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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 ASSOCIATIONbyCAROL DELL NESBITTB.F.A., The University of British Columbia, 1986A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES(Department of Theatre)We accept this thesis as conformingtothe required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAJuly, 1992© Carol Dell Nesbitt, 1992In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives, It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.Department of_______________The University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate AjL451 i /99s,2DE-6 (2/88)ABSTRACTThe thesis covers the history of the Vancouver LittleTheatre Association (VLTA), one of the oldest amateur theatregroups in Canada. The subject was chosen partly because ofthe shortage of informative papers written on the histories ofamateur theatre in Vancouver. As there has been very littlewritten on this subject, the majority of the research was donewith primary sources, most of which were in the VLTA archivalcollection at the City of Vancouver Archives.The VLTA was founded in 1921 by a group of peopleinspired by the art theatre movement in Europe. TheAssociation proved to be very popular from its inception, andwas able to buy a theatre building by its third season. Thebuilding was its home base until 1978. The Depression at theend of the 1920s dramatically affected the VLTA, and thecompany, once financially successful and widely accepted, lostmuch of its stability and following. From then on, most ofthe history of the VLTA is a struggle for survival. Duringthe Second World War, the Association helped with the wareffort, either by raising money for war charities or by givingperformances for servicemen. At the end of the war,professional theatre began to emerge in Vancouver, and theVLTA had much competition. This early professionalism led tothe building of Vancouver’s civic theatres in the late 1950s11and early 1960s, as well as the founding of smaller,alternative, professional theatre companies of the 1970s. TheLittle Theatre found that it could not compete with these newmovements. The Association’s position in the Vancouver theatrescene was forced to change.The Introduction presents a brief overview of thetheatrical ongoings in Vancouver before the inception of VLTA,as well as the reasons behind the creation of the LittleTheatre. Chapters Two to Five cover the main part of VLTA’shistory, from its inception in 1921 to the selling of the YorkTheatre building in 1978. Chapter Six brings up to date therest of VLTA’s history and discusses whether the VLTAsucceeded in its original mandates. It also considers whyVLTA remained amateur, while other little theatres in Canadaturned professional. The thesis will cover the internalworkings of VLTA as a company, and its position in theVancouver Theatre scene in comparison to other theatricalhappenings in the city.:iiiTABLE OF CONTENTSTitle Page iAbstract iiTable of Contents ivAcknowledgements vCHAPTER ONEIntroduction 1CHAPTER TWOThe Early Years: the 1920s 10CHAPTER THREEDepression and the War Years: 1930s and 1940s 35CHAPTER FOURAfter the War: 1940s and 1950s 56CHAPTER FIVEThe Coming of Professional Theatre: 1960s and 1970s.. 79CHAPTER SIXConclusion: VLTA after the York Theatre 102Notes 114Bibliography 123AppendicesAppendix A: VLTA Presidents 125Appendix B: List of Plays Produced by VLTA 127ivACKNOWLEDGEMENTSI would like to thank the following people for theirassistance, guidance and support:To Denis W. Johnston, an incredibly supportive thesisadvisor, who, thankfully, inspired me to pursue Canadiantheatre history.To the staff of the Vancouver City Archives, who wereconsistently helpful, not only with their time, but with theirsuggestions.To my family; Robert, Jean and Cathy Nesbitt, who wouldlisten to me whenever I wanted to talk, and that hasinvariably proved to be all the time.To all my students, who took on some extraresponsibilities this year to help me out.To Gay Scrivener, my mentor and my great friend.And finally, to my fiancé, Ted Holland, who has alwaysbeen there for me. Thank you with all my love.I dedicate this thesis to all of you.vHISTORY OF THE VANCOUVER LITTLE THEATRE ASSOCIATIONCHAPTER ONEIntroductionThe Vancouver Little Theatre Association (also known asthe VLTA), one of the earliest community theatre groups inCanada, was established in 1921 and still exists in some formto the present day. The VLTA was a leader in theatre inVancouver in its early years, frequently providing support forother community theatre groups. It also proved to be anexcellent training ground for actors who eventually moved onto theatre elsewhere, either in Vancouver or other centres.Some examples are: Dorothy Somerset, who developed the TheatreDepartment at the University of British Columbia; FletcherMarkie, a major figure in Canadian radio drama and later aHollywood director; Thor Arngrim and Stuart Baker, producersfor Totem Theatre, one of the earlier professional theatrecompanies in Vancouver; Norma MacMillan, Thor Arngrim’s wife,who achieved fame as a character voice for radio and animatedfilms, most notably as the voice of Casper the Friendly Ghost;Joy Coghill and Sydney Risk, who created Holiday and Everyman1Theatre respectively, early professional theatre companies inVancouver; Yvonne Firkins, founder of the very successful ArtsClub Theatre of Vancouver; Bruno Gerussi, one of Canada’s bestknown television actors because of his nineteen years of workon the internationally-broadcast Beachcombers series; BruceWard, who created the Act Four Theatrical Agency; and SharonPollock, a Canadian playwright now based in Calgary. The VLTAbecame a source from which a substantial amount of theatricalgrowth in Vancouver was begun.The VLTA’s history. is at times eventful and exciting, andat other times tedious in its sameness. Many of the sameproblems plagued the company from its inception through itsseventy-year history. Except for the very early years, lackof 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 mainlyvolunteer community theatre alive in Vancouver for a very longtime.Between 1886, when Vancouver was incorporated as a city,and 1921, when the VLTA commenced, a wide range of theatricalactivities entertained the community. The first theatre,Hart’s Opera House (1887), doubled as a roller skating rinkwhen not in use as a theatre space. Theatres erected over thenext thirty years served varying functions. Some, such as theVancouver Opera House built by the Canadian Pacific Railway2(next to the first Vancouver Hotel on the corner of Georgiaand Granville), were created for legitimate theatre. Others,such as the two Pantages and two Orpheum theatres built before1917, were for vaudeville. A third Orpheum theatre, opened in1927, is the only one of these theatres still in use today.1Professional theatre can be divided into three maincategories before the 1920s, when the VLTA was begun:vaudeville, stock companies and American/British touringcompanies. Vaudeville originated in the United States; andwhen the railway that linked Vancouver to the Northwest Stateswas finished in 1904, the city was added to the touringcircuits. According to Robert Todd, theatre historian,“Vancouver had required a rail link. . . [and] its effect on thetheatrical life was not only to facilitate travel for touringperformers, nearly all of whom came from the south, but alsomade Vancouver open to inclusion on the vaudeville circuitsthat were developing in the Seattle area.”2 Stock companiestoo originated from other centres, but then took up residencein Vancouver. (The theatre that the VLTA bought in 1923 wasat one time a stock company theatre.) Finally, British andAmerican touring companies frequently visited Vancouver, usingthe CPR Opera House as their “principal home”.3 Vancouveraudiences were receptive, both financially and artistically,to the theatrical attractions imported to the city.Todd believes that by the mid 1910s touring of legitimatetheatre was waning in Canada and elsewhere. “Hindsight shows3by that time [1913] theatrical touring in North America wasbeginning to decline, well before moving pictures had made animpact.”4 Nevertheless, touring did not die out completely.Companies kept coming to Vancouver until the Depression in1929, but seldom thereafter. At the same time, vaudeville wasgrowing in popularity: in 1912, the Vancouver Opera House wasconverted to a vaudeville house, and between 1908 and 1917 sixvaudeville houses were either erected or converted fromexisting theatre buildings.Little documentation exists on amateur theatre of thistime, with one notable exception. In 1915, six weeks after theopening of the University of British Columbia, a lecturernamed Frederic Wood began a student’s theatre group called thePlayers’ Club. This club was so successful that it was soontaking its own productions on tours throughout BritishColumbia.Another group that put on periodic amateur theatricalswas the Vagabond Club. No connection to the later VagabondPlayers of New Westminster, this organisation was made up ofbusinessmen and professional people who enjoyed the Arts, andused the club as a way to share their mutual enjoyment. Thissort of organisation was not uncommon in Canada at the time.Maria Tippett, in her analysis of the arts in Canada prior tothe Massey Commission, states that such groups gathered simplyfor enjoyment. “It was the doing, the discussing, and thesharing of one’s work that mattered to these society ladies,4businessmen and professionals.. .Achieving financial success ormeeting with public approval through their involvement withculture and the arts was not necessary for these well-heeledhobbyists.”5 The Vagabond Club, not specifically interestedin theatre, would put on only one play per year. Somemembers, however, were more interested in starting a separate,full—time amateur theatre group.Unlike the Vagabond Club and other clubs of its kind, thefounders of the VLTA realised that the kind of theatre companythey wanted could not exist without audiences, nor without areceptive, volunteer support group. Tippett goes on toanalyze this variety of organisation as well:most were aware that their activity entailed morethan self-fulfilment and the entertainment of theirfriends. They sensed that they should be reachingoutwards, trying to work towards some broader, moregeneral standard. They knew, certainly, thatsomething of this sort had to be done if the publicwere to be persuaded to buy tickets, paintings, orsubscriptions. They were aware as well that theirwork needed an appealing content to attract anaudience in the first place. And above all theyknew that the making of culture demanded dedication,enthusiasm, and a good deal of energy not only tocreate and perform, but also to attendrehearsals.. .Nor did these groups draw solely uponthe business, professional, and upper classes fortheir members. There was, to be sure, ‘the socialsatellite’ and ‘the dilettante who delights todabble in anything that smacks of the Bohemian.’But, as the American Drama critic Gertrude Lernercontinued, there was also ‘the more spirited amateurwho, after a day of work in factory or office,spends his evening in artistic pursuit.’6The founders of the VLTA recognised there was a niche inVancouver’s theatre scene needing to be filled. While manyforms of theatre flourished in Vancouver, they were5predominantly professional. And except for the Players’ Club,whose membership was restricted to university students, fewopportunities existed for participation of local amateurartists.The Little Theatre movement was strong in Europe by thistime, and had swept the United States. Leaders in thismovement included Europeans such as Gordon Craig, AdoipheAppia, and Max Reinhardt, and Americans such as Sam Hume. Theartistic ideals of such leaders inspired this group of peopleto create their own Little Theatre in Vancouver. As well, thefounders were dissatisfied with the type of theatre beingoffered in Vancouver. Popular theatre made up the majority ofproductions presented in the city at the time: such asvaudeville, melodrama, and magic lantern shows (thepredecessor to moving pictures). The founders recognised thedesire among theatre—goers to see, or become involved in,locally produced legitimate theatre. Although founded on highprinciples, the company later became more of a communitytheatre forced to bend to the demands of its members and tofinancial restrictions.Initially, the VLTA became very popular, probably becauseit had effectively filled a void in Vancouver’s theatricalscene. It might have remained so, had the Depression of the1930s not affected it so drastically. The Depression was animportant turning point for the Association: from then on, theVLTA never regained its previous stature, and frequently pined6for its early, glorious years.At certain times, the VLTA held an important rank in thedevelopment of theatre in Vancouver, especially during the1920s and the early 1950s. It never permanently remained onthe forefront of theatrical movements in the city, however, asdid other community groups such as the Winnipeg, London, orOttawa Little Theatres, or Hart House in Toronto. Thedifficulty it had maintaining its stature frustrated the VLTA,rendering it at times almost ineffectual.Why didn’t the VLTA turn professional? The answerprobably lies in a conflict between its roots as an arttheatre and its objectives as a community theatre. Ultimately,it remained an amateur, community organisation, in order toprovide a wide range of opportunities for people toparticipate in theatre. Although many people went on from theVLTA to professional careers, the Association itself remainedambivalent towards professionalism. And by the time regionaltheatres were being established elsewhere in Canada in thelate 1950s and early 1960s, the VLTA had been overshadowed bya proliferation of amateur and professional groups. Some otherlittle theatres in Canada eventually made successfultransitions to professional theatre companies, even regionaltheatre companies; for example, Winnipeg Little Theatredeveloped into The Manitoba Theatre Centre (MTC), and theLondon Little Theatre became Theatre London. These werecompanies which, unlike the VLTA, had maintained their7dominance in local theatre.When professional theatre was permanently established inVancouver in the 1960s and 1970s, the VLTA at first attemptedto compete on the same level. It seemed that the Associationwanted to fulfil its mandate of being an amateur group, whileat the same time command the attention and respect normallygiven to professional groups. It remained frustrated in theseambitions, which probably caused it irreparable damage. Asthe theatre scene had changed in Vancouver, so the VLTA hadneeded to change. When it tried for a number of years to notchange, it floundered almost to the point of extinction, untilthe mid-1980s. At that point, it was given new life by beinggiven a new direction, a new focus, and a new name; theVancouver Little Theatre Alliance. Now it is a non-producingcompany, in charge of a theatre space available for othercompanies.One thing remained constant throughout most of the VLTA’shistory: the York Theatre building. The York, located at thecorner of Commercial and Georgia Streets, was many things tothe VLTA for the fifty-five years of its ownership: a sourceof income, a drain on finances, a home, a burden, a free placeto perform, an expensive place to operate. So much of thehistory of the VLTA is ‘caught up in the building. It is as ifthe York was the reason the VLTA was around for so long, aswell as the reason it was always thwarted.This thesis covers the history of the VLTA from its8inception in the early 1920s, to the sale of the York Theatrein 1978. The thesis will examine the internal workings of theVLTA as a company, as well as its position in the Vancouvertheatre scene. As very little has been written on amateurtheatre in Vancouver, this is primarily a historical paper, abuilding block for other analyses of Western Canadian theatrehistory. So much Canadian theatre history has been writtenabout other centres in Canada, and yet so much of Vancouver’stheatrical history has been largely ignored. In recentresearch done on Heather McCallum’s exhaustive study onCanadian theatre resources for the Directory of CanadianTheatre Research, I discovered an abundance of primary sourceson British Columbia theatre history at the city and provincialarchives, and in personal collections. This is a new andexciting field, and should not be ignored by Canadianresearchers, particularly university graduate students. It isexciting to be on the crest of historical analysis like thisand to discover history that has not yet been documented. Theobject of this thesis, therefore, is to open another door ontothe history of British Columbia Theatre by documenting thehistory of the Vancouver Little Theatre Association.9CHAPTER TWOThe Early Years: 1920sThe concept of a little theatre organisation forVancouver started with two men, Sam Weliwood and C.A.(Charles) Ferguson. Ferguson, Weliwood and their wives livedin Wellwood’s house in Grandview, on the east side ofVancouver. According to the City Directory, Sam Weliwood wasa bookkeeper, Ferguson an artist. Both men participated inthe Vagabond Club, an informal organisation of professionalswho enjoyed the pursuit of the arts. (As mentionedpreviously, this had no connection to the later VagabondPlayers of New Westminster, which was started in 1937.) AsSheila Neville, later president of the VLTA explains; “TheVagabond Club of Vancouver was formed by a group ofbusinessmen who enjoyed poetry, novels and the Arts. They metevery Saturday evening in a restaurant at the corner ofSeymour and Dunsmuir.”7 Every year, the Vagabond Club wouldput on a performance of a play written by Club members.Frequently the plays would be performed at the Bursill’s Hallon Pender Street.8 Ferguson’s and Weliwood’s greatest10interest was theatre, particularly the little theatremovements that were sweeping Europe and invading NorthAmerica. Charles Ferguson reminisces:“The Little Theatre movement was then beginning totake hold and make some headway [in the world]. Samand I were interested and discussed the possibilityof such a thing in Vancouver. Reinhardt’s intimatetheatre, the designs of Urban, Jones, Lee Simonsonand the Russian Theatre all interested us and gaveus ideas”.9Eugene Benson and L.W. Conolly, in English CanadianTheatre, agree that international influences were important tothe evolution of the little theatre movement in Canada. “Theinspiration for the development of a genuinely CanadianTheatre came from the art theatres of Europe.. .Eschewingcommercial ideology and expectations, the Little Theatremovement dedicated itself to innovation and experiment indramatic production” •b0Weliwood and Ferguson were interested in creating anamateur little theatre similar to those in Europe and theUnited States. They reacted to the theatre offered them inVancouver: no variation or participation. The Little Theatremovement, with its new outlook, gave them inspiration to trytheir own ideas. Their greatest interests lay in thedirection of innovation and experimentation, particularly indesign. They studied the work of Gordon Craig and AdoipheAppia. Ferguson focused his attention on sets and Weliwood onlighting. Another influence for Ferguson was Sam Hume, adirector of Drama at the University of California at11Berkeley.1’ Hume had created a versatile set design when hehad been with the Detroit Arts and Crafts Theatre. SheldonCheney, an analyst of the art theatre, highly praised Hume’sdesign.Before describing Hume’s setting in detail, I wishto record my admiration for the impressive resultshe obtained. . . The point to be remembered, if one isinterested in little theatre and art theatreeconomics, is this: while gaining superior resultsartistically, Hume spent for eleven settings notmore than the cost of two average settings in othertheatres. . .The permanent setting included thefollowing units: four pylons, constructed of canvason wooden frames, each of the three covered facesmeasuring two and one-half by eighteen feet; twocanvas flats, each three by eighteen feet; twosections of stairs three feet long, and one sectioneight feet long, of uniform eighteen inch height;three platforms of the same height, respectivelysix, eight, and twelve feet long; dark greenhangings as long as the pylons; two folding screensfor masking, covered with the same cloth as thatused in the hangings, and as high as the pylons; andtwo irregular tree-forms in silhouette. An arch anda large window piece were added later. The pylons,flats, stairs, arch and window were painted inbroken colour, after the system introduced by JosephUrban, so that the surfaces would take on anydesired color under the proper lighting.12The versatility and inexpensiveness of the design suited thebudget of the founders of the VLTA.Ferguson remembers that in the summer of 1921, the twomen built a scale-model set based on Hume’s design. Theyexperimented with it, changing the pieces around in order tocreate sets for the numerous plays they had read. Weliwoodlit the model. It suited the budget for a little theatre, andwas very adaptable and reusable. Adaptability was importantto them, because the prospect of creating a theatre company12with no existing revenue meant that frugality was vital.Although Ferguson and Weliwood came from the Vagabond Club (asdid numerous other founding members), the Club did not sponsorthe VLTA. As Ferguson explains, “It simply happened that mostof our friends who had like interests were members of theClub. U13As Ferguson and Wellwood became more confident andenthusiastic about their set design and the idea of such atheatre company, they discussed the idea with other like-minded people. They held an exhibition of the set, completewith lighting, at the Wellwood home. According to a briefhistory of the Association written in 1933, the people whocame to the earliest meeting at the Weliwood home became thefounders. 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. Accordingto Simrnonds, everyone was enthusiastic at the first meeting.The core group wanted to share the idea with the peopleof Vancouver, so they arranged to have a public meeting. SamWellwood, acting as secretary, began writing letters to peoplehe thought would be interested. As well, there was aparagraph inserted in the Daily Province newspaper, announcingto the public the upcoming meeting.The meeting was held in the summer of 1921, at the Boardof Trade building, corner of Pender and Homer Street. Theprecise number of people who attended is not known. Ferguson13remembered the names of at least seventeen people who came tothe meeting, but knew there were others as well.14 It wasagreed at this meeting that, because enough support wasdemonstrated, the founders should go ahead.At the next meeting later that summer, officers werechosen, as follows:President R.L. Reid, K.C.Vice President E.V. YoungSecretary S. WellwoodTreasurer E.W. LampreyDirectors H.H. Beeman and H.B. ColemanScenic Director C.A. FergusonLighting Director S.R. CoombesProperties and Costumes G.B.D. Phillips and Mrs. A.H.DouglasMusic Director Mrs. A.E. DelongR.L. Reid, King’s Council, was a friend of Wellwood andFerguson through the Vagabond Club. The latter two asked forReid’s assistance in the Association because, as Fergusonexplained in a letter to Reid, “We knew of your interest inliterature and thought not only that you could handle ameeting but that you had understanding of the problems wewould have to meet.”15 E.V. Young, Vice-President, not at thefirst meeting held at the Board of Trade, became involvedthrough Mr. Beeman. Beeman had seen Young at the ImperialTheatre on Main Street, in B.C. Hilliam’s “Follies”, and hadinvited Young to participate in the Association. B.C. Hilliamwas a North Vancouver actor, who wrote and produced localmusical revues.At the preliminary meetings, the founders drew up a listof objectives for the theatre company. For many years after,14this list was reprinted in the programme for each productionof the Association:The object of VLTA is:(1) To promote the study of Drama(2) To produce high class plays by British andforeign dramatists, not ordinarily givenby travelling companies.(3) To encourage, and provide facilities forthe production of plays by Canadiandramatists.