Canada. Vol. 10 No. 2, Fall 1989. Tippett, Maria. Making Culture: English-Canadian Institutions and the Arts before the Massey Commission. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1990. Todd,  Robert. “Ernest Ramsay Ricketts and Theatre in Early Vancouver”. Vancouver History. Vol. 19, No. 2, February 1980. “The Organisation of Professional Theatre in Vancouver, 1886-1914”. B.C. Studies. No. 44, Winter 1979-80. .  Weliwood, Sam. “The Community Theatre”. The Daily Province. Vancouver, July 30, 1921.  124  APPENDIX A Presidents of the Vancouver Little Theatre Association,  1921-23  R.L. Reid, KC  1923—29  W.G. Murrin  1929—31  B.D.G. Phillips  1931-32  J.P.D. Malkin, E.V. Young  1932-33  Percy Gomery  1933-37  General V.W. Odium  1937—38  H.H.  1938-39  E.G. Mather  1939-43  Major Ed Gallant  1943-45  Mrs. Phoebe Smith  1945-46  Donald Cromie  1947-48  Van Norman  1948—51  Mrs.  Jessie Richardson  1951-52  Mrs.  Yvonne Firkins  1952-56  Mrs. Margaret Rushton (from February)  1956-58  Wilison Knowlton  1958-59  Dorothy Goidrick  1959—60  Claire O’Sullivan  1960-62  John Read  1962—64  Sheila Neville  1964-65  Dalton Allan  1965—66  Rene Dieknian  1966-68  John Read  1968-70  Jack Neville  —  1923—29  Simmonds  (to February)  125  1921-1978  1970-71  Bud Lando  1971-72  John Read/Roger Smith  1973-74  Walter Shynkaryk  1974-75  Carol Roberts  1975-76  Stan Winfield  1976-77  Tania Murenko  1977-78  Terry Marshall  126  (NJ -1  H  CT)  ct  (NJ  CD<  CDLYCD DiIDH HO®  .J I  (NJ  CD  c-I  I—h  Q  (D’.D :3t OI-s) CD  i  ULJJ  Q..I3O Di’.QO H Q..  flW OM HH CD0.. 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I  hj/)-l  Cl)  ‘1  CD  ‘1  t’3 -  F-  I-I  H  CDH CD0)t\)  ---r  zIjH•pi CDF-”OM HiH•O  -I-(l)  :i c-I-  Cl)i—  ‘1(71  WI  O)’< ‘1  (DO)  U  :i  Zn  0..  0  ‘1  CD  c-t 0  )..HCD  HMC.4 H•0  CD  •  CD  CD  0•  CD  MI-1  ctpi  CD ‘-I  c-I  0)  0)  Hi  0  U)  CDt-.i  CD-  t’i  0’.0  0)  CDI  iH•U’  HCDU) t’J Oc-l-  CD-tM Cl)CD<  oipi  Cl)CD Cl)  00i  II3ZC_I  April 1—4, Night Ry land  1925  How He Lied to Her Husband  James Oppenheim Thomas Stephens & K.S. Goodman G.B. Shaw  Helen Badgley M.M. Reynolds & Jack Gillmore E.V. Young  May 26—30, 1925 Tilly of Bloomsbury  In Hay  Frank Johnstone & E.V. Young  Sutton Vane  E.V. Young  Ferenc Molnar  Anne Ferguson  February 10-13, 1926 The Connoisseur Great Catherine  Marjorie Reynolds G.B. Shaw  M. Reynolds Jack Gillmore  March 23—27, 1926 He Who Gets Slapped  Leonid Andreyev  Mrs E. Woodward  Frederick Lonsdale  Frank Johnstone  George Kelly  Anne Ferguson  John Galsworthy  Leonard Miller  Henrik Ibsen  Sam Wellwood & Yvonne Firkins  FIFTH SEASON:  1925-26  October 19—24, Outward Bound  1925  December 9—12, The Swan  1925  May 6—8, 13—15, Aren’t We All  SIXTH SEASON:  1926  1926-27  October 12-16, 1926 The Torch Bearers December 1-4, The Pigeon  1926  February 8-12, 1927 The Pillars of Society  Mar. 29—31, Apr. 1&2, Arms and the Man  May 3—7, 1927 Hay Fever  1927 G.B.  Shaw  Noel Coward  129  Mrs. G. Gibson & E.B. Clegg  S.  