(4) To develop the arts of costume and scenicdesign, and stage lighting.16Meanwhile, two immediate concerns arose for the newAssociation: finances, and a performance space. TheAssociation agreed to raise funds by having a paid annualmembership, a practise common in other community theatres.With nothing to offer but enthusiasm, the VLTA asked thepublic to buy subscriptions in advance, promising on goodfaith to have a season of productions.In order to increase awareness and generate potentialfunds for the new local theatre, Sam Wellwood wrote an articlefor the Daily Province describing the Little Theatre movement.By outlining the impact of other such theatres elsewhere inthe world, Weliwood wanted to convince Vancouverites of theimportance of a similar organisation in their own city,perhaps in part trying to appeal to their desire forcosmopolitanism. Wellwood referred to many of the peopleinvolved internationally in the little theatre, such as Appia,Craig and Reinhardt. His attack on the “two-dimensional”theatre of melodrama pointed specifically to stage settingsand lighting designs - Wellwood’s own main interest:15(Community theatres) were inspired by a reactionagainst both an effete romanticism in drama and whatwas regarded as an outworn convention in scenicrepresentation, namely, the use of painted ‘drops’or backgrounds in perspective. . .Towards the close ofthe nineteenth century the ideal of stage lightingin our commercial theatres was the total eliminationof shadows, a thing that does not occur in nature,and the play was so over-burdened with painted flatperspectives with impossible shadows depictedthereon, that the actor himself stood in danaer ofbeing regarded as a piece of painted canvas.’1He wrote of the successful little theatres of Europe, some ofwhich started as amateur companies and later becameprofessional. But his focus in the article was to point outthe importance of the little theatre as an amateurinstitution. He must have recognised that the city ofVancouver would find it difficult to support a professionalcompany of the likes of the Moscow Art Theatre or the IrishNational Theatre in Dublin. He also tried to emphasise thedemocratic nature of community theatre, describing it as thetheatre for everyone:A noteworthy feature of the little theatre movementis its democratic character and its discouragementof the star system. It is not an affair of oneclass. It finds room among its workers not only foramateur actors and actresses of ability, but alsothose whose talents are humbler perhaps, but no lessnecessary to the perfect ensemble, such ascarpenters, scene painters, musicians, seamstresses,ushers, businessmen and so on, each in his separatesphere doing the thing he can for the good of thingsas they should be. By this means the drama is madeonce more, as in Shakespeare’s day, a living forcein the community, reflecting the significance andbeauty of life, which still underlies our drabconventions and voicing also the social tendenciesof the time, the dreams and theories which maybecome the actualities of tomorrow.18In this article, Weliwood introduced the little theatre16movement as it transpired in the rest of the world, and tointroduce the Vancouver Little Theatre to its futureaudiences. He also wanted to get people interested in theAssociation so they would join, in order to generate neededrevenue.Personal contact proved to be another way of gainingmembers. Ferguson and Weliwood approached Professor FredericWood of the UBC Players’ Club, who eventually directed thefirst one-act of the VLTA’s first production. Wood, in turn,brought to the Association Dorothy Somerset, a very importantearly contributor not only to the Vancouver Little Theatre,but to Vancouver theatre as a whole.Finding a theatre space remained a problem. They hadlittle choice, and little money to spend on rent. Theydiscussed using a converted store, and Ferguson began todesign generic set pieces that would fit into such a space.Then, one day in early fall 1921, Charles Ferguson walked byTempleton Hall, on the corner of Pender Street and TempletonDrive.The door was open and I just walked in. It was aready made little theatre with [a] stage. I toldWellwood about it and we saw it together. Iremember his delight when he found that the lightingsystem was equipped with a dimmer. He rubbed hishands together, ran his eyes over the overheadlights and began to plan what he would do.19Templeton Hall’s location was its biggest downfall andgreatest concern to the committee organised to find a theatrespace. It was a long distance from downtown Vancouver17(Templeton Drive is two blocks west of Nanaimo Street). As noother acceptable options surfaced, the founders decided to tryit.That began, as Ferguson recalled, many “hectic” weeks ofpreparation for the scheduled opening on November 3, 1921.“Readings”, or auditions, were held at the Board of Trade forthe three one-act plays of the first production. Reticenceseemed to be the order of the day for these auditions.According to VLTA member D.A. MacGregor, “there was quite acrowd present, but at first all sat back like school childrenafraid to do anything.”2° Once the plays were cast,rehearsals were held downtown, at the Board of Trade, or atthe Hall.Most technical work was done at Templeton Hall. Fergusonhired two carpenters to help him make flats and set pieces.Wellwood and his assistant worked on lights and made framesfor gels, and Ferguson designed an appliqué for the frontcurtain. They all worked in the gallery, a back room and thestage. MacGregor complained that most of the workers werenever allowed to use the stage as “Weliwood was alwaystinkering there with his lights and his gelatin sheets and hewould chase us off”.21 Jas Leyland, a VLTA member, rememberedthe early days as a “hive of activity”:Night after night these workers came, working hardto get everything ready for the opening night...Infact we had sometimes too many and it was not easyto find work for all however eager they might be.Most members did something and there was anunderstood rule in those days that all members not18engaged in a play should assist in any way theyfound congenial and useful. They were busy times,but each one worked with a will at whatever he orshe were best qualified for.22A fond reminiscence for the members was the mealsprepared by Mrs. Weliwood and Mrs. Ferguson. D.A. MacGregorrecalled: “A feature of these work nights was the little lunchprovided by the ladies and which we ate from dirty hands andin our working clothes.”23 And Leyland agreed: “One of thefeatures of these work nights was the suppers in the upstairsroom 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’...”24Three one-act plays were chosen for the first production:Lonesomelike by Harold Brighouse, directed by Professor Wood;The Intruder by Maurice Maeterlinck, directed by GarfieldKing; and The Stepmother by Arnold Bennett, directed by G.H.Warde. (Appendix B contains a calendar of VLTA productions,1921-78, including dates, plays performed, authors anddirectors.)One mishap arose just before opening night. It wasdiscovered at the dress rehearsal for The Intruder that thelights not only shone through the windows of the set, theyalso shone through the walls. The members in charge of flatslaid them onto the floor of the auditorium area, and NoelRobinson began painting them. According to Ferguson, “He[Robinson] splashed vigorously and put as much on the floorand himself as he put on the flats. We then had the double19job of cleaning the floor.”25 This displeased the proprietorof Templeton Hall, as he used the space for dances and he wasconcerned his floor had been ruined.The first production went ahead with the final touches ofpaint being put on the flats as the curtain went up. The VLTAPresident, Mr. Reid, gave an opening speech before the firstperformance, explaining the Little Theatre’s objectives, andexpressing a hope that eventually the theatre company would besuccessful in becoming the city’s community theatre.The reviews by members and the local paper were mostlypositive for the first production. The Daily Provincedescribed the play’s reception as “enthusiastic”. (There wasno review in the Vancouver Sun.) Special mentions went to TheIntruder and to Charles Ferguson’s set design. The DailyProvince’s review concluded:In spite of the fact that is was the first attemptof its kind in .the city, and that it marked thefirst public appearance of many of the actors, theperformance went off very creditablr and withthoroughly professional regularity. 6The members were satisfied as well, as indicated inreminiscences. Praise was specifically offered to Mrs. LukinJohnstone, who played the granddaughter in The Intruder.Accolades came from other cast members, technical people andthe reviewer in the Daily Province. (Mrs Johnstone’s husbandobviously had great faith as well in her abilities, and in thetheatre company - he was the first to buy a subscriptionmembership for the season.) Leyland remembers that the VLTA20members considered the main weakness of Lonesomelike to be thecast’s poor Lancashire accents.27 The actors inStepmother were extremely nervous, noticeably enough todisrupt the performance. Nevertheless, the consensus was thatthe performances had been successful enough to go ahead with asecond production.Many potential subscribers were much more interested injoining the Association now that it had succeeded in its debutproduction. This led to a certain amount of initialdisorganisation. Many new members wanted roles in the plays,but not enough parts could be made available. The VLTAresorted to establishing memberships of different standings.There were ‘Members’, restricted to 200 spaces only, and thesewere the only people allowed to vote in the Association. Theyhad to participate, either by doing technical work, acting,costume, refreshments or box office. The second level was the‘Associates’. They could participate as well, but had novote. If a vacant space became available at the Memberslevel, it would be filled by someone recommended from theAssociate status, on the basis of the amount of assistance heor she had given in the past season. The final level ofmembership was ‘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 eachproduction plus $.50 entertainment tax for the full season.The general public (i.e. non—members) could purchase tickets21for each performance for $1.00. The price stayed constantformany years (sometimes without the entertainment tax).The VLTA’s second production was scheduled for December15—17, 1921. The one—act plays chosen were Suppressed Desiresby Susan Glaspell and George Cram Cook, directed by GarfieldA. King and David Bridal; The Land of Heart’s Desire by W.B.Yeats, directed by Herbert Beeman; and The Lost Silk Hat byLord Dunsany, directed by A.E. Craddock. Dorothy Somersetmade her first appearance in a VLTA production in SuppressedDesires.The process of production began once again. New costumesand sets needed to be built or found. According to theprogrammes of the plays, many businesses were generous intheir loans, especially furniture stores. The same companieswere still lending furniture to the Association more thantwelve years later, as the stores were still beingacknowledged for furniture and set pieces.This time, the performances received notices in bothlocal papers. The Vancouver Sun described the plays as“excellent in every respect”.28 The Daily Province felt thetheatre was “making progress”, and that the musical entr’actesbetween the plays were so good they would be well worth thecost of admission on their own.29The season continued with three more productions in theNew Year, on February 16-18, April 20-22 and May 25-27, 1922.Each production consisted of three one-act plays for three22nights each. For the third production, the McIntyreQuartette, a family musical group, joined VLTA asentertainment for the interludes between the one-act plays.This Quartette continued to perform at VLTA productions formany years.In May 1922, the Treasurer informed the members that theyhad ended their first year with a surprising surplus of$15O.OO.° The members enthusiastically decided to forgeahead with a second season. For 1922-23, the VLTA continuedto put on one-act plays. This format was used for the firstfour productions. The reviews in the Daily Province rangedfrom generally positive to strongly enthusiastic. During thisseason, the VLTA put on a production of Matches by localauthor Isabel Ecciestone MacKay. This fulfilled one of thecompany’s original mandates to support locally written works.The play, positively reviewed in the Daily Province, wasdescribed as “amusing and healthy”.31The VLTA started to attract attention from other centres.Roy Mitchell from Hart House Theatre in Toronto and GilmoreBrown of the Pasadena Players of California both came to viewthe Little Theatre in action. According to Jas Leyland, RoyMitchell’s visit was not a positive experience. Mitchell wasasked to assist in directing the upcoming Boccaccio’s UntoldTale. The request turned out to be a mistake; as Leyland putit, it was “a case of ‘too many cooks’”.32 One reviewer saidof the production that one particular actor was so poorly23directed he gave the most important speech of the play withhis back to the audience.33 Gilmore Brown’s visit, on theother hand, was much more beneficial. Brown and the people ofthe Vancouver Little Theatre used their time constructively tocompare notes on their respective community theatres.34As a final production of the season, the Associationdecided to do a full-length play instead of another evening ofone-acts. The play chosen was J.M Barrie’s Dear Brutus, whichopened in May 1923. The Daily Province described theproduction as “an artistic triumph”.It is not too much to say that the association inthis, its final and most ambitious effort of theseason, reached a standard of excellence - at timesapproaching a professional status - which will placethe Little Theatre movement on a permanent footingin Vancouver. If there were those last night whowent to Templeton Hall prepared to make charitableallowance for a crude amateur production, they musthave been agreeably disillusioned, for, despitehandicaps, the comedy was staged with subtleartistry.The show was held over, running for a total of sixperformances. Dear Brutus proved that the Association hadbeen accepted by Vancouverites.The second season did have crises as well. Halfwaythrough the season, the proprietors of Templeton Hall notifiedthe Association that it could no longer use the theatre.After some discussion, the Association was able to convincethe proprietors to let them stay at least until the end of thecurrent season. At the end of the season the theatre companyhad to leave.24Templeton Hall had never been an ideal theatre spaceanyway. It had been convenient in that it had been availableand it required no renovation to be used as a theatre. Theseating area of Templeton Hall was level, causing poor sightlines. The heating in the hail was so inadequate that patronsroutinely brought blankets to the theatre. The dressing roomswere tiny, as E.V. Young later explained:The ladies dressing room was a glorified cupboard inone corner of the stage, and the mens’ dressing roomwas above it - a sort of boarded in shelf reached bya ladder. When the stage was in darkness, this tripdown the ladder always reminded me of the ‘facilisest’ quotation so beloved of my Latin master.36Even so, the Hall was the only option the Vancouver LittleTheatre had had up to this point. But when the second seasonended, it was time to look for a new home. The theatrecompany’s goal was to find something closer to downtownVancouver. At first the VLTA considered constructing a newtheatre, until estimates showed it would cost nearly $40,000.The Association decided to look for an existing theatre. TheAlcazar Theatre on Commercial Drive was mentioned to thecommittee organised to search for a new theatre.The Aicazar Theatre had originally been built in 1913 asa recital hail. The architect, John McCarter, also designedthe Kitsilano Theatre (now the Russian Community Centre onFourth Avenue near Arbutus Street), the Georgia Medical Dentalbuilding, and the Seaforth Armories.37 According to anarticle written in 1986, the building was commissioned byRobert J. McLaren, for Mrs. John Van Harlingen, a music25teacher.Developer MacLaren is said to have footed the moneyfor the Alcazar, out of his love for Mrs. V.H.[sic]. She wanted her own place; a recital hallwhere she could teach, and perform her own concerts.Her husband, reputedly a wealthy lumberman, may nothave seen the need for this extravagance.38According to Ron Wright, the present manager of the building,she stiffed”, meaning that she was poorly received, andwithin six months the theatre was dark. Wright says, “Shestill inhabits the theatre, in guilt because she wants to beclose to the place. Afterwards, the theatre was home tothe short-lived Alcazar Stock Company until 1915, and then itwas not used on a permanent basis until the Vancouver LittleTheatre bought it eight years later. The Alcazar was notconsidered a good choice for the Vancouver Little Theatre formany of the same reasons Templeton Hall was unsuitable. Itwas too far outside of the downtown area. It needed newseating, lighting, and painting, and the heating wasinadequate. The positive aspects of the Alcazar were theacoustics and the price of the building. The committee wentto visit other theatre spaces, but the found them even lesssuitable than the Alcazar. In the end, the committeesubmitted to the members that the Alcazar Theatre was the bestchoice. The Association bought the theatre for $4250.00, andrenamed it the Little Theatre.The projected estimate for repairs on the theatre stoodat over $10,000. As a money making venture, the members wereoffered the option of buying bonds with issue-bearing interest26at 6%. This meant that the members could invest money in theAssociation in the form of bonds, and would be paid 6%interest on their capital investment. When the bonds camedue, the members could either collect the money, or re-investin the Association. The members responded, and the theatresold enough bonds to begin renovating. The building waspainted, but the seats could not be replaced by the beginningof the season. An apology in an early programme asked thepatrons to be patient until new seats could be found.On November 7, 1923, the Vancouver Little Theatre openedits third season, in its own theatre space. The seasonstarted with a three-act play, The Dover Road by A.A. Mime,directed by E.V. Young. The new theatre space was opened byMr. Bransby Williams, a well-known American actor visitingVancouver. A lengthy article describing the eveningaccompanied the review of the play in the next day’s DailyProvince:At the close of the overture, Mr. W.G. Murrin,president of the association, stepped before thecurtain and gave a brief history of the acquisitionof the theatre building and said that, as it nowstood, it represented the security to the debentureholders for their bonds. There was no other claimnor mortgage against it. After reading telegramsconveying the best wishes of Hon. Walter C. Nichol[Lieutenant-Governor, and patron of VLTA] and Mr.Vincent Massey the president introduced Mr. BransbyWilliams, the veteran exponent of Dickenscharacters, who had been asked to open the theatre.Mr. Williams said that he was proud to have theopportunity to open a theatre whose members heldbefore them such high ideals for the drama. Itespecially appealed to him on a night when Vancouverwas wrapped in what he had always supposed to beLondon’s particular brand of fog. With a few27felicitous phrases and a reminiscent reference toother days he then declared the theatre open.4°The reviewer, J. Butterfield, also made the point that theopening of a community theatre in its own theatre space was atriumph not only for the Association but also for the peopleof Vancouver; for without the support of the community, thetheatre would not exist.Beyond any of the founders’ expectations, theAssociation’s first decade was a great success. Membershipgrew: by 1926 the total membership topped 1000, and by the endof the decade it exceeded 1500, in a city of 200,000. Thetheatre company was so important that the VLTA was able torearrange the B.C. Electric schedules to make sure there wouldbe trolley cars available for the patrons leaving the theatreat the end of the evening. It became well-known across thecountry, and was called the “famous Little Theatre” by othertheatre companies as far away as Quebec.41Demands by members soon outgrew the original objectivesof the Association. One of the greatest problems facing theAssociation was the call for roles in plays. The Associationbegan to have problems deciding what its mandates should be.Should the Association exist as an art theatre, created toexperiment, for the benefit of the few; or as a communitytheatre, to entertain, for the enjoyment of many? Shouldfinancial considerations outweigh artistic decisions?The Association quickly realised that three-act plays hadmore audience appeal than one—acts. For a time, the28Association tried to do both, alternating between the three-act plays to please the audiences, and the evenings of one-acts, to fulfil its mandate as a company prepared toexperiment. VLTA found itself in a dilemma; it was trying toremain experimental - as it had originally set out to do - andit was trying to please its enthusiastic audience by puttingon plays that would be box-office successes. The one-actplays were ideal for the inexperienced talent, as short playswere not so taxing for an actor or director. The audiences,on the other hand, wanted to see polished performances ofwell-directed full length plays. As well, the three act playswere more financially successful at the box office than theone-acts.VLTA chose financial considerations over artistic anddevelopmental, and made the decision to change its main seasonto full-length plays. This was the first step the VLTA madeaway from its original inspiration of the art theatres inEurope. It was moving towards a new objective: to be acommunity theatre for a growing city, aimed at pleasing theaudiences rather than being at the forefront of theatreinnovation. The resolution to focus on full-evening playssolved one problem, but created others. Now there were feweropportunities for inexperienced actors to gain practicalknowledge without taking on the responsibility of a three-actplay. As well, there was less room for experimentation.The solution came in the form of studio productions,29known 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. Theywere made up of one-act plays, some locally written, and werefor members—only audiences, not the general public. Theseevenings filled a need in the organisation by providing atesting ground for new talent. All new actors and directorshad to be involved in a Private Performance before granted theopportunity to work on a mainstage production. It also letthe Association continue to live up to its mandate ofencouraging new Canadian plays, and try new innovations instaging, lighting or acting without the burden of potentialfinancial failure. Private Performances permitted the companyto become more mainstream and be an experimental theatre aswell.Studio productions such as the Private Performances atthe VLTA proved to be a popular solution to this same problemin other little theatres. The UBC Players’ Club was similarlystructured, and Sheldon Cheney states that many art theatresdid the same.The Wisconsin Players and other little theatregroups have their workshop stages, whereon memberstry out their plays before carrying them out tolarger audiences. The Moscow Art Theatre has its“studio” for the training of young actors and thetry-out of young ideas. The Theatre Guild hasarranged quarters in its new building for a school,and already has its “junior” group of workers. Italso has followed the system of giving each seasontwo or more special performances for its subscribingmembers of a play considered too “advanced” for itslarger public.4230In the organisation, women outnumbered men approximatelyseven 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 issueamong the members even without the gender-balance problem. Inthe 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 themembers. Three of the five on the committee would come fromthe Association ranks and oiily two from the Board. Playchoice was difficult from other points of view as well. Inthe 1926-27 season, when the Association was rehearsing itssecond production, the three subsequent plays already chosenfor the season had to be abandoned and new plays found becauseof scheduling difficulties and royalty conflicts. This causedstrain among members. The Association decided it wasimportant to start selecting plays early, even before theprevious season had come to an end.In 1925, VLTA began the Vancouver Little TheatreNewsletter. These newsletters included lists of upcomingevents, reviews of VLTA and other plays, stories, letters frommembers and international news of other community theatrecompanies. The newsletter was published by Murphy andChapman, a local printing company, at no cost to members. Therevenue came from the advertisements.The mood throughout the early newsletters was dissonant.31Members complained about practically everything to do with theAssociation: directing, acting, the executive, the playsselected, and quality of performance. One important argumentdiscussed at length in the newsletter was the decision to runthe theatre company with no paid artist-director. Somemembers felt it was extremely important to have a paiddirector, in order to keep the quality of the productions at aconsistently high level. The executive would discuss thispossibility, and always return to the decision that thetheatre company could not afford to pay a director. Thiswould not always satisfy the members, and the complaints wouldcontinue. The company remained without a paid director,nevertheless. By 1928 the general mood of the letters to theeditor improved - either because the members were moresatisfied with the Association, or there was a tightereditorial rein on the newsletter itself.Another theme discernible in the newsletter is that ofthe Association’s condescension towards other communitytheatres. There were always positive, if somewhatdisparaging, comments and best wishes offered to any newcommunity endeavour. As well, many innovations to theAssociation were announced in the newsletter. One was thecreation of a Play Reading Group in 1926. Originally startedas a venue for discussion of plays, this group soon turned toplay readings, in response to pressure from the members. Itgave performers and listeners alike opportunities to widen32their repertoire.Another innovation to the Association was the beginningof the Junior Group in 1929. This group of young peoplelearned about drama and performed in their own productions.This branched off to drama workshops and classes for theadults as well, a venture that proved to be extremelysuccessful. The original performing Junior Group did notventure as well. After a few years it merged with the adultdrama classes.The original impetus for the creation of the Associationwas a desire to bring a certain kind of theatre to Vancouver.The founders were interested in innovation andexperimentation; they did not want to put on superficialplays. 