J. Battle  SEVENTH SEASON:  October 18—22, The Circle  1927-28  1927 Somerset Maugham  Frank Johnstone  R. Emerson Browne  Mrs E. Woodward  Ferenc Molnar  B.G.D. Philips  March 27—31, 1928 The Admirable Crichton  J.M. Barrie  E.V.  May 8—12, 1928 Yellow Sands  E.& A. Philpotts  Leonard Miller  October 17—20, 1928 What Every Woman Knows  J.M. Barrie  Eily Malyon  November 14-17, The Critic  Richard Sheridan  Frank Johnstone Gertrude Letson  John Galsworthy  R.M. Eassie  March 20—23, 1929 The Lilies of the Field  John H.  Yvonne Firkins & L. Rankin  April 24—27, 1929 The Silver Cord  Sidney Howard  B.G.D. Phillips  Henry Arthur  Frank Johnstone  C.K. Munro  Paul Chalfont  December 13—17, The Bad Man  1927  February 14-18, Li 1 iom  1928  EIGHTH SEASON:  1928-29  1928  Jan. 30,31, Feb. Loyalties  NINTH SEASON:  Young  1,2,  1929  Turner  1929-30  October 16—19, The Liars November 20-23, At Mrs. Beam’s  1929 1929  February 6-8, 1930 John Ferguson  St.  March 19—22, 1930 Shall We Join the Ladies? Androcles and the Lion  J.M. Barrie G.B. Shaw 130  John G.  Ervine  Garfield King Clare Sumner Mrs E. Woodward  April 23—26, 1930 The Queen’s Husband  TENTH SEASON:  R.E.  Sherwood  B.G.D. Phillips  1930-31  October 29—31, Escape  1930 John Galsworthy  A.J. Greathed  December 3—6, 1930 The Cradle Song  G. Martinez Sierra  B.G.D. Phillips  February 5-7, 1931 A Perfect Alibi  A.A. Milne  Frank Johnstone  March 25—28, 1931 Dear Brutus (revival)  J.M. Barrie  E.V. Young  Apr. 30, May 1,2, 1931 (fiftieth regular production) St. John G. Ervine G.F. Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary  Scott  1931-32  ELEVENTH SEASON:  October 7-10, 1931 The Theatre of the Soul The Golden Doom Sabotage  Harry Tauber Edythe Yates Hilda Keatley  Evreinov Lord Dunsany W. Vaicross & Paul d’Estoc Lady Gregory  W. Rankin  S.N. Behrman  E.A. Woodward  February 11-13, 1932 All The King’s Horses  Charles Openshaw  G. Roy Kievill  March 18—19, 1932 Just Married  Adelaide Matthews  Jack Flanagan  May 6—7, 1932 The Mask and the Face  Luigi Chiarelli  B.G.D. Phillips  Somerset Maugham  Hilda Keatley & Frank Johnstone  Marivaux  Jean Mercier  The Workhouse Ward December 16—19, The Second Man  TWELFTH SEASON:  October 21—22, East of Suez  1931  1932-33  1932  November 4-5, 1932 Love and Chance  131  December 16-17, The Pelican  1932 F.T. Jesse & H.W. Harwood  March 10—11, 1933 Captain Brassbound’s Conversion G.B. May 18—20, 1933 Good Morning Bill  B.G.D.  Phillips  Carleton Clay Shaw  P.G. Wodehouse  Frank Johnstone  Maxwell Anderson  Frank Johnstone  Ferenc Molnar  B.G.D.  January 26-27, 1934 A Doll’s House  Henrik Ibsen  Carleton Clay  May 11—12, 1934 Meadchen in Uniform  Christa Winslow  Yvonne Firkins  G.S. Kaufman & Edna Ferber  E. Woodward  October 17—20, 1934 The Late Christopher Bean  Emlyn Williams  B.G.D. Phillips  December 13—15, 1934 Tobias and the Angel  James Bridle  D.  Anton Chekhov  Guy Glover  May 3—4, 1935 The Shining Hour  Keith Winter  Mrs A.  