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. Subscriberslooked upon experimentation as something imposed by the selectfew of the executive. Therefore, to keep the majority happy,the theatre company had to place innovation where it was notintrusive. The most visible part of the theatre company, themainstage performances, became more mainstream. The demandsof the members also meant the Association had to diversify tosatisfy its immense following. Some of these diversificationsthrived, while others quickly faded or had to adapt to stayalive. It took the force of a Depression to slow the growth33of the company. At the same time, however, an importantinnovation was to bring new energy to the VLTA: the DominionDrama Festival.34CHAPTER THREEDepression and War Years: 1930s and 1940sThe gloriously successful early days of the Associationwere being replaced with difficult times. The early 1930swere frustrating for the Little Theatre, because of theDepression. Financially, the VLTA’s situation was notimproving. The theatre building, which had once been anasset, now seemed to be a liability. The theatre company thathad become overgrown and well-padded because of prosperousearly years was struggling in a time when even streamlinedorganisations were suffering.The Depression had a profound effect on the VLTA at theend of the 1920s. Membership dropped from over 1400 to 500 inthree years (1929-32). The company worried about funding themainstage productions and other activities. Pleas were madein the Newsletter, asking lapsed members to re-join. This onewas written by H.H. Simnionds, the secretary, in December of1932;The VLTA has managed to struggle through threedifficult seasons of hard times, but if some greateffort is not made to either increase revenue,reduce expenses, or do both, it will be very35difficult to make a successful finish to the presentseason. . .While this position is serious, it is by nomeans hopeless, but I do wish that the ex-members,and other friends, would realise this season’simportance and make an effort to take out amembership to help the good work along.43How could the VLTA be so affected by the Depression? Allorganisations were beleaguered by the tough economic times,and an Association based on volunteer work for the primarypurpose of entertainment was prime to succumb. Some membersfound the five-dollar membership fee difficult to pay, at atime of great economic stagnation. The problem also lay inthe success the theatre company had achieved the previousdecade. With few setbacks during the l920s, the Associationhad quickly flourished, well beyond expectations. There hadnever been difficult years of early troubled financial timesduring which the company could learn to curb excessive growth.Because of this, the company had become overextended.When the Depression came, the VLTA was completelyunprepared, and not ready to suddenly change tactics. ManyCanadian Little Theatres had begun near the end of the l920s,and had not appreciated the number of prosperous years theVLTA had enjoyed. The other theatre companies had thereforestarted streamlined and remained that way. Vancouver-LittleTheatre did not conform quickly enough to avoid being lashedby the Depression. Its early success amplified its downfall -the VLTA always compared its lean years to the good years, anddid not try to find satisfaction in its later situation.Anger is evident in general correspondence: anger at36subscribers who were not returning to the Association. Thecontagious optimism of the early 1920s was replaced by deepdisappointment and cynicism, feeding the growingdissatisfaction among subscribers and active members alike.Many responsibilities became difficult to execute,because the finances were not there to fulfil them. A greatnumber of the notices, newsletters and minutes for meetingsreveal an undercurrent of despair of the possible loss of thetheatre company as a whole. What should the members do? Noone attempted to find outside financial help, perhaps becauseno one really anticipated the Depression, and possibly from asense of pride: the company did not want to admit defeat.Another history of the company written by an unidentifiedmember explains the situation:As with so many other organisations the depressionhit the Little Theatre so quickly, or the directorshoped that it was only temporary, that they did notshorten sail soon enough to meet the storm.. . Thepublic seat sales fell off sharply and had a seriouseffect on the financial situation. . .by the middle of1931 old man depression seemed to have a strongholdon society, and VLTA, like most other organisations,was suffering from despondency or nerves, and theeleventh [season] proved to be the most erraticseason in the association’s career [to date].44The instability of that year was exemplified by the shiftingof the Board of Directors for the 1931-32 season:At the annual meeting J.P.D. Malkin was electedPresident during his absence from Vancouver, and onhis return was unable to accept the honour, so E.V.Young, who had been elected Vice-President, was madepresident and Percy Gomery was appointed VicePresident. A.J. Greathed was elected Secretary, butlater resigned, to be succeeded by G. Roy Kievill.G.F. Scott was elected Treasurer, soon to resign,37but on J. Barraclough, who had been appointed in hisstead, leaving town Mr. Scott again took over theduties. 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, butafter the resignation of Mr. King, Mr. Greathed, andMr. Barraclough, G. Hayward, Mrs. E.A. Woodward andH.H. Simmonds were appointed to fill thevacancies .‘The people’s shifting interests in the company likelyreflected their struggle to find and keep gainful employment.The 1931—32 season was important because of the growingpossibility of a national theatre festival. The Dominion DramaFestival (DDF), sponsored by the Governor-General LordBessborough, intrigued the Vancouver Little Theatre, and ithelped to inject fresh energy into the VLTA and theatre inCanada in general. In the fall of 1932, Governor—General LordBessborough made a tour of Western Canada. Although not atour concerned particularly with Canadian culture, Bessboroughtook time to speak with people involved in community theatresin the western provinces. He went to the Vancouver LittleTheatre to watch a performance on September 8, 1932. For theoccasion, the Association remounted Outward Bound. At the endof the evening, Lord Bessborough went on stage to speak to theaudience.Lord Bessborough was so enthused with the productionthat he kindly consented to address the audiencefrom the stage. Then he emphasised the importanceof the little theatre movement in Canada, and urgedall members of the community to support the littletheatre in its worthy effort to ‘keep the flagflying for legitimate drama in Canada’. HisExcellency said that he was using his personalinfluence in bringing together all little theatresin Canada into a National Organisation with an38annual Drama Festival.46When Bessborough returned to Ottawa, he made good on his“personal influence”. He and Vincent Massey, whom Bessboroughhad made Chairman of the Dominion Drama Festival (DDF) andCol. Henry Osborne, who was Honorary Director, made plans forthis national event. The first step toward the festival wasthe renowned meeting of October 29, 1932, held by Bessboroughat Rideau Hall in Ottawa, at which he presented the idea torepresentatives of community theatres of Canada. PercyGomery, President of the Vancouver Little Theatre Associationand representing the largest amateur theatre group inVancouver, was invited to the meeting. The concept of the DDFwas well accepted by those who attended.Bessborough and Massey created a format for the Festival.The first phase would be provincial eliminations, and then afinal competition held in Ottawa. Each province needed arepresentative to take care of organising the provincialelimination round. Henry Osborne gave the responsibility ofBritish Columbia to Percy Gomery, as he had been present atthe meeting in Ottawa. This was much to the chagrin of MajorL. Bullock-Webster, president of the British Columbia DramaAssociation based in Victoria. Bullock-Webster had met withLord Bessborough on the latter’s tour of Western Canada, andBessborough told Bullock-Webster he would be a good choice asProvincial Representative. Bessborough sent a note back toVincent Massey in Ontario, proposing this. The note39unfortunately never made it to Osborne, the one responsiblefor choosing representatives. Ignorant of what had passedbetween Bullock-Webster and Bessborough, Osborne asked Gomeryto head up the province’s responsibilities. This led to manydifficulties and embarrassments, mostly on the part of the DDForganisers, but eventually all was resolved. The problem waspartly solved by letting Bullock-Webster have a VancouverIsland elimination round before coming to the final provincialelimination in Vancouver.The Vancouver Little Theatre had its own eliminationsbefore the British Columbia Regional Finals, in the form oftwo Private Performances, held on March 16 and 17, 1933. Theadjudicator was Mrs. Jessica Foote from New York. FredericWood recommended her as an adjudicator. The first evening’sperformance was Lonesomelike, directed by Mrs. J.G. Gibson,and Campbell of Kilmhor directed by C.J. Lennox. The secondevening consisted of Boccaccio’s Untold Tale, Back toMethuselah and Helena’s Husband, directed by G.F. Scott,Dorothy Somerset and Mildred Battle, respectively.According to the practice in British drama festivals, theadjudication adhered to a rigid formula. The performanceswere judged under three main headings - acting, production andstage presentation. Under acting, marks were given forcharacterisation, audibility of speech, tone and emphasis, andgesture and movement. Production qualities marked wereinterpretation, team—work, pace and sense of climax. Stage40presentation dealt with scenery, properties, lighting andmakeup. 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 ofKilmhor placed third with 80%, Boccaccio’s Untold Tale secondwith 85%, and Back to Methuselah placed first with 87%.Jessica Foote’s comments for this last play were full ofpraise. She made mention of the difficulties of the part ofthe Serpent, but said it was done “intelligently”.47 Thecostume itself was difficult to create - and not easy to wear![The] snake costume was quite a challenge - Bea [Wood]bought a set of men’s long underwear, made a cap in theshape of a ski helmet and attached it to the neck. Thiswas all painted in diamond pattern, bronze-greenish etc.Yards of sacking were bought, sewn circular, [and]stuffed with excelsior and painted. Every night ofproduction, Bea would proceed to the stage beforecurtain, get into position (legs thrust into the sackingsnake tail - 39 ft long) and be sewn into position! Thetail was draped over and around the stylised tree. Thestage manager was always most worried about fire - withBea sewn in, there was no way she could help herself ifany emergency arose. Green and purplish light and facemakeup were used [as well].48Back to Methuselah then went to the Lower Mainlandeliminations, where it also placed first. It continued on tothe B.C. Regionals, where it was selected to represent theprovince for the Dominion Drama Festival finals in Ottawa,April 24-29, 1933. The cast had performed the play threetimes in eight days for three separate competitions, and hadwon every time. (Boccaccio’s Untold Tale, second place toBack to Methuselah in the VLTA’s own eliminations, went on tothe British Columbia Drama Festival. It won first place as41well as the Victoria Cup, against twenty-four otherproductions.)The cast of Back to Methuselah went to Ottawa for the DDFfinals. They competed against twenty-three other casts fromacross Canada, plays both in English and French. They placedthird overall and second for plays in English. The play thatwon the Bessborough Trophy for best production was The ManBorn to be Hanged, put on by the Masquers Club of Winnipeg.The organisers of the DDF had decided, before thefestival began, that they would have three prizes - theBessborough Trophy for the best play overall, an award for thebest play in English and another for the best in French.This, unfortunately, caused some difficulty in the firstfestival, because The Man Born to be Hanged, the play that wontop prize and first overall, received both the Best Play inEnglish award and the Bessborough Trophy, and the VLTA wonnothing. This caused a slight problem, as other groups feltthat Winnipeg should not have received both: that VancouverLittle Theatre, who placed second in the English languagecategory, should have received the Best Play in English award.Eventually, the rules were changed, and the Bessborough trophywas given as the award for the best play overall, and theother two trophies were then given to the next two best plays,one for a play in English and one for a play in French. Afterthe 1933 DDF was over, The Best Play in English award wasquietly taken away from the Winnipeg Masquers and given to the42Vancouver Little Theatre, “. . .with as little publicity aspossible” .The VLTA represented British Columbia at the ]JDF on twoother occasions before World War II. (The DDF ceased operatingduring the war.) The next year, 1934, the VLTA went to theDDF finals with Elizabeth the Queen. In 1937, it went intandem with the Strolling Players of Vancouver - the VLTAdoing The Last War and the Strolling Players performing TheBarretts of Wimpole Street. In 1935 the Embassy Players ofVancouver went to the DDF; in 1936 it was the Progressive ArtsClub of Vancouver; 1938 was the Beaux Arts Theatre ofVictoria, 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 amateurtheatre festivals were popular. In 1932-33, over twentygroups had competed in the BCDA festivals, as well as nine inthe BC Regionals for the DDF. The Vancouver Little TheatreAssociation decided, as the leading amateur theatre group inthe province, to hold its own festival competition during thefollowing season, 1933-34. This festival was to be separatefrom both the BCDA and the DDF.The first VLTA Drama Festival was held December 15 and16, 1933. It was open to all amateur theatre companies ofBritish Columbia, except the VLTA. The festival wasadjudicated by Marjorie Reynolds, Dorothy Somerset and Leonard43Miller, all from the Vancouver Little Theatre Association.The participants for the first annual festival were the MadysPridniore Brown School of the Spoken Word, the Mountain ViewPlayers Club, two from the Miller Clay Studio of Dramatic Art,the Forbes-Robertson Players of Victoria, and the DadyeRutherford Dramatic Club. This festival had a good response,and the VLTA competitions continued for at least another fouryears.The VLTA was becoming well-known, but not always to itsbest advantage. With the successes of the two teams at theDDF and the BCDA festival in 1933, the problems concerningMajor Bullock-Webster, and the 1933 DDF Best Trophy in Englishsensation, the name of the Association was certainlynewsworthy that year. In his President’s Report at the end ofthe year, Percy Gomery tried to look on the bright side of thesituation.Even aside from the distinguished notice brought tous by our teams competing outside the city, we feelthat our publicity, in the matter of quantity, wasabout all that could be desired. All of it was not,again as usual, complimentary but it neverthelesskept the name of the Little Theatre before thepublic, so that, all in all, we feel that the groundis in fair condition for as large or largermembership 50Even so, membership numbers remained unsatisfactoryduring the years of the Depression. The shortage of money wasa problem for the Association; it depended on membership tobring in revenue. The membership dues were not separate fromthe members’ tickets; therefore the Association could not make44more money from members after they had bought a membership.The advantage to this style of membership, of course, was thatthe Association could get money at the beginning of theseason, and be certain of the size of the houses for thecoming year. From this information, the Association was ableto tabulate the number of evenings to put on each play.During the Depression years, the number of performancesper production decreased. In 1926, each play averaged fiveperformances. By the 1932-33 season, the plays were beingperformed only two or three times each. By 1935-36, the playswere performed one night only. That same season, they put onfour plays; the next season only three.Not everything was bad news for the Association. Therehad been growing a feeling of disenchantment within theAssociation before the Depression, but as the struggle forsurvival became more acute, the members attempted to pulltogether. They were successful in part - the support for theDDF 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-- in some ways the new spirit -- of co-operationand agreement which has been evident. At theinitial public production the membership wasappealed to that they sink all personal feelings anddisagreements in loyalty to the Theatre. That thisappeal found a response was nowhere more manifestthan at the Elimination contest we held to chooseour team for the Dominion Drama Festival. Fiveplays were prepared and faithfully performed. Eachproducer naturally hoped to win, and the result leftmuch room for divergence of opinion, yet when theAdjudicator announced the result nothing but goodfeeling was evident. Every one of the defeated45teams became a supporter of its successful rival,which we have all been delighted to watch in itsprogress from one victory to another.51Perhaps this camaraderie helped give the theatre companythe motivation to combat the ravages of the Depression. Themembers of the VLTA, at this point, were proving to themselvesthat they were survivors, a prevalent theme throughout therest of the VLTA’s history. Gomery continues:I feel that the out—going Board [of Directors] hasaccomplished one thing, viz; the laying permanentlyof that mournful ghost which has haunted ourcorridors at each of our new years to whispertragically that the Little Theatre is going to thedogs or is about to fold up and die.52It seems that the fifteenth season was a watershed yearfor the VLTA. There is mention of the Little Theatre buildingbeing sold to a Mr. McEwen, a film distributer who wanted touse the theatre as a moving picture house. The Secretary’sReport at the end of the 1934-35 season states: “For a timethe building was a distinct liability, but a satisfactory saleimmediately turned it into an asset and more than providedagainst all outstanding indebtedness, including theAssociation’s debentures.”53 As far as can be ascertained,McEwen had a mortgage with the VLTA. The Association haddifficulties with Mr. McEwen, because he did not make paymentson time. In the minutes of the Advisory Committee’s meetings,Mr. McEwen’s name is mentioned frequently, generally on thetopic that no one can seem to get in touch with him, and whencontact is made, he promises to make payments (which aregenerally in arrears), but he does not. At one point, there46is mention of suing Mr. McEwen. It seems that McEwen wasproprietor of the theatre, and he would then rent it out, andwas in arrears on his payments on the theatre because thetenants of the theatre were not paying him. It was acontinual problem for the Association for the remainder of theyear.Notwithstanding, the theatre company needed to take careof other business, such as the productions of its regularplays, and the new problem of finding a new theatre or rentinganother for current productions. Searches for new theatrespaces were mentioned in the minutes of the early months ofthe season, but as the running of the season continued, moretime was taken up on actual production, rather than lookingfor a permanent new home. In order to put on a season, thetheatre company rented theatre spaces. That season, theAssociation put on four plays. The first three were put on atthe Stanley Theatre, on Granville Street. The first choicehad been the Empress Theatre, as the Stanley did not haveproper dressing rooms and washrooms, and there was arestriction on the choice of plays. The cost of renting theEmpress turned out to be prohibitive, at about $300 for adress rehearsal and two performances. At one point theAdvisory Board decided to consider the Point Grey Junior HighSchool auditorium. Then H.H. Simmonds, a member of the Board,talked with the proprietor of the Stanley Theatre, who seemedinterested in having the Association perform there. He47suggested that the first $125 go to the Theatre, the next $250go to the Association, and the rest be split fifty/fifty.This was agreeable to the Association, so on those terms itwas decided to have the performances at the Stanley.The theatre could seat 1225 patrons. The Associationheld all its Stanley performances on a Monday, with the dressrehearsal the day before. An interesting note is that all theprogrammes for this season were much glossier and moreexpensive than they had been when the Association was at theLittle Theatre.The last performance of the 1935-36 season was held atthe Auditorium at the University of British Columbia. Asearly as December, the University had offered the Auditoriumto the Association. The Association decided, however, not toperform any plays at the University until after the Marchproduction. The last play of the season, Mary of Scotland,was performed for two nights.The VLTA’s entry for the B.C. Regionals that year wasLazarus Laughed. The Association was invited to take theproduction to the final DDF competition in Ottawa.Unfortunately, because there was not enough money, theAssociation had to turn down the opportunity. The regionalrunner-up, Waiting For Lefty produced by the Progressive ArtsClub, went in its stead, and placed second at the Finals.The next season the Association returned to the LittleTheatre on Commercial Street. The previous year’s sale of the48building fell through. For the next few years, the theatrecompany’s connection to the theatre building is obscure. TheVLTA still owned the building, but the building was under aleasing contract situation: in other words, even though theVLTA owned the building, the theatre was only available to theAssociation for a certain number of days per year. If theVLTA wanted to use the building for more days of the year, itneeded to pay rent for the space. This is explained in moredetail in the next chapter.The theatre had been renovated, and now contained filmprojection equipment. To raise money, the theatre wasadvertised as a rental space, for either film or stageproductions. In the VLTA’s first season back at the theatre,1936-37, only three productions were mounted. The first, IfThis Be Treason, directed by Dorothy Somerset, had an enormouscast of forty-one people. The other two had much smallercasts. It seemed in this first year back at the theatre, theAssociation tried not to over-extend itself.A perennial difficulty still plagued the theatre company:choosing suitable plays for each season. Not everyone waspleased with the plays. Yvonne Firkins aptly described thedivergence of opinion:Here are opinions about two recent productions whichbrought forth a lot of comment: of Mice and Men -“Grand, give us some more like that.” “Horrible,disgusting.” “I had to take my family out. This isthe last time I shall buy a membership.” “Finestplay ever done in Vancouver.” Of The Guardsman -“Tripe.” “Most attractive play I’ve seen foryears.” “Not worth seeing.” “Brilliant production,49brilliantly acted.u Rotten.”Such widely different opinions are expressedabout every play. For this we should be thankful,for only among free peoples can theatres producewhat they like, and audiences say what they like.54It was a frustrating situation for both the public and formembers of the Association. Sometimes this irritation wouldspill over into the newspaper.A meeting was held a few days ago to discussthe future of the Little Theatre in Vancouver andthere was some pretty plain speaking regarding thecauses of its apparent decline. The citizens of ourfair village came in for some hard knocks for theirlack of support for the various offerings and thewell—to-do were berated for their failure tomaintain one of the oldest few cultural effortsprovided for enjoyment and intelligent developmentof the people. It was significant that no mentionwas made of the quality of offerings or of the typeof play presented by the players.Yet it seems to me that it is rather a waste oftime to enter into long discussions about the apathyof people in not patronising the performances. Itis rather like the parson who laments that hiscongregation is getting smaller and attributing thisto the wickedness of the world rather than to hisown shortcomings. The churches would be filledevery Sunday and the SRO sign would be posted at thedoors if the service were appealing enough and thesermons were provocative and inspiring.55Then the Second World War began. Mention of the war inthe programmes is not predominant at the beginning of thewar - who knew how all-encompassing the war would become? Aswell, the patrons were coming to the theatre forentertainment, for escape, not to be reminded once again ofthe devastation that was affecting their lives. The theatrecompany 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 world50was at actually at war again. During the first year of thewar, the theatre was being renovated extensively: the oldwooden seats were replaced with upholstered spring chairs, theventilation system was replaced, the proscenium arch wasupdated, and the walls and ceiling were lined with acoustictile. The theatre was given a new name as well: it was nowcalled the York Theatre. The reasons behind the choice ofname? It was short, which meant it was cheaper than a longname to put on a billboard and in neon. The renovations weregreatly appreciated; the theatre became much more comfortable.The acoustics, which had always been good, were now consideredby reviewers to be almost perfect. One reviewer also noted itwas refreshing to sit through a performance without beingdisturbed by the creaking of the old chairs.With renovations complete, the theatre re-opened for aperformance of Yes, My Darling Daughter on February 8, 1940.His Honour The Lieutenant—Governor and Mrs. Eric Hamber werepresent for the performance. The reviews, although agreeingon the comfort of the seats and the quality of theperformance, could not decide on the size of the audience.The News-Herald, on Friday February 9, the day after opening,said that it was a “distressingly small audience”.56 TheVancouver Sun said on the same day: “A representativeaudience filled the now comfortable theatre to capacity.”57Nevertheless, it was generally considered that the renovationsimproved the theatre. “This marked improvement in the theatre51will be welcomed by all lovers of the legitimate drama andthere is no doubt that under the new conditions members of theassociation will be imbued with fresh vitality in their aim ofproducing the best plays and upholding the time-honoredtraditions of the stage.”58After the first year of war and the Association’snineteenth season were both over, the VLTA was able toannounce to its members that it had succeeded in donating fivehundred dollars directly to war charities. This began a drivewithin the Association to help the war effort, which succeededin benefitting the war and the Association at the same time.The next season, the theatre chose to raise money for thewar by using sponsors. As a fund-raising scheme, a sponsorwould buy a number of memberships from the Association at thenormal price, then sell them to its own members at a higherrate. The Association benefitted because they could sell allthe tickets for a performance. The theatre company’s firstsponsor was the Mount Pleasant Lions Club, and soon otherorganisations joined in. The connection between the VancouverLittle Theatre and the Mount Pleasant Lions Club was a longand happy one. Even after the war, when the Little Theatrewas breaking its ties with other sponsors, it maintained itslinks with the Lions Club. As Jessie Richardson said afterthe war, “we feel we cannot discard [the Lions Club] like anold shoe which is of no more use to us, after all the years ofhappy association which we have had.”59 It was a money-making52scheme for both the theatre and the sponsor, who was alsoraising money for the war effort.The theatre company had a desire to carry on, despite thedifficulties created by the War. It now had a greater callingto inspiration: keeping morale up during the war, not onlyamong the active members, but the audience members as well.Comedies were prevalent during the War. As one VLTA programmestated, “Comedy, occasionally, is not only welcome but verynecessary these days to help us to maintain our sense ofproportion as well as our sense of humour.”60 Maintaining asense of proportion was true not only in Vancouver, but inother parts of the world as well:The British Government have found from theexperience of their first war years that it pays toencourage amateur Drama. In times of restrictedrecreational activities, anything that will takepeople 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 inthe drama and the audience.61This was motivation enough for the VLTA to persist in the darkdays of the War.As the War continued, the Association wanted to do evenmore for the cause, and pushed its own board of directors tohelp provide theatre performances for servicemen. During the1942-43 season, for example, with the help of the ServiceShows (a group dedicated to bringing entertainment to thetroops), the VLTA toured Arsenic and Old Lace to some militarybases in B.C.In its final programme of that same season, the VLTA53reflected that, at the outset of the season, it had doubted itwould be able to put on its customary quota of fiveproductions. It succeeded in doing so, and within a year theVLTA was commenting on the major growth of the Association.It has been interesting to watch our audiences growin the last few years. We are not sure if it isbecause we are improving or that people are justgetting used to us but we feel quite proud of theattention we are receiving. On hearing that theMontreal Repertory Theatre gives seven performancesof each of its five plays we felt rather deflated,but when we learned that the theatre holds 210 inplace of our 450 we bounced right back, especiallywhen we consider the difference in populationbetween the two cities.62It seemed that, for the VLTA, the War was stimulating growth,and it was getting back some of the feeling of its old glorydays.From the successes of the early years to the very badtimes during the Depression, to a renewed organisation, theAssociation had experienced a great deal. An article on theVancouver Little Theatre in 1936 captured the plight of theAssociation in one sentence: “[It] had high aims, and merelyto survive was not one of them.”63 The VLTA was more sobernow, more mature. It had also proven to itself and others itwas a survivor.The Association would soon face new challenges. The endof the war was imminent, as was the VLTA’s twenty-fifthanniversary. To succeed, or even to survive, it needed to beready to change. Although the VLTA had had to struggle simplyto survive, it had risen to the stature of the leading amateur54theatre company of Vancouver. Other less experienced theatrecompanies looked to the VLTA for guidance, leadership andresources. Perhaps the VLTA did not have the following itwished, but it had a reputation to uphold.55CHAPTER FOURAfter the War: 1940s and 1950sThe Second World War was over. War efforts of the cityof Vancouver were now being refocussed towards recreating away of life left behind six years earlier.At the Vancouver Little Theatre, supporting the wareffort had helped to maintain a sense of purpose. The VLTAhad a responsibility to buoy the spirits of the people ofVancouver, provide cultural experiences for the civilianpopulation, and entertain troops stationed nearby. To do so,it needed to stay afloat through the war years. Once the warwas over, a general feeling of concern permeated the companythat there might not be a continued interest in communitytheatre. Looking at its past history, the VLTA had cause tobe concerned as it entered a new phase.The first phase of the Association, during the 1920s, haddefinitely been its heyday, but had given way to bad timesduring the Depression of the 1930s. The sense of purposeprovided by its war effort had pulled the VLTA out of itsslump. With the war over, the future of the VLTA was unclear.56Would the theatre return to the glorious times of the 1920s,or to the constant financial struggles of the 1930s? TheLittle Theatre, with great tenacity, chose to persevere afterthe war in the hope that the people of Vancouver would includethe VLTA in their new lives.The Mount Pleasant Lions Club, once the war was over,decided to continue to sponsor evenings at the VLTA. Duringthe war, the Lions Club sponsored one night per production,which increased to two in the spring of 1945, just after thecessation of hostilities in Europe. The Lions Club soldseason’s tickets to the people in their own organisation for$6.25, then gave the $5.00 membership fee to the VLTA, andkept the rest. This enabled the VLTA to schedule a minimum ofthree performances per production. The theatre company foundsponsorship so lucrative that it actively sought other patronsas well, such as the Venture Club, the Beta Sigma PhiSorority, the Business and Professional Women’s Club, theUniversity Women’s Club, the League of the Empire and theYWCA. Unlike the Lions Club, most of these organisationssponsored performances on an ad—hoc basis. As other sponsorsbecame interested, more performances were added, and theAssociation was able to put on five performances perproduction.Sponsorship quickly became a contentious issue for theartistic aspect of theatre production. Some members felt thatsponsorship restricted its choice of plays. In an address to57an unidentified discussion group, Mrs. Jessie Richardson,President of the VLTA for 1948-49, expressed her - and theAssociation’s - feelings on the sponsorship dilemma:We needed help and they needed help, so it became amutual aid society, but, it restricted our choice ofplays. Sponsors do not bring the public who want tosee a living stage play[:] their public has to buytickets and it is going to use those tickets to getits money’s worth, which means that you use boxoffice plays. . .we had to cut practically all ourplays to prudish society’s ideas of decency.64When the Association realised it might be able to continuewith five performances per production without sponsors, itdecided to go without. As stated in the earlier chapter, itchose not to completely cut its ties with its oldest ally, butas Mrs. Richardson said, the company would no longer conformto the Lions Club’s restrictions:they are to be warned right at the beginning ofthe season that our program is not going to berestricted in their favour, they have to takeexperimental and educational plays as we see fit toinclude them in the program, and I believe we haveeducated them to the point where they will not rebeland will stay with us... [we are still playing] fivenights, which means that our audiences[,] even thosewho only used to come because they had to, arebecoming theatre conscious, and appreciate the playsfor their true worth, living pictures of assortedphases of life.65Before the decision was made to sever relations withsponsors, there would be acknowledgements in each programme ofthe sponsors for the production and their involvement (i.e.,which nights were they sponsoring, what was the sponsor usingthe money for), as well as general advertising to the publicfor more sponsors. During the next season, 1948-49, there is58little or no mention of sponsors in the programmes. The LionsClub is mentioned infrequently, and there are no more requestsfor other sponsors.This did not last long, however. Within two or threeyears, the appeals again appeared in the programmes, as didnames of sponsors other than the Lions Club. The theatrecompany obviously could not survive without the sponsors, evenif sponsorship did restrict the choice of plays. In fact, arepresentative from the Lions Club attended a VLTA board ofdirectors meeting early in the 1951-52 season. He not onlyoffered financial assistance to the theatre company, but alsogave instructions to the theatre company on what was and wasnot acceptable:Dr. Barton, representing the Lions Little TheatreCommittee, met with the board of directors to offerthe sponsorship of the Lions as in past years. Dr.Barton voiced the complaint that the York Theatrewas unattractive and that any brightening up wouldreceive the support of the Lions. He also askedthat the Vancouver Little Theatre not sellmemberships in the foyer of the York Theatre at fivedollars ($5.00) as the Lions sell their tickets forsix dollars and twenty-five cents ($6.25). He wasassured that this would not happen. He alsorequested that October 5th be not a performance dateas the Lions would be out of town on this date.Then Dr. Barton suggested that the last productiondate be not so late in the season. Mrs. Firkins[president of VLTA for the first half of the 1951-52season] told Dr. Barton that there would be onlyfive productions this season and that any specialevents that might occur would be within that time.It was suggested by Dr. Barton that some attentionbe given to the heating of the York Theatre. Dr.Barton said. . .that if estimates of the cost of acarpet for the York Theatre were given tothem.. . they perhaps would help to finance thisimportant item.6659This situation illustrates well the dilemma in which theLittle Theatre found itself - the struggle between idealismand practicality, financial or otherwise - which is reflectedfrequently in the fifteen years following the war.The Association had many dreams for a successful theatrecompany with a large membership, financial freedom to doanything it wanted, as well as a centrally located theatrebuilding which would attract even more theatre-goers. Thefacts were that the VLTA had a small membership which hoveredsomewhere around 500, insufficient financial support, atheatre space far away from the centre of a city most of whoseinhabitants seemed disinclined to travel the distance to go tothe York Theatre, and a reliance on sponsors which restrictedits choice of plays. Despite this, the theatre company, inthe face of constant frustration, still dreamed it could bepopular with the general public in Vancouver. Perhaps one dayit would have that coveted centrally located theatre space, ifit really believed it would happen.The theatre company had many plans for what it needed ina theatre space. The VLTA wanted a new or newer building thatwould incorporate all aspects of the Association - scene shop,rehearsal and studio space, workrooms, theatre, office, socialarea (i.e. a green room), all within easy access of theaudiences and close to transit lines, in an appealing, moreaccessible part of town. As it was, the Association wassprawled across Vancouver. The York Theatre was on the east60side, the workrooms, rehearsal space and office were spreadaround on the west side, the offices either in the same placeas the workrooms, downtown, or in a local music store. Norwere any of the spaces (other than the theatre itself) verypermanent. After the war, the workrooms were moved threetimes in two years.In the fall of 1946, an all-purpose space was offered tothe Association. Mr Lester Prosser, a miner, offered thebuilding at 1147 West Broadway to the theatre company, free ofcharge for five years. His generosity perhaps was inspiredbecause his wife was acting in the VLTA plays. Although theAssociation accepted Prosser’s offer, for reasons unknown thebuilding was never actually used. Perhaps it did not pass afire marshall’s inspection for use as a theatre, or the zoningregulations would not allow a theatre space there, or perhapsLester Prosser backed out of the deal. In any event, the VLTAhad to move to another, less desirable, location at MooseHall, 1021 West Hastings. By 1948, the VLTA was down to onerehearsal room at 603 West Hastings, which Jessie Richardsondescribed as• . .most inadequate. Often three major productionsare overlapping one another, and studio productionsof three one act plays have to be squeezed in a oddtimes. Group meetings have to be held in houses orsmall office space, which is very unsatisfactory. Iknow there is the argument that if the members arekeen they will not mind where the activity iscarried on so long as they are doing somethingconnected with theatre, but I don’t agree. Ibelieve unity counts for a great deal in the successof any organisation, all work should be carried onunder one roof in that way making it the home of61theatre 67The York Theatre could not be used for such a purpose.As is was far from the city centre, it was not a desirablechoice anyway, but it was unavailable for other reasons. Thetheatre had been leased as a movie house in the 1930s, becausethere was a risk of losing the theatre on account of taxes.This meant that the Association had limited use of thebuilding, even though VLTA owned it. As Jessie Richardsondescribed the situation in a 1949 brief to the MasseyCommission:By the contract [between the VLTA and the lessee]the VLTA is allowed the use of the theatre 18 days ayear for 6 periods of 3 days each and the 2 Sundaysprior to these periods for rehearsals, free, and allother days used are rented from the lessee. Thisextra time is composed of 2 extra days for eachproduction (as all productions run for 5 days each)and any further Sundays needed for rehearsals orbuilding of sets. For 8 years of the contract only5 periods were used but during the last 2 years achildren’s play has been produced between Christmasand New Year, in addition to the other 5 majorproductions, so that the full 18 days allowed by thecontract are now used.68The Association then goes on to eloquently describe its plightto the Commission:We feel that the VLTA fills the need for activeparticipation and audience appreciation in theatreas well as any amateur organisation can, but it isrestricted in its scope by the fact that although ithas a theatre of its own, that theatre is poorlysituated from the point of view of both audiencesand members, being in the east end of a city whichcovers a large area and in which most of theparticipants live miles away from it and by the factthat being leased, only a limited period of timeduring a season can be spent in it. The lease stillhas five years to run before the theatre revertsback to the organisation for full time.6962Even though the theatre would eventually revert back to theAssociation, the building itself was still poorly situated.In the 1990s it seems remarkable, to those of us who knowVancouver, that a theatre situated on Commercial Drive wouldbe too far away. Nevertheless, the area was difficult toaccess, and once there, it was rather hazardous. The roadswere unpaved in places, the area muddy, and the street poorlylit. The theatre was built in an under-developed part oftown, with open fields beside it. There were streetcars thatwent along Commercial, but they did not run all night for theconvenience of people working late at the theatre.The concern with wanting a suitable theatre space wasperhaps the most important issue facing the theatre company.The members certainly felt that most other problems stemmedfrom this. The membership drive might help and more revenuemight be generated if the theatre was closer to the downtowncore. Moreover, a better location might draw greater supportfrom the citizens of Vancouver, so that the responsibilitieswould not fall on the hard-working few.In discussing its situation the Vancouver Little Theatrefrequently compared itself to the London Little Theatre inOntario. The London Little Theatre, perhaps the mostsuccessful little theatre of that time in Canada, was sopopular it had a waiting list for members. This must havebeen vastly frustrating to the Vancouver-based Little Theatre.Jessie Richardson tried to find some valid reasons for the63disparity: “This may be because London is a wealthyresidential city and not a large commercial city likeVancouver with a cosmopolitan and transientpopulation. . . .there is [also] a staff of paid employees inthis organisation”.7° Also, the London Little Theatre spacewas located in the Grand Theatre, right in downtown London.This reason of course helped fuel the Association’s desire tohave a more centrally located theatre.The comparison between the two little theatres gaveVancouver Little Theatre a sense of inadequacy. It wasdifficult for the Little Theatre to accept that even Tacoma,Washington had a little theatre that boasted a membership ofover 3,000, and that Vancouver, a city much larger, with theone of the oldest little theatres in Canada, was struggling tokeep its 500 members.In 1946, its twenty—fifth anniversary, the VLTA started acampaign to increase the membership to 5,000. At all timesduring this promotion, the company had the support of themedia, who frequently championed its cause. As one articleput it,The theatre is enjoying a revival and the continent-size resurgence of interest in the stage emphasizesthe many handicaps under which Vancouver’s LittleTheatre has struggled for so long. This is thetwenty-fifth anniversary of our Little Theatreorganisation, the oldest of its kind in Canada. Theachievement of a 25th birthday reflects great crediton the group of enthusiasts who have kept themovement alive, but does no credit to Vancouver as acultural centre.. .Conscious of Vancouver’stheatrical backwardness, our Little Theatre leadersare promoting a drive to swell their membership to645,000 and ensure sufficient financial support toguarantee a centrally-located community playhousefor the presentation of regular productions. Thecalibre of the actors and the quality of playsoffered by the Little Theatre are now of such a highorder that the organisation should be given everypossible encouragement to expand. Anything lesswill offer a rude rebuff to a group of talentedenthusiasts and their supporters and amount to a sadreflection on Vancouver’s civic spirit and culturaloutlook 71Despite all efforts, the Little Theatre could not greatlyimprove on the size of its membership. By 1948 it reduced itsgoal to only 1500 members, a number easily achieved in the1920s but unobtainable in the 1940s.The VLTA tried to keep alive its dream of a new theatrebuilding. One of the VLTA’s recommendations to the MasseyCommission was to “look into the need for community buildingsfor all cultural activities and particularly of a sizesuitable for theatre productions, and where necessary lendfinancial assistance in order that all Canadian cities andcommunities may have such buildings.”72During the summer of 1948, two members started toinvestigate the costs of building a new theatre. AlfredEvans, head of the Building Committee, and Yvonne Firkins,Production Manager for the 1948-49 season, talked witharchitects and builders and were told that it would cost$100,000 to build a theatre west of Granville on BroadwayAvenue. Another option was to build a quonset hut, a type ofpre-fabricated building, similar to the nissen huts whichdotted the campus of the University of British Columbia during65the Second World War. Although the huts were cheaply made,they sometimes proved satisfactory as theatres. The originalFrederic Wood Theatre at UBC was created in 1952 from two armyhuts put together in a T-shape. The Association preferred theidea of a purpose-built theatre, however, thinking it would bebest situated as part of a community centre. The VLTA wantedthen to rent the theatre space out to other organisations at a“nominal rental” when the company was not using it.73Ideally, there would also be other rooms in which memberscould have meetings and rehearsals. As Jessie Richardsonexplained:This may seem like a dream, but so must the idea ofthe theatre we now own have been when theorganisation first began. It is not impossible, andthere is plenty of money if we can persuade peopleto part with it for such a venture, and we arequietly planning toward this end.74As it happened, the VLTA was stopped in its plans because ofmovements toward building a new civic theatre in downtownVancouver.During the summer of 1949, a civic project was proposedby City Planners: a new auditorium and public library. Alsoincluded in the complex would be an 800—seat performancevenue, which the city planners referred to as a little theatrespace. The VLTA, thinking that it would get very littlesupport if it tried to raise funds for its own building with apossible civic theatre pending, decided to stop any futurefund-raising campaigns and hoped that the plans for a civictheatre would not take long to get under way. Besides, if the66city built it, then the Little Theatre would not have to raisethe money and pay for building the theatre itself!