May 22—25, Fear  A. Afinogenyev  Yvonne Firkins  THIRTEENTH SEASON:  1933-34  October 5-7, 1933 Elizabeth the Queen November 16—18, Olympia  1933  May 31, June 1-2, The Royal Family  FOURTEENTH SEASON:  February 8-9, Uncle Vanya  Phillips  1934  1934-35  Somerset  1935  Soames  1935  132  FIFTEENTH SEASON:  1935-36  November 25, 1935, Ten Minute Alibi  STANLEY THEATRE Anthony Armstrong  February 24, 1936, STANLEY THEATRE Valentine Katayev Squaring the Circle March 9, 1936, STANLEY THEATRE David Belasco Madame Butterfly Michel Carre & Pierrot the Prodigal Andre Wormser June 11, 1936, U.B.C. AUDITORIUM Maxwell Anderson Nary of Scotland  SIXTEENTH SEASON:  Leonard Miller  F.J.C.  Ramage  G.F. Scott Vivien Ramsay  Frank Johnstone  1936-37  October 29-31, 1936, LITTLE THEATRE J.H. Holmes & If This Be Treason R. Lawrence  D.  Somerset  January 7-9, 1936 The Makropolous Secret  Karel Capek  Yvonne Firkins  February 18-20, 1937 Is Life Worth Living  Lennox Robinson  G.F.  November 1-2, 1937 Laburnum Grove  J.B.  Leonard Miller  December 6-7, 1937 Judgement Day  Elmer Rice  Yvonne Firkins  Harold Deardon & Roland Pertwee  Frank Johnstone  April 8—9, 1938 George and Margaret  Gerald Savoury  Barbara West  May 27—28, 1938 Double Door  Elizabeth McFadden  A.  SEVENTEENTH SEASON:  February 11-12, Interference  Scott  1937-38  Priestley  1938  133  Deuber  EIGHTEENTH SEASON:  1938-39  October 28—29, 1938 Winter Sunshine  G.  December 9—10, 1938 A Murder Has Been Arranged  Emlyn Williams  Howard Tripp  February 9-11, 1939 Idiot’s Delight  Robert Sherwood  Dorothy Rowell  Thomas  Leonard Miller  March 17, 1939, STANLEY THEATRE Stephen Phillips Paolo and Francesca  Yvonne Firkins  April 28—29, 1939 Lady Precious Stream  S.I. Hsiung  Vivien Ramsay  Rachel Crothers  M. Richardson  Edmond Rostand  Viven Ramsay  February 8-10, 1940 Yes My Darling Daughter  Mark Reed  Yvonne Firkins  April 1—3, 1940 Night Must Fall  Emlyn Williams  Phoebe Smith  May 20—22, 1940 Full House  Ivor Novello  J. Pennington  October 21—23, 1940 Tony Draws a Horse  Leslie Storm  M. Richardson  December 2—4, 1940 The White Steed  Paul Carroll  Phoebe Smith  February 17-20, The Guardsman  Ferenc Molnar  Yvonne Firkins  March 17—19, 1941 Dangerous Corner  J.B. Priestley  Ivy Ralston  April 28—30, Kind Lady  Edward Chodorov  Phoebe Smith  NINETEENTH SEASON:  October 19—21, Susan And God December 14—16, Chanticleer  1939-40  1939 1939  TWENTIETH SEASON:  1940-41  1941  1941 134  TWENTY-FIRST SEASON:  1941-42  October 20—22, 1941 Flight to the West  Elmer Rice  Phoebe Smith  December 8—11, 1941 Bunty Pulls the Strings  Graham Moffatt  Yvonne Firkins  March 16—18, 1942 Thunder Rock  Robert Ardrey  Ivy Ralston  May 4—6, 1942 Out of the Frying Pan  Frances Swann  Tom Sherwood  June 15—17, 1942 The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde  TWENTY-SECOND SEASON:  Leonard Miller  1942-43  November 16-19, 1942 Watch on the Rhine  Lillian Hellman  Phoebe Smith  Various  Vivien Ramsay T. Sherwood  J. Kesseiring  Mrs A. Graham  Edward Percy & Reg. Denham  C. Chanter  Philip Barry  Nancy Caldwell  Elena Maramova  Phoebe Smith  December 6—8, 1943 Autumn Crocus  C.L. Anthony  C. Chanter  February 21-24, 1944 Accent on Youth  S.  April 3—6, 1944 The Willow and I  John Patrick  December 14—16, Priorities  1942  February 15-19, 1943 Arsenic and Old Lace April 12—14, 1943 Ladies in Retirement  May 31, Jun 1—3, 1943 The Philadelphia Story  TWENTY-THIRD SEASON:  October 3—5, Dark Eyes  1943-44  1943  Raphelson  135  John Bethune Ivy Ralston  May 29—31, June 1, 1944 There’s Always Juliet TWENTY-FOURTH SEASON:  1944 Jerome Chodorov & Joseph Fields  Phoebe Smith  1944 Edward Percy & Reg. Dunham  February 12-16, Pyqinalion  Ivy Ralston  1945 G.B.  April 9—11, 1945 Old Acquaintance May 18—22, Mashenka  John Bethune  1944-45  October 30-31, November 1-2, Junior Miss December 4-6, Suspect  J. Van Druten  Shaw  C. Chanter  J. Van Druten  John Bethune  Alex. Afinegenov  Sam Payne  Joseph Fields & Jerome Chodorov  Elsie Graham  Hagar Wilde & Dale Bunson  Phoebe Smith  G.B.  C.  1945  TWENTY-FIFTH SEASON:  1945-46  October 15-19, 1945 My Sister Eileen December 3-7, 1945 Guest in the House February 11-15, Major Barbara  March 25—29, Hamlet  1946 Shaw  Chanter  1946  May 27—31, 1946 Blithe Spirit  TWENTY-SIXTH SEASON:  Smith  Shakespeare  F.L.  Noel Coward  Ivy Ralston  G.S. Kaufman & Moss Hart  Phoebe Smith  1946-47  October, 1946 You Can’t Take It With You  136  December, 1946 Dear Brutus  J.M. Barrie  Leonard Miller  February, 1947 Angel Street  Patrick Hamilton  John Bethune  March, 1947 Our Town  Thornton Wilder  C. Chanter  May, 1947 Private Lives  Noel Coward  Ivy Ralston  Moss Hart & G.S. Kaufman  Cohn Lawrence  February 2-6, 1948 The Dover Road  A.A. Mime  Ivy Ralston  March 8—12, Golden Boy  Clifford Odets  Juan Root  Norman Kresme  Len Timbers  Leslie Howard  James Johnston  Terence Rattigan  Phoebe Smith  TWENTY-SEVENTH SEASON:  1947-48  November 17-21, 1947 George Washington Slept Here  April 19—23, Dear Ruth  1948 1948  May 31, June 1-4, 1948 Elizabeth Sleeps Out  TWENTY-EIGHTH SEASON:  1948-49  October 8-12, 1948 While the Sun Shines  November 29—30, December 1-3, 1948 Armid d’Usseau Deep are the Roots  Ian Dobbie  February 7-11, 1949 As You Like It  Shakespeare  Sydney Risk  Elsa Shelley  Yvonne Firkins  F.H. Herbert  James Johnson  March 28—31, April 1, Pick-up Girl May 9—13, 1949 For Love or Money  1949  137  TWENTY-NINTH SEASON:  October 11—14, Quiet Weekend  1949-50  1949 Esther Cracken  Ian Dobbie  November 28—30, December 1—2, 1949 GB. Shaw Candida  C. Chanter  February 13-17, 1950 Love From a Stranger  Frank Vosper  Doris Owen  March 27—31, 1950 Peace in Our Time  Noel Coward  Ian Dobbie  May 15—19, 1950 Born Yesterday  Garson Kanin  Ian Dobbie  Philip King  Ian Dobbie  THIRTIETH SEASON:  1950-51  October 10—14, 1950 See How They Run  November 29—30, December 1—3, 1950 Allen Kenwold Cry Havoc  Ian Dobbie  January 12-16, 1951 The Second Man  C. Chanter  J.N. Richman  February 