(It was over four years before the proposal was ready togo before the voting public in a by-law, December 9, 1953. Bythe time it went through, the proposal was for a civicauditorium and a 750-seat theatre. In 1953, when the by-lawpassed, the Association was down to 350 members. No civictheatre space was actually available until 1959.)After the war, changes happened on the artistic side ofthe theatre company as well as on the business side. By the1949-50 season, the Board of Directors decided it was time tohire a full—time professional Producer-Director. They feltthat it was no longer feasible to run a theatre on an entirelyvolunteer basis. People did not want to give as freely oftheir time as they had in the 1920s. The Association felt asolution to the problem lay in hiring someone whose soleinterest was in the success of the theatre. The VLTA hired ayoung Englishman, Ian Dobbie, who had come to theAssociation’s defense in an earlier public squabble.The Association had put on a production of While the SunShines, directed by Phoebe Smith, as its opening show for the1948-49 season. According to newspaper reports, the cast wasrather 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 criticfor the News-Herald, wrote a biting review, entitled “Little67Theatre Farce Effort Dies a—Borning”.The second act, which contains some of the mostaimless dialogue ever written for the stage, seemedendless.. .The play was recently done here in a filmversion, with a cast of exceptional suavity andskill. . .thus handled it made a pleasant evening’srecreation. But such trivial fare must be presentedwith the most exquisite perfection to be endurable.In the hands of amateurs, no matter how good, thesefrothy productions die the death. Unfortunately thecast chosen this week is youthful and inexperienced.Nor are the actors even well chosen for type. . . Itwas an unfortunate evening all ‘round.76Ian Dobbie, responsible for the direction of the nextproduction at the Little Theatre, defended While the SunShines. Dobbie was not a member of VLTA, nor was hepersonally involved with this particular production. In aletter to the editor of the News-Herald, he attacked -professionally and at times personally — Constance MacKay.That the second act, according to Mrs. MacKay,contained “. . .some of the most aimless dialogue everwritten for the stage” can only be described asarrant nonsense. The English theatrical professionand the London theatre critics, of which Mrs. MacKayknows nothing, hold a majority opinion that this actis the funniest ever written for modern Englishcomedy. And I find it extraordinary that Mrs.MacKay does not know the difference between farceand comedy. It is to be deplored that anyone shouldso advertise her complete lack of theatricalj udgementDobbie, who had recently come from England, was adirector, producer, actor, writer — all for the London stageand elsewhere. He had come to Vancouver during his travels,and while here had decided to get involved with the localtheatre scene. One of his main quarrels with Constance MacKaywas that he felt Vancouver’s theatre needed constructive68criticism only. “Vancouver, as yet not theatre-conscious,sorely needs criticism on the few productions it is privilegedto see. But the criticism must be constructive and competent,not an eruption of ill-versed cant.”78This reply to MacKay’s review led to a war fought on theeditorial page of the newspaper and in the VLTA box office.Constance MacKay wrote a reply to Ian Dobbie’s letter the nextday, defending her review, and saying that “Some of his letteris probably actionable, but it is hardly worth a busy woman’stime to bother.”79 The editor, feeling responsible for havingpublished Dobbie’s letter in the first place, in a footnotejust below MacKay’s reply, said: “We are sure that Mr. Dobbiein the heat of his clash on points of criticism did not intendto cast any personal aspersions on Constance MacKay and thatno one would interpret his remarks in any such way, no matterhow these two persons differ in their opinion on the subjectat issue.”80 Others joined the fray. Harry C. Lampkin,calling himself a “mere theatre-goer”, in a letter to theeditor sided with Dobbie, feeling that Dobbie’s letter waswritten in “just indignation at an unfair and unnecessarilyunkind criticism...Mrs. MacKay evidently believes that to beworth her salt as a ‘critic’, she must deliver a solid ‘blast’now and then, let the axe fall where it may.”81Bernard Braden, a prominent Vancouver actor, felt thatConstance Mackay was right in her attack of the play. In aneloquent letter he explained his position on the situation and69his opinion of Dobbie’s attack:Like Mr. Dobbie, I am a professional entertainerstaying for a short time in Vancouver. Unlike him,I call Vancouver my home, and in the years before Ileft the city I found much to admire in many LittleTheatre productions. It was for that reason thatConstance MacKay’s criticism of “While the SunShines” struck me as being more important than theperformance of the play... [It] was bad theatre andbad entertainment. It was therefore important thatsomeone let the Little Theatre know that it cannotget by on the grounds that it is a worthyenterprise. 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 willprofit from her frankness...With regard to Mr.Dobbie’s personal reference to Mrs. MacKay it seemsto me that a man who will thus refer to a lady ishardly the man to accuse her of writing an “ill bredbout of verbiage.”82The discussion was so widespread that it became the topicof a news column in a rival paper — a column syndicated acrossthe country. Elmore Philpott of The Vancouver Sun observedthat, as result of this review and surrounding controversy,everybody connected with the theatre got boilingmad. They really buckled down to prove to thepublic that the critics were wrong and that both theplays and players were not so bad. They did justthat. By the end of the week they were turning outa really worthwhile performance. Unless I miss myguess that row was the luckiest thing that everhappened to our Little Theatre. I’ll bet my hat theplace will be packed out before the end of theseason. For when you are a public person or apublic institution you never need worry about beingthe centre of controversy. It’s when nobody knowswhether you are dead or alive that you have toworry 83Perhaps one of the reasons the Association hired IanDobbie as director was because it felt, with him at the helm,the VLTA would be in the news a great deal. Within a fewshort months of being in Vancouver, Dobbie had become high70profile in the theatre conununity. Although the VLTA was knownin Vancouver’s theatrical circles, it did suffer from nothaving a high enough profile in the rest of Vancouver society.The Association certainly felt the threat of no one knowingwhether it was dead or alive. With Dobbie at the helm, hiswell—known outspokenness had the potential to keep theAssociation in the limelight.Dobbie was thirty years old when the VLTA hired him asits 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 hadfourteen years experience in British theatre, everything fromstock companies to London’s West End. During the War he hadqualified himself to be an electrical engineer, but as soon asthe powers that be realised he was an actor, he was sent offto entertain the troops in army shows.84 By the end of theWar, he was building a theatre of his own, which he ran untilhe was forced out because of high taxes. In his “final word”on the argument between him and Constance MacKay, he statesone of his reasons for coming to Canada.Canada’s greatest admirers state that Canadians areuncritical of themselves and others. Criticism is asymbol of shaking democracy’s proudest possession -free speech. European encroachment upon this sacredright was one of the things which brought me to theNorth American continent.Originally, when he came to Canada, he wanted to workoutside of the theatre. “I was a logger at Campbell River.Finished up as a rigging slinger too, by golly. Then I was a71fruit porter. You know, the guy who humps fruit onto atrolley for loading on trucks. My fellow porters come to seemy shows these days.”86 Within the first eighteen months ofhis being in Vancouver, he directed Deep Are the Roots at VLTAand The Glass Menagerie at New Westminster’s Vagabond Players.The programme of Deep Are the Roots reports that Dobbie wasplanning on moving to Hollywood. He did not. Instead, he wasDirector/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 wasfound necessary for him to do. This in no wayexcludes members from directing plays but if anotherdirector is not available for any play it is hisduty to see that it is done.87In fact, he directed three of the five plays that firstseason. (There was also a sixth production, a Christmas play,not directed by Dobbie.) His greatest personal achievement inhis first year was a production of Noel Coward’s Peace in ourTime, a play Coward himself refused to produce because of itslarge cast and demand for props. The VLTA’s productiontherefore was a North American premiere. The situation wasexplained in an article in The Daily Province:Ian Dobbie, who will direct the play, wrote to Mr.Coward and asked to be allowed to produce it. Mr.Coward not only gave the required permission, buthimself instructed his agents, Doubleday and Co., torelease it for performance in Vancouver. The playwas never produced in New York because Mr. Cowardrefused to pay the exorbitant expenses involved in aplay of this type if performed in that city. Thefast action and the extraordinary number of handproperties necessitates the use of these properties72at every rehearsal right from the start, which, inturn, make it imperative to have a property crew onhand at all times.88Dobbie had a reputation for being an extremely hardworker, and very demanding. He also had a reputation for aterribly bad temper. “Casts of the plays he directs wince athis cutting criticism, stuff their fingers in their ears whenhe rants and raves. But they think he’s wonderful.”89 Laterin his career, when he had moved on from the VLTA and wasworking for Totem, his reputation and his temper went withhim. “In Totem’s Tony Draws a Horse, Bruce Busby (who is alsostage manager) plays the part of a man who every night walksinto a bar and takes a spite shot at a large painting of asailor. We wonder who suggested that director Ian Dobbie poseas the sailor.”90During Dobbie’s term as director, the VLTA decided tolaunch another extensive membership drive. At the beginningof his tenure, the membership was just over 500, and the boardwanted to increase the numbers to 1500. By the end ofDobbie’s time at the VLTA two years later, the number ofmembers had increased only to 694.Artistically, however, Dobbie’s first year was consideredsuccessful. The majority of the members liked the work hedid, but, according to Dobbie, the Board of Directors “buckedhim at every turn”.91 The Board felt he was a difficultperson with whom to work. There seems to have been adifference of opinion as to who had the final say, and this73caused tension between Dobbie and the Board. Dobbie wantedmore control in the productions, as The Vancouver Sunreported: “Ian would like to come back in the fall, but hewould like ‘more scope, more opportunity to broaden theorganisation’. He feels ‘it is useless to hire a man and thennot give him any authority.’”92The Board of Directors decided to hire Ian Dobbie for onemore season, perhaps hoping that the tensions of his firstyear would not be repeated in the second year. Unfortunately,the tensions remained. Of the seven productions put on thatseason (one was a revival of an earlier production and one wasa Christmas play), Dobbie directed all but two. In his reportat the annual general meeting at the end of the year, theretiring President of the Association said that he thought theyear had not been a success, financial or otherwise.Len [Timbers, president of VLTA] made it perfectlyclear that he ‘was disappointed with the results’ ofthis season. He felt that the great membershipdrive, which the professional director was to lead,could not be considered a success. Membership wentup from 579 to 694 during the season. And in spiteof the increase of new members, for the sixproductions put on this year there were 8817 seatssold, compared to 7812 seats for five shows lastyear, which according to Len is 100 persons less perplay. The shortcomings of the season, Len thought,were due to several factors. The choice of playswas below par; there was a lack of good actors;there was more competition all over the city to drawthe theatre crowd than there has ever been before,and the fourth factor was ‘the difficulty of workingwith a professional producer.’93Deciding to hire a professional producer was a riskyundertaking. The producer would conceivably demand74professional standards from all participants in order to puton a high-calibre show - and Dobbie was exceedingly demanding.As well, there was possibly a negative effect on morale forthe volunteers, who were working for free while Dobbie wasbeing paid.At least one Vancouver commentator on local theatrethought the decision to give up Ian Dobbie was unwise. PaddyDaly of the Vancouver Sun, in her regular column “Happeningsin the World of Drama”, twice cautioned the VLTA to reconsiderits decision.It would be wise if the board of directors of VLTAweighed very carefully the pros of keeping IanDobbie as Professional director, and fumed less onthe cons. Have they ever had the mechanics of thetheatre and the back stage crew in such competenthandsAnd again:It didn’t take the drama clubs in town very long tolearn that Ian had some time on his hands. Severalgroups have asked him to direct a play for them, butIan says he turned them all down. We will loseabout the best head there has been in Little Theatrecircles when Ian leaves, and he is surely thehardest of workers. You only have to ask any whoworked backstage with him. They’ll tell 5you of thetimes he worked 48 hours without a stop.9After Ian Dobbie left the VLTA, he became involved with TotemTheatre, a new company in Vancouver and one of the first localprofessional theatre organisations in the city.In the early 1950s, Vancouver became an active centre ofprofessional theatre growth with new companies such asEveryman, Totem and Holiday Theatre. For the Vancouver LittleTheatre this was an exciting and sobering time. Finally75Vancouver audiences were prepared to support professionaltheatre companies, and that was a source of satisfaction tothe company. The VLTA felt justified in taking some of thecredit for the growth of the professional theatres, as theyhad “drawn the majority of their players from the ranks of theLittle Theatre.”96 The VLTA felt, with pride, that“commercial theatre here [was] a direct outgrowth of amateuractivity”.97 As Margaret Rushton, then President of theAssociation, explained in 1953:Through good times and bad, continuously for thirty-three years, the VLTA members, imbued with thespirit of the founders and inspired by a love oftheatre, have succeeded in keeping the flame ofdrama burning brightly, developing talent in manybranches of theatre arts and in so doing undoubtedlypreparing the way for the professional companieswhich were established two years ago. I believethat the Vancouver Little Theatre Association hasfully justified its existence.98But the professional theatres also had a detrimental effect onthe Association. The competition for audience members andcompetent actors was fierce. As the quality of the playsimproved at VLTA, so did their expectations from actors; andwhen the good quality actors left to go to paying jobs, theVLTA was left with no audience and fewer able experiencedactors.This caused ripples in many directions. It promptedYvonne Firkins, president of VLTA for the season beginning inthe fall of 1951, to resign half-way through the season, onthe grounds “that the local picture had changed; and that ithad been taken over by Everyman and Totem Theatres.76Therefore, she felt she could do nothing for theorganisation.”99 It meant that some plays scheduled to beperformed in the season had to be changed, as there were notenough actors to play the parts. It meant that the semiprofessional gloss of VLTA’s shows seemed tarnished in thelight of true professional theatre. As Margaret Rushton putit,We amateurs were delighted when professional theatrecame to our city. We felt that Vancouver wasgrowing up and at last there might be a chance formany talented actors to make a living in the west.We realised that we would have to raise ourstandards in order to compete and we accepted thechallenge. After two years of hard work we haveseen our audiences dwindle, our membership drop. Werealise that some change of policy and organisationwill be necessary if we are able to exist.100Even though professional theatre was a threat to thesuccess of amateur theatre, the two types of organisationsworked closely together, always giving each other support.Margaret Rushton concluded: “In spite of all these problems wehave maintained the friendliest relations with theprofessional groups and we have done many things to help eachother. I am constantly assured by the professionals that our(amateur) existence remains important to them.”101 The VLTAcertainly helped the professional theatre groups withessentially free publicity. Frequently the other groups wouldbe mentioned in the Little Theatre programmes, and the VLTAfelt it was important to tell their audiences that they shouldsupport theatre - of all kinds. One such plea for supportappeared in the programme for Thieves’ Carnival:77“Keep Theatre Alive” - You have probably noticedthis sentence on our bulletins, posters andprogrammes. It is quite self—explanatory, and yetwe would like to say a word about it. You will havenoticed that we did not emphasize the “LittleTheatre” because we feel that all theatres in ourcity have to be kept alive - professional as well asthe many small amateur groups existing — because webelieve that theatre is an integral part of agrowing city like ours, and only by patronage willit be able to assume and retain importance in thecommunity and thus contribute to itsdevelopment. . .We must KEEP THEATRE ALIVE and expandits scope so as to reach many, many more people,some who have never seen a play before. . .We want togive the many talented young people a better chanceto learn the craft of the theatre, to develop, andif they so wish, attain a high professional statusalongside other professional men and women, and somake their contribution to their community in theirchosen profession.102One of the changes in policy considered was to amalgamatethe amateur drama groups of Vancouver. There were 28 dramagroups that had representation on the Community Arts Councilin the early 1950s, and had they merged, would have likelybeen a behemoth. It would have been an incredible force withwhich to deal, if its size didn’t destroy it first. However,the VLTA never did anything more than consider the option ofmerging with other drama groups.By the mid-1950s, the professional theatre companies hadfolded. It seemed that Vancouver was not quite ready forprofessional theatre after all. After the demise ofprofessional theatre, the Association mourned the loss, prideditself that it had helped the cause immensely, butacknowledged - perhaps more to itself - that it, the VLTA, hadsurvived.78CHAPTER FIVEThe Coming of Professional Theatre: 1960s and 70sVancouver’s new civic auditorium was complete and readyfor use by the beginning of the fall of 1959. Once finished,it was named the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The VancouverLittle Theatre Association put on its full 1959-60 season atthe Queen Elizabeth Theatre (also known as the QET).The members of the VLTA believed that the finalproduction of the previous season, 1958-59, would be the lastof their mainstage productions ever to be performed at theYork Theatre. The Association did not make plans to sell thetheatre, however, nor did it rent the theatre out full-time toanother organisation. The York Theatre was to be used insteadas a rehearsal space, a scene shop, a performance space forthe Workshop productions, as well as a revenue source for theAssociation through periodic rentals to other organisations.The Association was excited if apprehensive about leavingits theatre of 36 years. Nevertheless, performing at a newtheatre was a challenge it was ready to take on. There wereobvious advantages and disadvantages to moving to the QET.79One of the greatest advantages was the location of the newtheatre. Finally, the VLTA was performing downtown! Thismove boosted the organisation’s morale. Vancouver was finallyready to have the Little Theatre as part of the main theatrescene, in a downtown space. In an organisation that hadbelieved it was largely ignored by the Vancouver theatre-goingpublic, this was recognition long overdue. With so much highprofile at the QET, the VLTA membership increased to well over600. Before the move to the QET, membership had been hoveringaround 500.The VLTA had long anticipated performing in the civictheatre complex. Although a little theatre space had beenplanned in conjunction with the auditorium, the latter wascompleted first. The VLTA was tired of waiting for the cityto begin building the little theatre space, so decided to goahead with plans to mount the 1959-60 season in the mainauditorium.The Association had a few hesitations about the move.The York Theatre had 450 seats, and even then the VLTA couldnot always fill the theatre for performances. The QET had2800 seats. It was a true opera house, not an intimate littletheatre space! The stage was huge as well. Gay Scrivener, anactress in the second production at the QET, remembers that“it was like running across a great barn!”The Association presented a season of five plays - Visitto a Small Planet, Dial M for Murder, A View from the Bridge,80Tea and Sympathy and Tunnel of Love. The season wasreasonably successful and attendance was good: almost 3600patrons attended the season’s plays. According to the VLTAthe attendance was good: with a little arithmetic the pictureis not so rosy. On average there were five performances ofeach of the five productions that season. That works out toapproximately 720 patrons per production, or fewer than 150audience members a night. This is in a theatre that seats2800 people.Some of the disadvantages began to surface as the seasoncontinued. One of the most overwhelming difficulties theAssociation faced was that it was a non-union companyperforming in a union house. It was necessary for there to beat least one member of IATSE (the technicians’ union) at thetheatre at any time the VLTA was there. The members of IATSEhad to be paid by the VITA, not by the civic theatre. Hiringtechnicians was a major expense for the Little TheatreAssociation. As the VLTA was an amateur theatre company, noneof its participants was paid regularly except for token feesto the directors. As Guy and Marion Palmer explained in aninterview:GP: We didn’t realise [what] we’d be upagainst.. .once we got in there, [there was] theIATSE union crew.. .the thing that cooked it [forVLTA] was that when we said, “Where’s the curtainpull?”