26-28, March 1-2 1951 Lillian Heilman Another Part of the Forest  Ian Dobbie  April 23—27, 1951 This Happy Breed  Noel Coward  Doris Owen  J.C. Holm & George Abbott  Ian Dobbie  October 22—26, 1951 The Madwoman of Chaillot  Jean Giraudoux  Yvonne Firkins  December 3—7, 1951 The Corn Is Green  Emlyn Williams  Phoebe Smith  February 4-8, 1952 Father of the Bride  Caroline French  Juan Root  May 28-June 1, 1951 Three Men on a Horse  THIRTY-FIRST SEASON  138  March 24—28, 1952 Tempted Tried and True  Bill Johnson  Bob Reed  May 12—16, 1952 Anna Christie  Eugene O’Neill  C. Chanter  THIRTY-SECOND SEASON:  1952-53  October 29—31, November 1—2, Rain  1952 Somerset Maugham  Phoebe Smith  December 1-5 Tovarich  Jacques Rival  C.  o  February 2-6, 1953 Mistress Mine  Terence Rattigan  Guy Palmer  March 16—20, 1953 A Man About the House  John Perry  Ian Dobbie  Mel Dinelli  John Thorne  L.J. Huber  Phoebe Smith  April 27—May 1, The Man  1953  THIRTY-THIRD SEASON:  October 19—23, Room Service  1953-54  1953  November 30, December 1—4, Pillars of Society  1953 Henrik Ibsen  January 25-29, 1954 Thieves’ Carnival March 15—19, Stalag 17  Chanter  Frank Crowson  Jean Anouilh  Guy Palmer  Bevan Trzenski  Bob Read  P. Youdan  Phoebe Smith  Terence Rattigan  Peter Mannering  J. Patrick  Bob Read  1954  May 3—7. 1954 Anna Lucasta  THIRTY-FOURTH SEASON:  1954-55  October 18-22, 1954 The Deep Blue Sea November 29—December 3, The Curious Savage  1954  139  January 31-February 4, Craig’s Wife  1955 G. Kelly  Frank Crowson  March 28—April 1, 1955 Ten Little Indians  Agatha Christie  Guy Palmer  May 16—20, 1955 Two Dozen Red Roses  A. de Benedetti  Phoebe Smith  S. Taylor  Sam Payne  THIRTY-FIFTH SEASON:  October 17—21, Sabrina Fair  1955-56  1955  November 28—December 3, Darkness at Noon February 6-11, Dear Charles  1955 S.  Kingsley  Ian Thorne  1956 Allan Melville  Phoebe Smith  Max Shulman & R.P. Smith  Otto Lowy  C. Axeirod  Gertrude Dennis  Jean Kerr & Eleanor Brooke  Sam Payne  M. Mourette  Joan Chapman  February 11-16, 1957 The Fifth Season  Sylvia Regan  Phoebe Smith  March 25—30, 1957 The Festival  S.& B.  Guy Palmer  March 26—31, 1956 The Tender Trap May 7—12, 1956 The Seven Year Itch  THIRTY-SIXTH SEASON:  1956-57  October 8—13, 1956 The King of Hearts Nvoember 26-December 1, Anastasia  May 8—18, 1957 Mr. Roberts June 3—8, 1957 One Wild Oat  1956  Spewack  T. Heggen & Joshua Logan  V.  Sylvaine  140  Bob Read  Phoebe Smith  THIRTY-SEVENTH SEASON:  1957—58  October 14—19, 1957 The Time of the Cuckoo  A.  Laurents  Phoebe Smith  November 18-23.1957 The Moment of Truth  Peter Ustinov  Joan Chapman  January 30-February 8, 1958 Witness for the Prosecution  Agatha Christie  Yvonne Firkins  February 27-March 8, 1958 Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? George Axeirod  Otto Lowy  April 21—May 3, 1958 Teahouse of the August Moon  John Patrick  Joy Coghill  J. Lawrence & R.E. Lee  Franklin Johnson  Jean Anouilh  Ian Thorne  Thornton Wilder  Peter Mannering  March, 1959 Desperate Hours  J. Hayes  Bob Read  April 30-May 9 1959 Waltz of the Toreadors  Jean Anouilh  Yvonne Firkins  Gore Vidal  Jorn Winther  Frederick Knott  Sam Payne  January 12-16, 1960, QET A View from the Bridge  Arthur Miller  Ian Thorne  QET Tea and Sympathy  Robert Anderson  Hans Hartog  1958-59  THIRTY-EIGHTH SEASON: October 16—25, 1958 Inherit the Wind  November 20—29, The Lark  1958  February 12-21, The Matchmaker  1959  THIRTY-NINTH SEASON:  1959-60  QUEEN ELIZABETH AUDITORIUM Visit to a Small Planet December 2—5, 17—19, Dial M For Murder  1959,  QET  141  1960  May 31, June 1—4, Tunnel of Love  FORTIETH SEASON:  Joseph Fields  1960-61  November 17-19, 1960, Orpheus Descending  QET Tennessee Williams  Ian Thorne  January 1961, INTERNATIONAL CINEMA Dostoyevsky Crime and Punishment  Ian Thorne  INTERNATIONAL CINEMA Dear Charles  D.  Goidrick  D.  Goidrick  Allan Melville  May 23-27, 1961, INTERNATIONAL CINEMA Jerome Chodorov Anniversary Waltz & Joseph Fields  FORTY-FIRST SEASON:  1961-62  September 28-30, October 3-7, Man and Superman  1961, YORK THEATRE G.B. Shaw  Roy Brinson  December 6—9, 12—16, The Flowering Peach  Clifford Odets  Otto Lowy  Samuel Taylor  Hans Hartog  Denis Cannon  IL Goidrick  Carolyn Green  Jean Glen  February 8—10, 13—17, The Happy Time  1961  1962  March 29—31, April 2—7, Captain Carvallo June 21—23, Janus  26—30,  1962  1962  FORTY-SECOND SEASON:  1962-63  January 29-30, February 1-2, Write Me a Murder  1963, PLAYHOUSE THEATRE Otto Lowy Frederick Knott  April 2-6, 1963, PLAYHOUSE Oh Men! Oh Women!  Edward Chodorov  Otto Lowy  May 21—25, 1963 The Climate of Eden  Moss Hart  Hans Hartog  142  FORTY-THIRD SEASON:  1963-64  September 1963, METRO THEATRE Agatha Christie The Hollow January 14-18, Clarembard  1964, YORK THEATRE Marcel Ayme  May 5—9, 1964 Angels in Love FORTY-FOURTH SEASON:  Hugh Mills  John Parker Dorothy Davies Jean Glen  1964-65  October 23-31, 1964, METRO THEATRE A. Laurents The Time of the Cuckoo  D. Goidrick  December 1964, YORK THEATRE The Princess and the Swineheard Nicolas Stuart Grey January 26-30, 1965 The Night of the Iguana April 6—10, The Gazebo  Tennessee Williams  Tony Rogers  Alec Coppel  Frank Curry  1965  FORTY-FIFTH SEASON:  1965-66  October 8-16, 1965, METRO THEATRE Arthur Laurents Invitation to a March November 30-December 4, The Father  1965, YORK THEATRE August Strindberg  Eileen Cavalier John Parker  June 2-18, 1966 (beginning of Thurs-Fri-Sat performances only) John Parker Tom Jones & The Fantasticks Harvey Schmidt  FORTY-SIXTH SEASON:  1966-67  October 20-November 5, The Tempest  1966 Shakespeare  John Parker  January 12-28, 1967 Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime  Constance Cox  John Parker  March 25, 27, April 1, Red Shoes  Robin Short  Bob Read  1967  143  May 18-June 3, Lysistrata  1967  FORTY-SEVENTH SEASON:  Aristophanes  John Parker  John Osborne  John Parker  Edward Perry & Reginald Denham  Laurie Lynds  1967-68  October 1967 Luther November 16-December 2, Ladies in Retirement  1967  February 15-March 2, 1968 The Elephant and the Jewish Question Beverley Simons April 13, 15—20, Sleeping Beauty  John Parker  1968 Chris Wiggins  Vincent Burt  Mary Rodgers  John Parker  Howard Richardson & William Berney  Bob Read  Frederick Knott  John Parker  Marghanita Laski  Stuart Baker  Shelagh Delaney  Vincent Burt  April 5, 7—12, 1969 The Sadness Thief  Leo Burdak  Jerry Zawerska  June 5—21, Tartuffe  Moliere  John Parker  Shakespeare  John Parker  June 6—22, 1968 Once Upon a Mattress FORTY-EIGHTH SEASON:  1968-69  October 3-19, 1968 Dark of the Moon November 21-December 7, Wait Until Dark  1968  January 9-25, 1969 The Offshore Island February 20-March 8, A Taste Of Honey  1969  FORTY-NINTH SEASON:  November 8, King Lear  1969  13—22,  1969-70  1969  144  January 15-24, Lovers  1970  May 14—30, 1970 Your Own Thing  FIFTIETH SEASON:  George Plowski  Hal Hester& Danny Apolinar  John Parker  1970-71  September 26, October 2—10, Private Lives December 3—12, Bull Durham  1970  January 28-30, The Laundry  February 4-6,  1970 Noel Coward  Jeremy Newson  April 10, 12—17, 1971 The Strange Disappearance of Princess Gloriana May 13— 22, 1971 Great Expectations  FIFTY-FIRST SEASON:  1971 David Guerdon  Jace van der Veen John Gray Jace van der ye en  Ray Logie  Jane Logie  Charles Dickens  Jace van der ye en  Robert Bolt  Michael Berry  Elmer Harris  Don Eccieston  1971-72  October 28-November 13, A Man for All Seasons February 10-26, Johnny Belinda  Brian Friel  1971  1972  May 17-June 2, 1972 Hotel Paradiso  FIFTY-SECOND SEASON:  Michael Berry Georges Feydeau & Maurice Desvallieres  1972-73  October 25-November 3, That Scoundrel Scapin  1972  January 17-February 2, Period of Adjustment  1973  Moliere  Michael Ball  Tennessee Williams  Michael Ball  145  March 14—30, 1973 The Chalk Garden  Enid Bagnold  R. Newman  May, 1973 The Hostage  Brendan Behan  Lloyd Berry  October 25—26, 1973 Impromptu Devil among the Skeins  Tad Mosel Ernest Goodwin  Bob Weakes Royce Hill  November 8-24, 1973 Mrs. Warren’s Profession  G.B.  Rattle of a Simple Man  Charles Dyer  Bob Weakes  Shakespeare  John Parker  November-December 1974 Romeo and Juliet  Shakespeare  John Parker  February-March 1975 Love’s Labour’s Lost  Shakespeare  R. Ouzounian  May 1975 Twelfth Night  Shakespeare  John Parker  Fall 1975 The Maltese Falcon  Dashiell Hammett  John Parker  February 1976 Red Emma  Carol Bolt  Svetlana Smith  Arthur Kopit  John Parker  Tom Jones & Harvey Schmidt  Alex Kliner  FIFTY-THIRD SEASON:  May 23-June 8, Richard III  Shaw  P. Brockington  1974  FIFTY-FOURTH SEASON:  FIFTY-FIFTH SEASON:  May 18-June 5, Indians  1973-74  1974-75  1975-76  1q76  FIFTY-SIXTH SEASON:  October 7—23, 1976 The Fantasticks  1976-77  146  February 1977 A Thousand Clowns FIFTY-SEVENTH SEASON:  February 23-March 4, Listen to the Wind  Herb Gardner  Michael Berry  1977-78  1978, DAVID Y.H. LUI THEATRE Ian Fenwick James Reaney  147  


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