.. .they’d say “Its right here, just tell uswhat you want.” You’d have to hire the guy for fourhours to open the curtain, and he goes away and hashis coffee until you finish with the show and thenhe pulls the curtain down again. Oh, of course inthe interval if he’s there he’ll do it for free, as81long as you hire him for the minimum of four hours.There was [also] a union man staying there doingprops and costumes — you could bring your own propsand costumes - but you had to have the union crewstanding by.MP: In those days VLTA paid just one person and thatwas the director. They paid seventy five dollars tothe director and that was the only money to changehands in terms of hiring. . .When they had to pay astage manager, that cooked it for them. They had ahard enough time scraping together the director’sfees!GP: We went in [to the civic theatre] with highhopes that we would be accommodated on rent andthings like this, certainly until the civic theatregot going, because it takes a while. [The attitudeat first was] “Please come on in!” but thatdisappeared pretty shortly.103The tremendous expense of the union house was somethingthe theatre company had not experienced before. In oneexample cited, a union charge of $74.00 covered the setting offour chairs on the QET stage.104Nevertheless, the quality of the plays was good, andalthough the season was expensive, the Association wanted tocontinue at the QET. But near the end of the first season,the QET started to change the rental arrangement. Instead of apercentage of the house, the civic theatre demanded a dailyrental fee. Originally, the Little Theatre would clear 25% ofthe box office returns. Now they had to contend with paying$400 rent per evening. The QET then informed the LittleTheatre that the space would only be available for threenights per production. Meanwhile, there were difficultieswith the IATSE union.At first the union had agreed to let the members of theLittle Theatre build their own sets and bring them into the82QET, but that policy changed. As stated in the VLTA minutes:‘. .in the beginning we were assured it would be alright tobuild our own sets, but it appears now that only sets bearingthe Union Label are allowed into the QET.”105 Then anotheragreement was reached where the Little Theatre Association wasallowed to build its own sets, with some restrictions. Again,from VLTA minutes:John Read gave a report on Actors’ Equity - [it is]impossible to have equity players work in the QETunless they have a waiver. Stage hands have ruledthat equity actors have to be paid...Gail McCance[of the QET] wanted assurance that none of theactors in the forthcoming play will be paidotherwise the scenery would have to be made in aunion shop.106In negotiating with the City, the VLTA suggested thecivic 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, butif the house fell below 700 patrons, the rent would be $350,and if the audience fell below 650, the rent would be $300 anight. The VLTA asked for more than three nights perproduction, but the civic theatre “was quite definite aboutour being allowed three nights only for each production”.107The VLTA had to reconsider its position with the civictheatre. “The board has to decide a) if it is possible for usto continue another year at the QE, b) shall we be forced toput on future productions at the York Theatre?”108 After allof these new developments, the Association opened thediscussion to the members.83A general meeting was held May 1, 1960, with only fortypeople in attendance. (At this point there were approximately650 members.) They were told it would cost the Association atleast $6000 to go back to the QET:The Majority’s argument seemed to be that if wecould afford to gamble $6000 and risk going into the[QET] we could afford to gamble $6000 and renovateour own York Theatre. A lengthy discussion persued[sic]. Pointers mentioned was [sic] the necessityof the York for workshop, rehearsals, etc. Some wereof the opinion it would be suicide to return to theYork and that our membership would drop considerably...Mrs Rushton (past president)...considered stayingat the QET a challenge and advised we should stickit out until the small theatre [is] built. Mrs.Rushton moved. . . that we stay on at the QET.109A secret ballot was then taken. The results were: 21 infavour of going back to the York Theatre, 16 to remain at theQET.The results were a surprise to some members of theAssociation. A number of people, possibly those involved inthe Board of Directors, wanted the Association to return foranother year to the QET. They decided that this vote couldnot be considered binding as there were only forty peopleinvolved. A letter, presumably written by the Board, was sentout to all members requesting that they come to the AnnualGeneral Meeting. The letter was slanted toward convincing themto choose the option of returning to the QET.We do not feel that this vote was sufficiently largeenough to be indicative of the wishes of themajority of the 650 members of the Association.This is a most important decision and one that couldseriously influence the future course of amateurdramatics in Vancouver.. .We urge you to attend thismeeting and encourage you to cast your vote in84favour of remaining at the Queen Elizabeth Theatrefor the ensuing year.11°The letter went on to explain why it was important to stay atthe QET:Financial-during the past year VLTA undertook anambitious program in the initial move to the QET.It has been successful and we believe that with aconcentrated effort the next year at the QET couldalso be a success — even considering the increasedrental fee. It is our opinion that a return to theYork Theatre would create insoluble financialproblems.Productions-the productions in the past year at theQET have shown a high level of accomplishment and inour opinion this is primarily the result of theplays being staged in the theatre. This quality wasnot apparent in the previous year at the YorkTheatre.Members—an informal poll of our members, andtherefore our audience, indicates that a substantialloss in number would result from a return to theYork Theatre. An effective membership drivefollowing up past year’s successes should result ina significantly larger membership if we stay in theQET.The downtown theatre responded strongly to the news thatthe VLTA was not going to return. John Panrucker was theQET’s manager and VLTA’s contact at the civic theatre. In aletter to VLTA’s president Dorothy Goldrick, Panrucker wrote:I cannot but feel, particularly after Tunnel of Love, that itwould be a tragic mistake for you to desert the QETheatre. ,112The Annual General Meeting was held on June 20, 1960.150 people attended. The letter to the members must haveworked, as the vote was reversed: 103 voted to remain at theQueen Elizabeth Theatre, and 43 voted to return to the YorkTheatre. The motion was carried, and the Association chose to85return to the QET - for at least another year.The 1960-61 year was the fortieth anniversary for theVLTA. The theatre company made plans to put on a full seasonof plays at the QET, even with the added expenses and timerestrictions. In a review of the first play of the season, theDaily Province’s drama critic was sympathetic to the situationthat faced the VLTA.Very soon after the Queen Elizabeth was opened tothem, VLTA members discovered it was as much a curseas a blessing and they will not be reallycomfortable until the new small theatre iscompleted. Their presentation of “The Bride and theBachelor” exemplified their discomfiture, for YvonneFirkins had to fill this enormous stage with a setdescribing a single room. Sound, too, presented aproblem which was not resolved, and then onlypartially, until the second act. And, besides, theyhave never felt completely welcome in this communitytheatre which likes best to cater for the big “name”shows. They’ll do well even to pay their way out ofthe QE this season because of the change in theircontract 113Nevertheless, the QET still seemed to be a better choice tothe 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” atthe QET January 5,6 and 7. Then it was discovered that two ofthe dates had been rented to the Vancouver Symphony Society,here explained in the Vancouver Sun:as a result, the VLT agreed to accept splitdates. It claims the [civic] board then agreed toabsorb the extra costs involved of striking the setsand putting them up again. When the final contractwas received from the board there was no mention ofthe absorption of the extra costs and the VLT was86also told that it had to negotiate direct with thestagehands’ union (IATSE) for labour. As a result,the VLT was faced with big extra costs which itcould not meet from a three night revenue.114At this point, the amateur theatre company took on the civicauditorium commission by accusing them of defaulting on acontract, and then it cancelled its booking with the QET.The Association looked for a new venue. It did not wantto return to the York Theatre. The VLTA ended up at theInternational Cinema, the original CPR Vancouver Opera House.The International Cinema allowed the Association to perform inits non-union house for eight nights instead of the threeoffered at the QET.The civic auditorium commission, displeased with thisoutcome, issued a statement outlining its position:The VLTA has received the greatest consideration inrespect of rentals and the use of facilities at QETin recognition of the fact that the productions ofthe association are better suited for presentationin the small theatre (adjacent to the QET) when itis completed. However there is a point beyond whichthe management of the QET cannot go in servicing orsubsidizing the VLTA or similar groups since theprovision of grants is the prerogative of the cityand not the [civic theatre] commission. Thearrangements for the exchange of dates involvedcertain concessions to the VLTA which the commissionbelieved were acceptable. The late cancellation byVLTA of what had been considered by the theatremanagement as a firm booking has caused a loss tothe theatre which has had to decline other moreremunerative bookings for the dates which are nowvacated 115The civic commission did not consider any legal actionagainst the VLTA, as there had not been a signed formalcontract. VLTA, on the other hand, wanted to follow up with a87claim. VLTA made a petition to the city to consider itsposition in the conflict. After a couple of months ofconsideration and investigation, the city “denie[d] anyliability”.116 VLTA still wanted to stand its ground, andargued that should receive some sort of compensation. “Thequestion that could show double booking to have put us outfinancially is focal; we probably could not make a case out ofPanrucker dealings with us; but we should claim for losses ontickets -- as a non-profit organisation.”117VLTA also wanted to petition the civic commission to makethe new Playhouse a non—union house, for the benefit oforganisations such as VLTA itself.After discussion it was decided that a letter bewritten to the board of Administration, City Councilto get permission by stating purpose, to go beforeCity Council to propose that the new smaller civictheatre be a non-union house. It was hoped that twoother organisations could be represented in thisplea (people already using the QE) as well as otherrepresentatives observing this hearing.8Nothing came of this. The new Playhouse theatre, whichopened in 1962, was also a union house, and there is no moredocumentation about the Little Theatre petitioning the cityfor compensation. The rest of the Little Theatre’s 1960-61season was played at the International Cinema. Totalattendance was only half that of the previous season, with1700 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 took88money that the theatre company did not have. A committee wasmade to consider the situation of the company’s finances:[The problems are) that of raising money to restorethe York Theatre to a reasonable condition ofoperating efficiency. Its present ailments are anuisance and a continual drain on the general fundsof the VLTA. Its appearance also is not one toattract people who once go there, to re-attend. Ithas a run—down neglected look, which, if overcome,would to some degree offset its unsuitable location• . [the other problem is] that of raising money forthe VLTA’s general funds so that it can continue tofinance its productions at a proper standard.119A year and a half before, when VLTA was in its first yearat the QET, the Fire Marshall inspected the York Theatre. Asthe VLTA minutes reported, “The Building Inspector commentedon cleanliness and appearance but felt that he would be doingVLTA a favour if he condemned the building.”12° To fix thetheatre completely would have cost a great deal, but VLTA didnot want to be in the York Theatre anyway. Its solution wasto continually patch the building together, in order for it tobe just barely satisfactory.Even the theatre’s usefulness as a revenue-generatingsource had diminished. Because of the rundown condition ofthe theatre, it was difficult to rent the space to othergroups when VLTA was not using it. The debts continued togrow. The Little Theatre decided to apply for a tax relieffor property taxes owed in 1962. The City turned the VLTAdown. As the Daily Province reported,Aldermen said Tuesday they saw little sense insubsidizing the LTA’s playhouse on Commercial Drive.Not when the City’s own QE Playhouse is standingempty on most nights. So City Council held up a89request from the Little Theatre for a grant equal toits unpaid 1961 taxes. Council asked its auditoriumboard to review the whole subject of amateurtheatres with the association. The idea is toencourage the Little Theatre to use the city’sPlayhouse and perhaps to sell its money-losing YorkTheatre 121It seemed the solution was to spend money the Associationdid not have. The VLTA began to negotiate with the civictheatre to use the new Playhouse space for the 1962-63 season,as suggested by the City Council. At one point, the LittleTheatre had wanted to be the first group to perform in the newspace, “in view of our 40 years of operation and more than 200plays produced”122 but no request seems to have been made tothe City. Nonetheless, the VLTA was still the first amateurtheatre group to perform at the Vancouver Playhouse. TheDaily Province reported: “Many groups have said that thePlayhouse is beyond their budget, so it is very encouraging tosee the VLTA ignoring the pessimism and giving the place awhirl.”123 The Playhouse was beyond the VLTA’s budget aswell - the expenses for a five day run were high, as the VLTAminutes reveal:Estimate re using Playhouse: Rehearsal - $75, 5nights’ rent - $750, Union wages - $400, sets -$200, Transportation - $50, royalties - $200,publicity - $300, props - $100, programs and posters—$75, Director — $150,tickets - $100, Miscellaneous— $100, totalling $2500. If we could sell 1280seats at $2.00, we could cover costs.124The Association was hoping to sell 1280 seats for oneproduction: only a year earlier the VLTA had succeeded inselling only 1700 seats for an entire season.90Meanwhile, a new amateur theatre movement was growing inVancouver. The Metropolitan Co—operative Theatre Society, aloose confederation of smaller amateur groups, was starting tocollect members. Some members of the society were theRichmond Community Theatre, Emerald Players, Vancouver TheatreGuild, Vagabond Players, Greater Vancouver Opera Society,Burnaby Players, and North Shore Light Opera Society. VLTAdecided to join as an ‘outside’ member. This gave the LittleTheatre the option to put on plays other than at the MetroTheatre space. (‘Inside’ members were expected to put on allof their productions at the Metro Theatre.) This openedanother option, should the Playhouse not fit into VLTA’splans.VLTA’s first production at the Playhouse, Write Me aMurder, was well received. The Daily Province reported it was“a very satisfying production for which credit must also go tothe comfort of the Playhouse which is conducive to enjoyment,and a contrast to the group’s spartan and rather sleazyheadquarters, the York.”125The VLTA was now performing in a more suitable theatrethan the QET auditorium. It was producing plays downtown, andthe plays were looked upon as semi-professionally produced: atleast the plays were being performed at a professional house.VLTA was not being handicapped by a decrepit theatre, nor toolarge a theatre. This meantthat VLTA’s performances werebeing judged on the same level as the other professional91productions in the city. Before this, VLTA was forgiven muchbecause of its handicaps. Now it was competing on a par withthe professionals. This meant as well that it was open to thecriticism the other professional theatre companies had. OhMen! Oh Women!, its second production at the Playhouse Theatrespace, was evidently panned by a critic, and the audiencesstayed away. VLTA could not completely overlook the badpress. The company sent out a thinly-disguised grievanceletter to its members.Shall we delve into the reasons why this well-produced play did a box-office belly-flop? Shall webemoan the fact that an overwhelming part ofVancouver’s theatre going public is so fickle thatit accepts a newspaper critic’s personal scale ofpreferences for plays as its own? Shall we suggestthat while the VITA after 42 seasons is stillstriving to overcome the severe limitations ofavailable time and money inherent in an amateurorganisation in order to play a responsible role inthe cultural environment of Vancouver, the localnewspapers have long since abandoned theirresponsibility of developing a public truly informedabout local affairs in this are? Away with suchuseless recriminations - the play’s the thing! Soone [sick with the show.. .and may it be a whoppingsuccess! 6Unable to accept the criticism with grace and carry on, theVLTA felt the need to complain. The reviews suggested thatthe VLTA was not up to the professional standards developed byothers in the city. Perhaps the Association, too accustomedto its handicaps, assumed all criticism would continue to beconsiderate.For two or three more years, VLTA struggled to competewith the downtown theatrical scene. It performed in a variety.92of venues - the Playhouse, the Metro, International Cinema —it even returned to the QET for a benefit performance for theSPCA. By 1964, the organisation realised it could not competewith the other companies. The VLTA minutes stated: “We arenot competing with the Playhouse or Metro, but have a uniqueposition in having a working theatre and training ground.”127By 1965, the company chose to move back, permanently, to theYork Theatre. Apparently the old familiar York, for itsfaults, was more comfortable than the new theatre scene inVancouver. This explanation was given to the members: “Ofnecessity, the programming has changed with the years. Whenthe QE complex was built, with great courage we moved ourmajor productions downtown, first to the QE and then to thePlayhouse. Now with professional theatre in Vancouver andstrong amateur groups in the Greater Vancouver districts, wehave returned to our beloved York.”128 Ironically the YorkTheatre, once considered an albatross around VLTA’s neck, wasnow called beloved.The Vancouver Little Theatre Association had, as theyears passed, become too spread out. It had been putting onmainstage plays in numerous different locations, as well asworkshop productions, sometimes at the York, sometimes throughthe Extension Department at UBC. It rented out the YorkTheatre. It felt it needed a green room space, and rented aroom above the grocers next door (for which it had to payextra rent). It was involved with festivals - not only the93DDF, but others such as the one-act play festivals and theBCDA. It did benefit shows. It was involved with the MetroTheatre. It owed money to numerous groups. The generalupkeep of the York Theatre took up a vast amount of time andenergy - most minutes from board meetings for the VLTA aremore suggestive of a board for the running of a building thanfor the running of a theatre company. The VLTA’s archivescontain, from this period, a 25 page list of differentexecutive positions and the job descriptions for each. Thepositions described were:President, recording secretary, correspondingsecretary, vice president (producer), treasurer,chairman of stage department, chairman of businessdepartment, chairman of publicity and publicrelations department, chairman of play selection andcasting department. STAGE DEPARTMENT: stage manager,chairman of properties, costume manager, lightingmanager, scenic manager, sound manager, makeupmanager. BUSINESS: box office manager, ushersmanager, maintenance manager, programmes manager,house manager. PUBLICITY: Publicity manager,reception manager, social manager, CASTING AND PLAYSELECTION: play selection manager, casting manager,play reading manager.129It was a constant struggle to motivate people to carry out allthese responsibilities. Frequently the same faithful fewwould complete the necessary work. Often some of thesefaithful would resign, frustrated with the way the LittleTheatre was being run. Helen Bristowe, a member of the Boardof Directors in the early 1960s, resigned her position forthis reason;It is my considered opinion, after working with theBoard the past year and a half that they are not nowworking efficiently as an entity and do not have any94positive programme of policy which is enforced.Both these situations will have to be rectified Ifeel if VLTA is to go ahead, which it mustinevitably do, or go backwards, and I feel we shouldbe leading theatre groups in this area, not laggingbehind.130Meanwhile, despite the problems, the Association wanted to runlike a professional company - expecting the kind of commitmentfrom the members that a professional theatre would receivefrom paid employees. In his report to the Annual GeneralMeeting in 1962, Eddie Calvert, Director of Productions, laidout his expectations for an ideal theatre company. Hisdemands are much too idealistic, especially for amateursdevoting their time and energy for free:I believe an organisat-ion of our size and potentialrequires either a salaried full-time producer-manager, or else several dedicated people who willdevote all of their spare time to the organisation,so that it will operate in an efficient andprofessional-like manner. I also believe that theonly way the VLTA - or any organisation of thisnature — can survive and exist with any degree ofsuccess, is to have people with a burning enthusiasmfor theatre. People with professional attitudes -like punctuality, co-operation, tolerance, and apassion for knowledge and experience leading toperfection in the artistic and technical fields.Where this passion is missing, the results willalways be mediocre and amateurish.131Everything pointed to the fact that the company was losing itsedge.The situation improved for a short time, when theAssociation again hired an Artistic Director. In 1965, JohnParker directed The Father, and then was hired to be theArtistic Director for the company. The Association liked hisdedication to the cause. The quality of the plays improved95under his administration, and the financial situation evenimproved slightly for at least one of his years as Director.The financial improvement was short-lived, however, and thecompany continued to run on donations. Membership alsodwindled. The spirit of the Association was seeping away.In 1968, a party expressed interest in buying the YorkTheatre. The organisation was vaulted into action. Should itsell the theatre? Was that the solution to the difficultiesVLTA faced? Could it make do in another space? Could it evenfind another space? In the end, however, the buyers moved onto something else. Nevertheless, the possibility reawakenedin the members a desire to take some positive action, and tostop the theatre company’s aimless drifting.Early in 1969, the Association sent out a notice to themembers asking them to come to a meeting in which the futureof the Vancouver Little Theatre would be decided. Some of thealternatives were a) to federate with the Metro Theatre, b) tosell and move to a central site, c) to stay, redesign andrenovate, or d) to stay, replace the roof and carry on at theYork. A meeting was held on April 22, 1969, with 50 people inattendance (the membership stood at around 300 at this point).They voted unanimously to renovate and redesign the YorkTheatre. This was not the easiest option open to the VLTA,but the members wanted to stay on. As The Vancouver Sunreported,VLTA thought it needed a new home. But when themembership got right down to a decision, the old96York theatre at 637 Commercial couldn’t beabandoned, in spite of her leaky roof, crowdeddressing rooms, menageries of mice and location backin the glamourless east side of town. . .A majority ofthose members were in the younger age bracket,[President John] Neville added, pointing out thatthe nostalgia was more a love of the theatre than awish to hang on to ‘the good old days’ by any groupof older members...’ No one, it seems, can bear topart with the cumbersome old lady who has motheredso manz on the way up,’ reported the VLTA newssheet.The members enthusiastically wanted to do major changesto the building, but started by doing inexpensive renovations.As the VLTA newsletter reported: “[The building committeehave] been seeing bank managers, construction experts,engineers, and, finally, stars!”133 The first thing to befinished was a new roof, completed in the summer of 1969. Anew scene shop was then built beside the building, the lobbywas extended into the old scene shop, the front of thebuilding was given a “facade-lift”.134 This first phase cost$12,000. Before the first phase was even complete, theAssociation had run out of money to cover the renovation. InThe Yorker the organisation made a plea for more money. “Atthis vital stage, we are making progress, however MORE moneyis needed... If each of our 300 members donated $20.00, thetotal of $6000 would immediately solve our financialproblems.”135 Any other phases planned were put onindefinite hold, as the cost of the first phase had become sohigh.At the end of that season, 1969-70, Artistic DirectorJohn Parker resigned. “My decision is for purely personal97reasons,” he wrote. “It would be easy for me to serve asA[rtistic] D[irector] for the rest of my life. It waspersonally most rewarding. ii136 With his leaving, theAssociation lost a most dedicated Artistic Director, who wasinterested in the welfare of the theatre company, whether itwas being successful or not. The next few years saw asuccession of Artistic Directors, none of whom had thededication of Parker, and none stayed longer than a year. TheArtistic Director for 1970-71 was Jace van der Veen, for 1971-72 Michael Berry, and for 1972-73 Michael Ball and his wife,Sharon Pollock. The constant turnover in Artistic Directorsreflected the spiralling downward movement of the Association.Near the end of the 1972-73 season, there was another offer tobuy the York. A special meeting was held to vote on whetherto sell or not. As The Yorker reported,Walter Shynaryk chaired a special meeting of twentymembers, a bare quorum, who decided the direction inwhich VLTA would move, or stand still, or retrogressfor the next season or two. The offer to buy theYork by the Patel brothers was voted down almostunanimously. Eleven of those present offered towork in some capacity to keep VLTA afloat. GoodLuck to them! The way the local initiative grantsare cutting across established patterns of localdrama, they will need it in great gobs.137Vancouver’s theatre scene was shifting away fromcommunity theatre. New professional theatre companies werespringing up everywhere, most of them small and experimental.Such companies such as Tamahnous and the Arts Club, as well asthe regional theatre company, the Playhouse, were findingsuccess in Vancouver, and this was taking its toll on the98VLTA. Many of the professional theatre companies begun atthis time are still producing plays in Vancouver, most of themfinanced in part by government grants. Many of the earlygrants were initiated from the Local Initiatives Programmementioned above. VLTA had become the ‘old-fashioned’ style oftheatre in Vancouver. Theatre—goers were now more interestedin the new theatre movements.The editors of VLTA’s The Yorker, in their lastnewsletter of May 1973, expressed the frustrations permeatingthe Association.“In Desperation”; We have been trying all thisseason to overcome the feeling that we are wastingour time putting out a Yorker. There just don’tseem to be sufficient members and former members whoare interested in VLTA’s diminished activities...When last did the few VLTA members still activelyfeel a sense of excitement when planning activitiesfor the next season? For many reasons, includingfactors beyond their control, a sense of duty and afeeling of pressure has replaced the spontaneity,the sharing of experience and the small and largetriumphs. Then, of course, the fewer they get thegrimmer the going becomes compared to what it usedto be.138An open and lengthy discussion ensued at the AnnualGeneral Meeting that year, after an unsuccessful season. Themembers wanted to determine what to do with the future of thetheatre company, and their York Theatre:The rest of the meeting was devoted to a general,wide ranging, rather inconclusive discussion of pastand present problems - at the end of a dismallyunsuccessful year. It is felt that appointment ofan Artistic Director unfamiliar with the group isnot appropriate at the present time. The generalfeeling of those present certainly was that VLTAshould continue its activities but that efforts mustbe made to ensure good quality productions.. .There99were many comments, complaints and suggestionsduring the discussion and no attempt was made torecord them, the purpose of the meeting being tohave an open discussion to which everyonecontributed - everyone did!139It was decided at the meeting that the Association shouldtry to continue, but that it was a good idea to decrease thenumbers of productions per season. Within four years, thecompany was down to two productions per season, due to lack offunds and audiences. The problem was addressed at anExtraordinary General Meeting in March 1977:VLTA presented only 2 productions - full scaleproductions are too expensive to mount, ouraudiences have been poor, and the theatre has beenheavily rented. We are giving workshops forchildren and adults to provide training in theatretechnique that is not available elsewhere and anopportunity to perform. Next year, if there is noimprovement in the money situation and there isheavy rental demand, VLTA may stage only one majorproduction and concentrate on “recreationaP’members-only productions with short rehearsals andruns • 140The positive side to the increased rental of the theatre wasthat it opened the possibility of generating enough revenue torenovate the theatre. In 1975-76, consideration was given tomore renovation - a completion of Phase Two planned six yearsearlier. Renovation costs in 1975—76 were estimated at$100,000. The estimates quickly escalated to $360,000. Somemoney 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 the1977-78 season, the Building Inspector delivered the final100death blow to the York Theatre. “Building inspectors advisethat unless a new fire escape and sprinkler are installedimmediately the theatre will be closed down.”141 Until thesesafety renovations were completed, VLTA could not use thetheatre, 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 wasbrought up for discussion at an Extraordinary General Meeting,held November 7, 1977. This time, the members made the finaldecision: sell the York Theatre.As soon as the decision was made, the organisation lookedfor a buyer. By March of 1978, the York Theatre was sold.Always optimistic, the VLTA felt that the move would bringlife back to the Association, whose membership had drasticallydwindled to a meagre 65 people. “While it will be readilyunderstood that the inevitability of the sale was faced byVLTA’s Board with considerable reluctance, it was alsorealised that the move gives an opportunity for a new lease inlife to Canada’s oldest surviving amateur theatreassociation. ,,142101CHAPTER SIXConclusion: VLTA After the York TheatreAfter VLTA sold the York Theatre in the spring of 1978,the money from the sale of the building was put into long-termdeposits, most of which would not come to term for five years.Otherwise, the most important item on the agenda was to find anew home. Fifty-five years of memorabilia in the form of setpieces, costumes, props and equipment needed a new storagespace. The first temporary location VLTA moved to was 18801/2 Ontario Street. The ‘new space’, as it was dubbed, wasover a lumber yard, and lasted one season, 1978-79. VLTA wasable to put on two productions that season, both played at theMetro Theatre. It was also able to put a play into the B.C.Festival. By the end of the season, it had found anotherspace, at 748 Richards Street. Within the first year therewas a revolt among the members against the board of directors:it was felt that the board was not leading the Association inthe 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, were102interested in seeing VLTA try a new tactic. As members of theboard, and sometimes as presidents, the MacNeills had enoughpower to change the direction of the company within the nextfour years. They were able to convince the board to put VLTAon hold, and to create a professional company instead. AsCohn Funk, later VLTA president, explained: “VLTA would bethe administering body, but there would be [a professional]repertory company underneath VLTA called the VancouverRepertory Theatre.. .basically VLTA was just forgotten aboutcompletely except on paper.”143 It was supposed to be afull-fledged professional theatre, complete with salaries andcontracts. Funk was involved at the time as an actor. But theactors were not getting paid. The feeling among the actorstowards the board and the people making decisions was verydiscordant. VLTA was also beginning to create a badreputation for itself.The problem finally came to a head in the summer of 1982.The Vancouver Repertory Company was supposed to put on aperformance at Robson Square, when, in an ugly scene, some ofthe actors revolted and refused to go on stage. Funkremembers, “I believe Robin had to go out and make anannouncement to the audience that the cast wasn’t going to goahead and do the show.. .there [were] a few of us that werereally upset about what was happening.” This was the only waythat the actors felt they could have their voices heardagainst the injustices they felt they were receiving from the103board. The actors had signed contracts, but the board was notfulfilling its part of the contract.Many of the actors involved at the time felt that tryingto make VLTA into a professional company went against theoriginal objective of the Association, that it should remain acommunity theatre. At this point, Cohn Funk decided to takematters into his own hands.I was personally so angry at what had happened thatwe were. . .determined to. . . set it straight, somehow,find out what the hell was going on, or at least geta new group working in there. So. . .1 actually snuckinto the studio, and stole their constitution,because none of us had any access to [it].. .we hadto climb over the wall.Cohn Funk was interested in trying to get back to theAssociation’s mandates, but knew that it would be impossibleto try to make the theatre group exactly the way it was. Herecognised that change was needed, but he still felt that itwas important to keep the spirit of community theatre alive.By taking the constitution, he was able to find out whatoptions were open to the members who felt the same.I realised that all we needed was ten people whowere members to sign a piece of paper so that Icould call an [extraordinary] annual generalmeeting. And so for the next month I. . . looked upall these people, drove all around town and gotsignatures, and I mailed a letter to Robin and MaryAnne [MacNeihl] saying, we members of VLTA arecalling an Annual General Meeting.Nineteen people showed up. When they got to the meeting, theydiscovered a letter under the door. It was a letter ofresignation from Robin and Mary Ann MacNeill. At this point,Cohn was elected President, because most people felt that104because he had gone to so much trouble, he truly had theAssociation’s best interests at heart, and would work toreunite the company.At this meeting, it was discovered that VLTA was $30,000in debt, from the failure of the professional venture. As themoney from the sale of the York was in long-term deposits, itwas not available to pay off the debt. “That pretty wellscared everybody away except about four of us who determinedwe would try to deal with this.” They discovered they coulddefer payments on the debt by using the interest payments fromthe term deposits to pay it off. (When the money in the long-term deposits became available, they were able to pay off theremaining debt, as well as put some money towards othertheatrical ventures. The VLTA donated $10,000 to theShakespeare Festival: unfortunately the Festival folded thenext year. They also started trust funds within the VLTA;money towards helping develop new scripts, or new theatrecompanies. According to Cohn, by the time they left in 1985,a majority of the capital had been committed in one way oranother.)This started a year of redefining the direction of VLTA,as well as finding a suitable performance space. The workroomon Richards Street functioned mainly as a storage area, butnot 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,105so there was no identification.”The solution came in 1983 in the form of Heritage Hall onMain Street at 15th Avenue. Heritage Hall was run by a cooperative volunteer group, called The Main Source. The MainSource’s constitution for using the building made it necessaryfor there to be a cultural body using part of the building.The cultural body originally involved with The Main Source wasAVA, or Avenue for the Arts. The VLTA became involved withAVA, and AVA and VLTA were given the use of the basement.Within the year, VLTA was having problems with AVA. AVAwanted to use the area for storage only, but Cohn Funk andConnie Brill, Cohn’s future wife, saw it as a potentialperformance space. When AVA stopped paying the rent, VLTAbroke off ties with it. The Association was able to join TheMain Source on its own, because of the VLTA’s non-profitstatus.The basement needed much work. It had been used as astorage and construction area, and it was unfinished. Therewas garbage everywhere, as well as a large puddle in themiddle of it. Cohn Funk and Connie Brihl moved into thespace and started to clean it up. They also started to thinkabout what they could use it for, and what function VLTAshould perform in the theatre scene in Vancouver. As thespace 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 had106been going for the first few years after the sale of the YorkTheatre, 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. Somersetinterviewing us. She explained that VLTA hadacquired a bad name ever since the late 1970s. Shewanted to know what right we had to use the name,how we would be different from other companies, ifwe planned on turning professional, and would we beVLTA if it wasn’t for the money. She had numerousquestions on how Cohn Funk came to have control ofVLTA funds. Connie answered her questions andassured her that our intentions were to restoretheatre to its amateur status and that it was ourtask to earn the right to use the name, and clearany negative feelings the community or old-timershave toward the Little Theatre. . .Dr. Somersetconcluded that she had not been interested in thetheatre any more but having talked with us, she nowwas. She said if anyone asked her about the ‘new’VLTA she would say we were a group of young peoplewho ought to be given the chance and support toprove ourselves. She said the proof was in theeating and that if the old-timers came out tosupport us then we had earned the honor of using thename • 144The VLTA succeeded in producing new plays for twoseasons. Then in 1985, Connie and Cohn realised that havinga family was also important to them, and they wanted to handVLTA over to someone else. Their biggest fear was thatsomeone would want to take it over simply to acquire the moneyfrom the sale of the York, or to take over the space to useit as a free rehearsal area. They wanted to see the spaceshared by several interested parties, not for it to bedominated by one group. At this point, they decided to makethe Association into the Vancouver Little Theatre Alliance.107The VLT Alliance would function as an umbrella organisation,making available an affordable space for other communitytheatre groups, thus carrying on the tradition of the oldVLTA. It meant that the Association would cease to be aproducing company: now it would be an organisation to run atheatre space. Cohn Funk explains:In a way it’s unfortunate that it’s not theVancouver Little Theatre Association ‘Company’that’s running that [place]. It [VLTA] hasindirectly died out, but the problem is it had suchbaggage in terms of what it was.. .and it’sunrealistic to think they would ever reach thatprofile 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 ofEurope. Not content with the entertainment available at thetime, some forward-thinking individuals created the VancouverLittle Theatre. They tried to capture the imaginativecreativeness alive in the art theatres elsewhere in the world.Unfortunately, the focus quickly shifted from this ideal to atheatre company whose financial situation dictated itsdirection. Many of the early choices for plays reflected theinterests of those members dedicated to the art theatre, butlater plays chosen were geared for the audience’sentertainment. Innovation, once a driving force for the108founders, was relegated to the studio-type performances, inorder to avoid risking financial collapse. A company born outof the ideals of the art theatre was transformed into anorganisation that catered to the pleasure of the generalpublic.By the 1930s, the Depression was affecting all facets oflife, and film was starting to have an impact on theentertainment world. Then the Second World War brought somemeaning back to the importance of VLTA, as the company sawitself as important to the well-being of those still at home.As professional theatre began to be explored in the early1950s, VLTA suddenly had stiff competition, which had a two-sided effect: VLTA had to compete for audiences, but also itsstandards rose in order to keep up with companies like Totemand Everyman.The presence of a civic theatre building in Vancouver inthe late 1950s and early 1960s was initially an excitingprospect for VLTA. But when the theatre was there, and thecompany had to contend financially on a professional level, itwas a trying and sobering experience. Finally VLTA recognisedthat it could not compete on a professional level. Foranother fifteen years it laboured to find its niche inVancouver’s theatre, and continued barely to hang on. Thenthe VLTA sold the York Theatre, and severed old ties. TheAssociation sank further into debt, and lost what was left ofits reputation before it found a new objective. The York109Theatre is still standing, and it is mostly used as arehearsal hail for rock bands. The exterior has been paintedwith 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 theinception of the VLTA. Most of the present emphasis in thecity is on professional theatre, but there are some amateurtheatre groups as well. It is not possible to say that thetheatre groups thrive because being in theatre in this societymeans a constant struggle for survival. All of theprofessional companies are subsidized by government, in someform or another. Theatre must compete with other forms ofelectronic entertainment such as movies and television, whichare more popular than theatre to the general public.VLTA’s struggle for success was not unique to theAssociation. Its story is similar to that of many littletheatres who have had to contend with mass entertainment andchanging 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 tothe subject to be objective enough about it. Perhaps, aswell, they did not want to let go of what was familiar, andchange with the times. As Connie Brill put it;You have to adapt to a new world, instead of saying,“Why can’t we recapture the old glory?” The worldhas changed, [and we need to ask] “What do we do tofit in? Where is our niche?” Once you find yourniche, you will have your own glory once again. Itwon’t be the same ever, because theatre in society1’]_ 0is a lot different than it was back then. I meanthat was [the] entertainment, going out to thetheatre. And as other forms [of entertainment] comein, then it becomes a very different storyaltogether, so you have to learn how to adapt andfind out what is needed in the community that we canfill with the tools we have.Looking back on the original objectives of the VLTA, itis possible to see which ones were achieved, and which weresacrificed. The first is “to promote the study of drama.” Itis possible to say that its tenacity alone achieved thismandate. In its seventy-plus year history, the VLTA put onhundreds of mainstage productions. It continued to perform“private performances” or studio productions on and offthroughout its history. It periodically conducted classes foracting, direction, and production. It promoted newplaywrights, either through production of their plays or inworkshops. It provided a venue for other companies, both atthe York Theatre and at Heritage Hall. It promoted othertheatre groups, and supported local theatre of all types. Inthis mandate the VLTA succeeded.The second is “to produce high class plays by British andforeign dramatists, not ordinarily given by travellingcompanies”. This mandate relates mostly to the early years ofthe VLTA’s existence. The VLTA did put on plays thetravelling companies did not; many of the plays were onesbeing done by little theatres elsewhere. As the decadespassed, the VLTA still favoured the foreign plays to the worksdone by Canadians. This ties into the third objective, “to111encourage and provide facilities for the production of playsby Canadian dramatists”. This objective, although not on theforefront of the Association’s activities, did promote localworks. The last, “to develop the arts of costume and scenicdesign and stage lighting,” must have been restricted allalong by financial considerations, and was, perhaps, thepersonal desire of the two founders, Sam Weliwood and CharlesFerguson.Other unwritten mandates existed. The VLTA, onceestablished, lost some of its importance during theDepression. For the rest of its existence, the Associationtried to get back the old glory, but never completelysucceeded. As well, its original impetus, to be a littletheatre in the same tradition as the art theatres of Europe,dissipated when financial considerations began to overrideartistic decisions.Unlike some other little theatres in Canada, VLTA neverturned professional. On the other hand, many theatre peoplewho began at VLTA did become professional. VLTA was a sourcefor talented young performers such as John Drainie, John Gray,Joy Coghill, Rosemary Malkin and Sam Payne; and for directorssuch as Jessie Richardson, Phoebe Smith, Yvonne Firkins andIan Thorne. Many people who have been influential in thetheatre scene began at the Vancouver Little TheatreAssociation. The wealth of talent that went on to createtheatre elsewhere made the Vancouver Little Theatre112Association’s existence an important factor in the growth oftheatre, not only in Vancouver, but in Canada.113NOTESCHAPTER ONE1. Peter Guildford, The Development of Professional Theatre inVancouver, M.A. thesis, Vancouver, University of British Columbia,1981, pp. 12—13.2. Robert B. Todd, “Ernest Ramsay Ricketts and Theatre in EarlyVancouver”, Vancouver History, Vol. 19, No. 2, February 1980, p.17.3. Robert B. Todd, “The Organisation of Professional Theatre inVancouver, 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 andthe Arts before the Massey Commission, Toronto, University ofToronto Press, 1990, p.7.6. Ibid., Pp. 9—10.CHAPTER TWO7. City of Vancouver Archives (hereafter CVA), Sheila NevilleCollection, Add.MSS 807, File 4, manuscript written by SheilaNeville 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. 5, File 4, CharlesFerguson in a letter to R.L. Reid, August 1, 1935, p. 1.9. Ibid, p. 1. Some spelling corrected silently.10. Eugene Benson and L.W. Conolly, English-Canadian Theatre,Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1987, p.45.11. Ferguson, bc. cit, p. 1.12. Sheldon Cheney, The Art Theatre, New York, Benjamin Bbom, Inc..,1925, pp. 204—205.13. Ferguson, bc. cit., p. 2.14. Ibid., p. 2.15. Ibid., p. 3.11416. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 15, File 4, H.H. Simmonds, A BriefHistory of The Vancouver Little Theatre, n.d. [1932?]17. Sam Wellwood, “The Community Theatre”, The Daily Province, July30, 1921, p. 12.18. Ibid.19. Ferguson, bc. cit., p. 3.20. 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. Ibid., p. 1.22. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 5, File 4, Jas Leyland, “History of theLittle Theatre”, n.d. [1933?], n.p.23. MacGregor, bc. cit., p. 1.24. Leyland, bc. cit.25. Ferguson, bc. cit., p. 4.26. “Clever Amateurs in One-Act Plays”, The Daily Province,November 4, 1921, p. 4.27. Leyland, bc. cit.28. “Little Theatre is Scene of Three Clever Sketches”, TheVancouver Sun, December 16, 1921, p. 16.29. “Little Theatre is Making Progress”, The Daily Province,December 16, 1921, p. 35.30. Leyband, bc. cit.31. “Notable Opening of the Little Theatre”, The Daily Province,October 20, 1922, p. 25.32. Leyland, bc. cit.33. “Fine Productions at Little Theatre”, The Daily Province,December 1, 1922, p. 3.34. Leyland, bc. cit.35. “Scores Hit in “Dear Brutus”; Tenth Production of LTA anArtistic Triumph”, The Daily Province, May 3, 1923, p. 13.11536. 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-August1986, 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 WestmountDramatic Club, letter to H.H. Simnionds, no date [1933-34?]. “Wewish you every success with your history of Vancouver’s famousLittle Theatre.” At the time, VLTA was trying to accumulateinformation on other little theatres in Canada, as it was writinga history of its own company. The history was cursory; not themajor work VLTA planned.CHAPTER THREE42. Cheney, pp. 96-97.43. H.H. Simmonds, “Secretary’s Column”, Little Theatre News,December 1932, Vol VII, No. 3.44. CVA, Add.MSS 807, File 1, “History of VLTA”, no author, 1933.45. Ibid.46. Letter from VLTA to members, September 17, 1932.47. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 14, file 2, Jessica Foote, Adjudicationpapers, March 17, 1933.48. CVA, Add.MSS 807, File 3, No author [Dorothy Somerset?], notereminiscing 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, President’sReport for the Annual General Meeting, May 8, 1933.51. Ibid.11652. Ibid.53. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 7, H.H. Simmonds, Secretary’sReport for the Annual General Meeting, 1934-35 season.54. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol 13, File 1, Yvonne Firkins, “Vancouver’sLittle Theatre Proudly Comes of Age”, unknown paper, n.d. [1941?]55. George Wright, “Casual Comments by George Wright”, The News-Herald, March 29, 1937, p. 9.56. “Little Theatre Group Scores in Sparkling Comedy”, The News-Herald, February 9, 1940, p. 2.57. Stanley Bligh, “Fine Comedy Draws Full Attendance”, VancouverSun, February 9, 1940, p. 8.58. Ibid.59. CVA, Add.MSS 807, File 6, Jessie Richardson, “Progress andProblems of Larger City Drama Groups”, 1948, p. 3.60. Programme for Thunder Rock, March 16-18, 1942.61. Programme for The Importance of Being Earnest, June 15—17,1942.62. Programme for The Willow and I, April 3-6, 1944.63. “The Little Theatre”, The Daily Province, October 28, 1936, p.4.CHAPTER FOUR64. Richardson, p. 3.65. 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 RoyalCommission on the National Development of Arts, Letters, andSciences under the Chairmanship of the Right Honourable VincentMassey, 1949, p. 1.69. Ibid.11770. Jessie Richardson, “Progress and Problems”, p. 1.71. CVA, Newspaper clippings under VLTA, “Wanted: A Playhouse”,unidentified paper, October 22, 1946.72. Jessie Richardson, Brief to the Massey Commission, p. 3. Theother recommendations were “That Government scholarships be givento young Canadians showing exceptional promise in the art ofTheatre. . . [and] That Little Theatres and like community groups ofnon-profit distributing calibre be exempt from amusement tax...”73. The Little Theatre News, Vol. 1, No. 1, August 1948.74. Jessie Richardson, “Progress and Problems”, p. 3.75. Elmore Philpott, “Big Little Theatre”, The Vancouver Sun,October 27, 1948, p. 4.76. Constance MacKay, “Little Theatre Farce Effort Dies a-Borning”,The News-Herald, October 19, 1948, p. 3.77. Ian Dobbie, “London Stage Director Disagrees with CriticConstance MacKay”, The News-Herald, October 22, 1948, p. 7.78. Ibid.79. Constance MacKay, “Constance MacKay Replies to English ProducerDobbie”, The News-Herald, October 23, 1948, p. 9.80. Ibid.81. Harry C. Lampkin, “Critic vs. Critic”, The News-Herald, October30, 1948, p. 11.82. Bernard Braden, “Canadian Professional Asserts Critic ConstanceMacKay Was Right”, The News-Herald, October 25, 1948, p. 9.83. Philpott, p. 4.84. Naomi Lang, “Gruff but Gifted: Director Ian Dobbie may heapinsults 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 NewsHerald, November 3, 1948, p. 7.86. Quoted by Lang, p. 7.87. Jessie Richardson, Brief to the Massey Commission, bc. cit.88. “Coward Play Premiere”, The Daily Province, March 11, 1950, p.35.11889. Lang, p. 7.90. Noreen Petty, “In Spotlight”, Vancouver Sun, November 29, 1952,p. 23.91. Paddy Daly, “Happenings in the World of Drama”, The VancouverSun, June 24, 1950, p. 6.92. Ibid.93. Paddy Daly, “Happenings in the World of Drama”, The VancouverSun, June 30, 1951, p. 6.94. Paddy Daly, “Happenings in the World of Drama” The VancouverAugust 25, 1951, p. 6.95. Paddy Daly, “Happenings in the World of Drama”, September 15,1951, p. 10.96. Programme for Tovarich, December 952.97. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 25, File 3, Norman Sedawie,“Strangulation Faces Dramatics”, The Vancouver Province, n.d.98. Margaret Rushton, President’s Notes in VLTA programme for RoomService, October 1953.99. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, Minutes of a Special Meeting of theBoard of Directors, January 31, 1952.100. Quoted by Sedawie, bc. cit.101. Ibid., quoted by Sedawie.102. VLTA Programme for Thieves’ Carnival, January 1954.CHAPTER FIVE103. 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. 1, File 3, VLTA Minutes, August 15,1960.107. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 2, VLTA Minutes, April 10,1960.119108. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 2, VLTA Minutes, April 10,1960.109. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 4, VLTA Minutes,Extraordinary General Meeting, May 1, 1960.110. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 4, Letter to VLTA members,n.d. [1960?].111. Ibid.112. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 3, John Panrucker, letter toDorothy Goidrick, June 6, 1960.113. Ben Metcalf e, “There’s more than ‘two planks and a passion’to Little Theatre’s offering today”, The Daily Province,September 17, 1960, p. 18.114. Mike Tytherleigh, “QET is deserted in Theatre Battle”, TheVancouver Sun, January 11, 1961.115. Ibid.116. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 3, VLTA Minutes, March 28,1961.117. Ibid. In unrelated developments concerning the “Panruckerdealings”, John Panrucker was arrested and tried for theft andbreach of booking agreements in 1960. He was accused ofstealing over $20,000 and forging paycheques. He received afour-year sentence, served two and a half years, and then wasdeported back to England. It seems he had served a two—yearjail term in England for similar charges, to which he neveradmitted when he emigrated to Canada. He had been the generalmanager 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. 1, File 4, Report of CommitteeMeeting, November 9, 1961.120. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 3, VLTA Minutes, December 7,1960.121. “City Balks at Theatre Group Grant”, The Daily Province,June 20, 1962.122. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 3, VLTA Minutes, November 3,1960.123. The Daily Province, August 14, 1962.120124. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 4, VLTA Minutes, March 1962.125. Mike Tytherleigh, “Little Theatre Goes Over Big”, The DailyProvince, January 30, 1963, P. 16.126. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 25, File 5, VLTA Members’ Bulletin,April 1963.127. 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 41, Vol. 1, File 4, VLTA list of Executivepositions.130. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 4, Helen Bristowe, letter toSheila Neville, February 15, 1964.131. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 1, File 3, Eddie Calvert (Director ofProductions), Report to the Annual General Meeting, June 20,1962.132. “Facelift for a Gallant Old Lady”, The Vancouver Sun,September 12, 1969, p. 4A.133. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 17, The Yorker, May 1969.134. Ibid.135. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 17, The Yorker, Fall 1969.136. CVA, Add,MSS 41, Vol. 17, John Parker, excerpt from hisletter of resignation, quoted in The Yorker, Spring 1970.137. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 17, The Yorker, Spring 1973.138. CVA, Add.MSS 41, Vol. 17, 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, ExtraordinaryGeneral Meeting, March 22, 1977.141. CVA, Add.MSS 597 F 4, File 4, VLTA History Highlights.142. Ibid.121CHAPTER SIX143. Cohn Funk and Connie Brihl interview, May 1, 1992, Banff,Alberta. All other quotations not annotated in this chapter arefrom 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, 1985.122B IBLIOGRAPHYMost of this paper is drawn from the archival collection ofVLTA at the Vancouver City Archives. The collection is large,and covers many aspects of the theatre company’s existence.There are two main VLTA acquisitions at the Archives, one givento the city by Sheila Neville in 1971 (CVA Add.MSS 41), the otherby Connie Brill and Cohn Funk in 1985 (Add.MSS 596 and 597).These collections contain all of the correspondence, minutes,photos and most of the articles and programmes used in thispaper. 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 wereused.Some interviews were conducted, as well as informalconversations.January 29, 1992 - Guy and Marion Palmer, VancouverApril 14, 1992 - Connie Brill, by telephoneMay 1, 1992 - Cohn Funk and Connie Brill, Banff, AlbertaPeriodically - Gay Scrivener, Vancouver123Finally, the following books and articles proved useful:Benson, Eugene, and Conolly, L.W. English-Canadian Theatre.Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1987.Cheney, Sheldon. The Art Theatre. New York, Benjamin Blom,Inc., 1925.“Clever Amateurs in One-Act Plays”. The Daily Province.Vancouver, November 4, 1921.Davis, Chuck. The Vancouver Book. Vancouver, J.J. Douglas, 1975.Guildford, Peter. The Development of Professional Theatre inVancouver. Master’s Thesis: Vancouver, University of BritishColumbia, 1981.Johnston, Denis W. Up the Mainstream. Toronto, University ofToronto 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 VancouverSun. 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 memoirEdited by Denis Johnston”. Theatre History in Canada!Histoire du Theatre au Canada. Vol. 10 No. 2, Fall 1989.Tippett, Maria. Making Culture: English-Canadian Institutionsand the Arts before the Massey Commission. Toronto,University of Toronto Press, 1990.Todd, Robert. “Ernest Ramsay Ricketts and Theatre in EarlyVancouver”. Vancouver History. Vol. 19, No. 2, February1980.. “The Organisation of Professional Theatre inVancouver, 1886-1914”. B.C. Studies. No. 44, Winter 1979-80.Weliwood, Sam. “The Community Theatre”. The Daily Province.Vancouver, July 30, 1921.124APPENDIX APresidents of the Vancouver Little Theatre Association, 1921-19781921-23 R.L. Reid, KC1923—29 W.G. Murrin — 1923—291929—31 B.D.G. Phillips1931-32 J.P.D. Malkin, E.V. Young1932-33 Percy Gomery1933-37 General V.W. Odium1937—38 H.H. Simmonds1938-39 E.G. Mather1939-43 Major Ed Gallant1943-45 Mrs. Phoebe Smith1945-46 Donald Cromie1947-48 Van Norman1948—51 Mrs. Jessie Richardson1951-52 Mrs. Yvonne Firkins (to February)1952-56 Mrs. Margaret Rushton (from February)1956-58 Wilison Knowlton1958-59 Dorothy Goidrick1959—60 Claire O’Sullivan1960-62 John Read1962—64 Sheila Neville1964-65 Dalton Allan1965—66 Rene Dieknian1966-68 John Read1968-70 Jack Neville1251970-71 Bud Lando1971-72 John Read/Roger Smith1973-74 Walter Shynkaryk1974-75 Carol Roberts1975-76 Stan Winfield1976-77 Tania Murenko1977-78 Terry Marshall126t’IWUZOO’-flCi)F-iC‘-Ci)L‘J<OODiC)Li<MDiOCDCDOOHCDOCfl<CDZrIctC)CDCDCDCD’<F-’CDMMDiHbCDCD0CD(D<MOct.HOO0I-iDiCDNHctMCDCDCDCl)Zr-L’..)1CD-JctI:MCtDI—1U)b’OOWCDCDCDOOu1DiCDF-Ct)DiODi(DbIObDiOOF-hOO)rI-WMI.DiItJCMO)iCflCDCDctCDCl)-c-I-Cl)DCDCDI-3WM’iOt/)rI-aWMMCDMLi0..OctDiHLi(flCDM—(-I-HICD‘flrI-‘.0Ict-DiCDF—t’O0...i-00..HwCl)UU)U)CDCDiICl)-HO’.)0..MoHHLnctCDI00MDi0(1)WH’0(J)IHUIMCDU’ZIiHZ(D’.DbCDHCD—CT)-••LIH-••:3tDiDiMF—f-’COCD(n-.lI-(J)rtDiHHDiOI-s)3‘.0ODiH-Ht:3HI-CD0..C)I-’iHiDiMM‘.0‘.3DiH(NJ3‘-0‘.0H(NiC!)Hc-I-ctCDH(NJtrn..)Q-(NJt%)Q0ct‘.0•U)’.OHI-’(NJ.JI—hJDi(NJ(I)(NJI1-3HI®HLNJHDi‘.Oc-I:iU‘-3k)HHtJW0CDt’iDiCD[NJCDH(I)CDH:3‘1 CDLi ‘-3‘100z0..flt0Cf)0HHDiCDCDO•H.L’O••H0CDMDiDiCD(NJHMMMt’iHCDWHMWO(J)1-3..-1b’Mi(t1.0•0•.00MDiOMOL’CD’<CDCDiHOCDHH•F—oH‘1ct0..UC4OO‘-3C/)UCD0..00-..CDO)0Di<CDHO’<WCD0CDCT)0CT)00SMDiflHWWctcwMO0OHI3‘diQOCI)cI-MDiCDMDi’dO(DDiDi(J)bMCDICDsCDDiWDiO)DiHCD0rtO0..HH3‘dCD’.Q0..CD03‘<CDCDctDiiiCD0..fflrtCDODibIMCDOHctM‘-3‘.0CDM0HWIDMCi)HCD‘.000H ‘.0 [‘3ULJJQrJxjUL’JQUOQQ’JUH•MCD•••••••••CD•O)•DJ•HIWCD<CDtIMMJ1M0-1•••3•h•H-i•tiMfl••CDHHflflCDC-bIi-.flWC)MWCDCD•‘-3MOOMOOMMOZMctMHDiH0‘<DiHH0HHODiHO..MO..00..Q..I3OCD0..0CDO..Q..0O..W0..Q..0Di’.QODiM‘.QDiDi’.QMO..CDDiCDOCDLYCDHQ..DiHCDHHCDOCDHHHO.DiIDH:303:3HO®Di‘.Q‘.0CD<i-i-hjOi‘-tJ‘-ZI-U-I-(l)II3ZC_ICD0)(D•001D0)P)(D0)000(DO)zIjH•pi00i0bCD0OCctWI-iDCJ)(Db’CDC)0<HO)’<CDF-”OMCl)CD:iII00•0HHi‘sI-ICDI®CD‘1HiH•OCl)bi.-3F--F—I-UCI)W0---roipi(DO)H01’Y•CDF-cl-CD0)0)Q)‘b0bWICDHCD-tM<‘1‘rj0‘1I)0)MMC)3CD<CDCl)‘1(71CD0)t\)Cl)CD<I1MCl)c-tF-0ICDI-II1’-<ZMCDI-iLJCD..)HCDU)H000E’iti-JHiUlCDCDCDI-IHIOc-l-t’JDHiCDW---o’rtI——.)Cl)IJiH•U’CDI-IICi)0)Ii-3LiI0Cl)i—I-II-’CDIHctCJ)O’t’J0bi—’HF-IH‘DflCDIOHZ:i-0)t’iL)4t3’-U’ZOD<OMO)0)0••F-c-I-CD‘N3Qt’JF—I10U’t’3‘1Cl)I—CD-CDHctMctH(flOtJ-C)H‘.0H‘.00HCD‘.0ctCDH‘.0I-”c00[‘3‘.0.)WCD[‘3c-I-H‘.0b..)HCDW0’.0[‘.3‘1[‘3H‘.0[‘3W‘.0‘1CDt-.iHU]HI0)CD[‘3U)I[‘.3Cl)U)CD0..WU)-LI-)00..c-I-HHi(1)00)Cl)1:-I0) c-I CD ‘-I0‘ICl)tiCl)QL’JL’ihj/)-lH•I-•c-I-0)•H(l)CCD•OOHM••Hi[‘3W00)‘1CDCi)0)O-lC)CDTI-0CDI-•ctpiCD•0MC/)••‘-<0)iQMI-1HHCD‘<H’.Qc-I-0)0LiOHCD0C/)C-CDCDCD•ZdMIIWfl00)Q..HI-fl---0)U00•0..0)(DC)0)HCD0)Z<CD0F-al—’‘1CDHI-•CDCDCD‘1I—0)MZnF-b0CDCD000..Hi0)’1’i(Dc-I-H•I-W0)0)HH(DCDCD‘.0‘.O—’HCD’-<0‘100..CD0F—H0i—CDc-I-c-I-c-I-H0..CtF—I—’CD0000)HCD00 ‘1tJc_4t’i‘1MM•••‘1•M••••0)0..•-.0)0)•‘1Cl)CD0)<00)LiZM•....(D0)•OCDLiOCD‘1<CDHO)CD•.i.<.WLiWW.k<LtJ0C40C4‘1C,O)M0M’JC/)00)HMC.40HOCDH•0O)WCDH•00c-t0..MI-•OHCl)CD’<0HO0)H0PHQc-I-H•OH1,.QCDHCl)HCD(DHO)H0O))..HCDictH®c-I-c-I-‘1Cl)‘.0ctc-tO)30000..000..0‘1H0..MCDCDCDCDApril 1—4, 1925NightRy landHow He Lied to Her HusbandMay 26—30, 1925Tilly of BloomsburyJames OppenheimThomas Stephens &K.S. GoodmanG.B. ShawIn HayHelen BadgleyM.M. Reynolds &Jack GillmoreE.V. YoungFrank Johnstone& E.V. YoungFIFTH SEASON: 1925-26October 19—24, 1925Outward BoundDecember 9—12, 1925The SwanFebruary 10-13, 1926The ConnoisseurGreat CatherineMarch 23—27, 1926He Who Gets SlappedMay 6—8, 13—15, 1926Aren’t We AllSIXTH SEASON: 1926-27October 12-16, 1926The Torch BearersDecember 1-4, 1926The PigeonFebruary 8-12, 1927The Pillars of SocietyMar. 29—31, Apr. 1&2, 1927Arms and the ManMay 3—7, 1927Hay FeverSutton VaneFerenc MolnarMarjorie ReynoldsG.B. ShawLeonid AndreyevFrederick LonsdaleGeorge KellyJohn GalsworthyHenrik IbsenG.B. ShawNoel CowardE.V. YoungAnne FergusonM. ReynoldsJack GillmoreMrs E. WoodwardFrank JohnstoneAnne FergusonLeonard MillerSam Wellwood &Yvonne FirkinsMrs. G. Gibson& E.B. CleggS. J. Battle129SEVENTH SEASON: 1927-28October 18—22, 1927The CircleDecember 13—17, 1927The Bad ManFebruary 14-18, 1928Li 1 iomMarch 27—31, 1928The Admirable CrichtonMay 8—12, 1928Yellow SandsEIGHTH SEASON: 1928-29October 17—20, 1928What Every Woman KnowsNovember 14-17, 1928The CriticJan. 30,31, Feb. 1,2, 1929LoyaltiesMarch 20—23, 1929The Lilies of the FieldApril 24—27, 1929The Silver CordNINTH SEASON: 1929-30October 16—19, 1929The LiarsNovember 20-23, 1929At Mrs. Beam’sFebruary 6-8, 1930John FergusonMarch 19—22, 1930Shall We Join the Ladies?Androcles and the LionSomerset MaughamR. Emerson BrowneFerenc MolnarJ.M. BarrieE.& A. PhilpottsJ.M. BarrieRichard SheridanJohn GalsworthyJohn H. TurnerSidney HowardHenry ArthurC.K. MunroSt. John G. ErvineJ.M. BarrieG.B. Shaw130Frank JohnstoneMrs E. WoodwardB.G.D. PhilipsE.V. YoungLeonard MillerEily MalyonFrank JohnstoneGertrude LetsonR.M. EassieYvonne Firkins& L. RankinB.G.D. PhillipsFrank JohnstonePaul ChalfontGarfield KingClare SumnerMrs E. WoodwardApril 23—26, 1930The Queen’s Husband R.E. Sherwood B.G.D. PhillipsTENTH SEASON: 1930-31October 29—31, 1930Escape John Galsworthy A.J. GreathedDecember 3—6, 1930The Cradle Song G. Martinez Sierra B.G.D. PhillipsFebruary 5-7, 1931A Perfect Alibi A.A. Milne Frank JohnstoneMarch 25—28, 1931Dear Brutus (revival) J.M. Barrie E.V. YoungApr. 30, May 1,2, 1931 (fiftieth regular production)Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary St. John G. Ervine G.F. ScottELEVENTH SEASON: 1931-32October 7-10, 1931The Theatre of the Soul Evreinov Harry TauberThe Golden Doom Lord Dunsany Edythe YatesSabotage W. Vaicross & Hilda KeatleyPaul d’EstocThe Workhouse Ward Lady Gregory W. RankinDecember 16—19, 1931The Second Man S.N. Behrman E.A. WoodwardFebruary 11-13, 1932All The King’s Horses Charles Openshaw G. Roy KievillMarch 18—19, 1932Just Married Adelaide Matthews Jack FlanaganMay 6—7, 1932The Mask and the Face Luigi Chiarelli B.G.D. PhillipsTWELFTH SEASON: 1932-33October 21—22, 1932East of Suez Somerset Maugham Hilda Keatley &Frank JohnstoneNovember 4-5, 1932Love and Chance Marivaux Jean Mercier131December 16-17, 1932The PelicanMarch 10—11, 1933Captain Brassbound’s ConversionMay 18—20, 1933Good Morning BillTHIRTEENTH SEASON: 1933-34October 5-7, 1933Elizabeth the QueenNovember 16—18, 1933OlympiaJanuary 26-27, 1934A Doll’s HouseMay 11—12, 1934Meadchen in UniformMay 31, June 1-2, 1934The Royal FamilyF.T. Jesse &H.W. HarwoodG.B. ShawP.G. WodehouseMaxwell AndersonFerenc MolnarHenrik IbsenChrista WinslowG.S. Kaufman &Edna FerberB.G.D. PhillipsCarleton ClayFrank JohnstoneFrank JohnstoneB.G.D. PhillipsCarleton ClayYvonne FirkinsE. WoodwardFOURTEENTH SEASON: 1934-35October 17—20, 1934The Late Christopher BeanDecember 13—15, 1934Tobias and the AngelFebruary 8-9, 1935Uncle VanyaMay 3—4, 1935The Shining HourMay 22—25, 1935FearEmlyn WilliamsJames BridleAnton ChekhovKeith WinterA. AfinogenyevB.G.D. PhillipsD. SomersetGuy GloverMrs A. SoamesYvonne Firkins132FIFTEENTH SEASON: 1935-36November 25, 1935, STANLEY THEATRETen Minute Alibi Anthony ArmstrongFebruary 24, 1936, STANLEY THEATRESquaring the Circle Valentine KatayevMarch 9, 1936, STANLEY THEATREMadame Butterfly David BelascoPierrot the Prodigal Michel Carre &Andre WormserJune 11, 1936, U.B.C. AUDITORIUMNary of Scotland Maxwell AndersonSIXTEENTH SEASON: 1936-37October 29-31, 1936, LITTLE THEATREIf This Be Treason J.H. Holmes &R. LawrenceJanuary 7-9, 1936The Makropolous Secret Karel CapekFebruary 18-20, 1937Is Life Worth Living Lennox RobinsonSEVENTEENTH SEASON: 1937-38November 1-2, 1937Laburnum Grove J.B. PriestleyDecember 6-7, 1937Judgement Day Elmer RiceFebruary 11-12, 1938Interference Harold Deardon &Roland PertweeApril 8—9, 1938George and Margaret Gerald SavouryMay 27—28, 1938Double Door Elizabeth McFaddenLeonard MillerF.J.C. RamageG.F. ScottVivien RamsayFrank JohnstoneD. SomersetYvonne FirkinsG.F. ScottLeonard MillerYvonne FirkinsFrank JohnstoneBarbara WestA. Deuber133EIGHTEENTH SEASON: 1938-39October 28—29, 1938Winter Sunshine G. Thomas Leonard MillerDecember 9—10, 1938A Murder Has Been Arranged Emlyn Williams Howard TrippFebruary 9-11, 1939Idiot’s Delight Robert Sherwood Dorothy RowellMarch 17, 1939, STANLEY THEATREPaolo and Francesca Stephen Phillips Yvonne FirkinsApril 28—29, 1939Lady Precious Stream S.I. Hsiung Vivien RamsayNINETEENTH SEASON: 1939-40October 19—21, 1939Susan And God Rachel Crothers M. RichardsonDecember 14—16, 1939Chanticleer Edmond Rostand Viven RamsayFebruary 8-10, 1940Yes My Darling Daughter Mark Reed Yvonne FirkinsApril 1—3, 1940Night Must Fall Emlyn Williams Phoebe SmithMay 20—22, 1940Full House Ivor Novello J. PenningtonTWENTIETH SEASON: 1940-41October 21—23, 1940Tony Draws a Horse Leslie Storm M. RichardsonDecember 2—4, 1940The White Steed Paul Carroll Phoebe SmithFebruary 17-20, 1941The Guardsman Ferenc Molnar Yvonne FirkinsMarch 17—19, 1941Dangerous Corner J.B. Priestley Ivy RalstonApril 28—30, 1941Kind Lady Edward Chodorov Phoebe Smith134TWENTY-FIRST SEASON: 1941-42October 20—22, 1941Flight to the West Elmer Rice Phoebe SmithDecember 8—11, 1941Bunty Pulls the Strings Graham Moffatt Yvonne FirkinsMarch 16—18, 1942Thunder Rock Robert Ardrey Ivy RalstonMay 4—6, 1942Out of the Frying Pan Frances Swann Tom SherwoodJune 15—17, 1942The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde Leonard MillerTWENTY-SECOND SEASON: 1942-43November 16-19, 1942Watch on the Rhine Lillian Hellman Phoebe SmithDecember 14—16, 1942Priorities Various Vivien RamsayT. SherwoodFebruary 15-19, 1943Arsenic and Old Lace J. Kesseiring Mrs A. GrahamApril 12—14, 1943Ladies in Retirement Edward Percy & C. ChanterReg. DenhamMay 31, Jun 1—3, 1943The Philadelphia Story Philip Barry Nancy CaldwellTWENTY-THIRD SEASON: 1943-44October 3—5, 1943Dark Eyes Elena Maramova Phoebe SmithDecember 6—8, 1943Autumn Crocus C.L. Anthony C. ChanterFebruary 21-24, 1944Accent on Youth S. Raphelson John BethuneApril 3—6, 1944The Willow and I John Patrick Ivy Ralston135May 29—31, June 1, 1944There’s Always Juliet J. Van Druten John BethuneTWENTY-FOURTH SEASON: 1944-45October 30-31, November 1-2, 1944Junior Miss Jerome Chodorov Phoebe Smith& Joseph FieldsDecember 4-6, 1944Suspect Edward Percy & Ivy RalstonReg. DunhamFebruary 12-16, 1945Pyqinalion G.B. Shaw C. ChanterApril 9—11, 1945Old Acquaintance J. Van Druten John BethuneMay 18—22, 1945Mashenka Alex. Afinegenov Sam PayneTWENTY-FIFTH SEASON: 1945-46October 15-19, 1945My Sister Eileen Joseph Fields & Elsie GrahamJerome ChodorovDecember 3-7, 1945Guest in the House Hagar Wilde & Phoebe SmithDale BunsonFebruary 11-15, 1946Major Barbara G.B. Shaw C. ChanterMarch 25—29, 1946Hamlet Shakespeare F.L. SmithMay 27—31, 1946Blithe Spirit Noel Coward Ivy RalstonTWENTY-SIXTH SEASON: 1946-47October, 1946You Can’t Take It With You G.S. Kaufman & Phoebe SmithMoss Hart136December, 1946Dear BrutusFebruary, 1947Angel StreetMarch, 1947Our TownMay, 1947Private LivesTWENTY-SEVENTH SEASON: 1947-48November 17-21, 1947George Washington Slept HereFebruary 2-6, 1948The Dover RoadMarch 8—12, 1948Golden BoyApril 19—23, 1948Dear RuthMay 31, June 1-4, 1948Elizabeth Sleeps OutTWENTY-EIGHTH SEASON: 1948-49October 8-12, 1948While the Sun ShinesNovember 29—30, December 1-3,Deep are the RootsFebruary 7-11, 1949As You Like ItMarch 28—31, April 1, 1949Pick-up GirlMay 9—13, 1949For Love or MoneyJ.M. BarriePatrick HamiltonThornton WilderNoel CowardMoss Hart &G.S. KaufmanA.A. MimeClifford OdetsNorman KresmeLeslie HowardTerence Rattigan1948Armid d’UsseauShakespeareElsa ShelleyF.H. HerbertLeonard MillerJohn BethuneC. ChanterIvy RalstonCohn LawrenceIvy RalstonJuan RootLen TimbersJames JohnstonPhoebe SmithIan DobbieSydney RiskYvonne FirkinsJames Johnson137TWENTY-NINTH SEASON: 1949-50October 11—14, 1949Quiet Weekend Esther Cracken Ian DobbieNovember 28—30, December 1—2, 1949Candida GB. Shaw C. ChanterFebruary 13-17, 1950Love From a Stranger Frank Vosper Doris OwenMarch 27—31, 1950Peace in Our Time Noel Coward Ian DobbieMay 15—19, 1950Born Yesterday Garson Kanin Ian DobbieTHIRTIETH SEASON: 1950-51October 10—14, 1950See How They Run Philip King Ian DobbieNovember 29—30, December 1—3, 1950Cry Havoc Allen Kenwold Ian DobbieJanuary 12-16, 1951The Second Man J.N. Richman C. ChanterFebruary 26-28, March 1-2 1951Another Part of the Forest Lillian Heilman Ian DobbieApril 23—27, 1951This Happy Breed Noel Coward Doris OwenMay 28-June 1, 1951Three Men on a Horse J.C. Holm & Ian DobbieGeorge AbbottTHIRTY-FIRST SEASONOctober 22—26, 1951The Madwoman of Chaillot Jean Giraudoux Yvonne FirkinsDecember 3—7, 1951The Corn Is Green Emlyn Williams Phoebe SmithFebruary 4-8, 1952Father of the Bride Caroline French Juan Root138March 24—28, 1952Tempted Tried and True Bill Johnson Bob ReedMay 12—16, 1952Anna Christie Eugene O’Neill C. ChanterTHIRTY-SECOND SEASON: 1952-53October 29—31, November 1—2, 1952Rain Somerset Maugham Phoebe SmithDecember 1-5Tovarich Jacques Rival C. ChanterFebruary 2-6, 1953o Mistress Mine Terence Rattigan Guy PalmerMarch 16—20, 1953A Man About the House John Perry Ian DobbieApril 27—May 1, 1953The Man Mel Dinelli John ThorneTHIRTY-THIRD SEASON: 1953-54October 19—23, 1953Room Service L.J. Huber Phoebe SmithNovember 30, December 1—4, 1953Pillars of Society Henrik Ibsen Frank CrowsonJanuary 25-29, 1954Thieves’ Carnival Jean Anouilh Guy PalmerMarch 15—19, 1954Stalag 17 Bevan Trzenski Bob ReadMay 3—7. 1954Anna Lucasta P. Youdan Phoebe SmithTHIRTY-FOURTH SEASON: 1954-55October 18-22, 1954The Deep Blue Sea Terence Rattigan Peter ManneringNovember 29—December 3, 1954The Curious Savage J. Patrick Bob Read139January 31-February 4, 1955Craig’s WifeMarch 28—April 1, 1955Ten Little IndiansMay 16—20, 1955Two Dozen Red RosesTHIRTY-FIFTH SEASON: 1955-56October 17—21, 1955Sabrina FairNovember 28—December 3, 1955Darkness at NoonFebruary 6-11, 1956Dear CharlesMarch 26—31, 1956The Tender TrapMay 7—12, 1956The Seven Year ItchTHIRTY-SIXTH SEASON: 1956-57October 8—13, 1956The King of HeartsNvoember 26-December 1, 1956AnastasiaFebruary 11-16, 1957The Fifth SeasonMarch 25—30, 1957The FestivalMay 8—18, 1957Mr. RobertsJune 3—8, 1957One Wild OatG. KellyAgatha ChristieA. de BenedettiS. TaylorS. KingsleyAllan MelvilleMax Shulman &R.P. SmithC. AxeirodJean Kerr &Eleanor BrookeM. MouretteSylvia ReganS.& B. SpewackT. Heggen &Joshua LoganV. SylvaineFrank CrowsonGuy PalmerPhoebe SmithSam PayneIan ThornePhoebe SmithOtto LowyGertrude DennisSam PayneJoan ChapmanPhoebe SmithGuy PalmerBob ReadPhoebe Smith140THIRTY-SEVENTH SEASON: 1957—58October 14—19, 1957The Time of the Cuckoo A. LaurentsNovember 18-23.1957The Moment of Truth Peter UstinovJanuary 30-February 8, 1958Witness for the Prosecution Agatha ChristieFebruary 27-March 8, 1958Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? George AxeirodApril 21—May 3, 1958Teahouse of the August Moon John PatrickTHIRTY-EIGHTH SEASON: 1958-59October 16—25, 1958Inherit the Wind J. Lawrence &R.E. LeeNovember 20—29, 1958The Lark Jean AnouilhFebruary 12-21, 1959The Matchmaker Thornton WilderMarch, 1959Desperate Hours J. HayesApril 30-May 9 1959Waltz of the Toreadors Jean AnouilhTHIRTY-NINTH SEASON: 1959-60QUEEN ELIZABETH AUDITORIUMVisit to a Small Planet Gore VidalDecember 2—5, 17—19, 1959, QETDial M For Murder Frederick KnottJanuary 12-16, 1960, QETA View from the Bridge Arthur MillerQETTea and Sympathy Robert Anderson141Phoebe SmithJoan ChapmanYvonne FirkinsOtto LowyJoy CoghillFranklinJohnsonIan ThornePeter ManneringBob ReadYvonne FirkinsJorn WintherSam PayneIan ThorneHans HartogIan ThorneIan ThorneD. GoidrickD. GoidrickFORTY-FIRST SEASON: 1961-62September 28-30, October 3-7,Man and SupermanDecember 6—9, 12—16, 1961The Flowering PeachFebruary 8—10, 13—17, 1962The Happy TimeMarch 29—31, April 2—7, 1962Captain CarvalloJune 21—23, 26—30, 1962JanusFORTY-SECOND SEASON: 1962-63January 29-30, February 1-2,Write Me a MurderApril 2-6, 1963, PLAYHOUSEOh Men! Oh Women!May 21—25, 1963The Climate of Eden1963, PLAYHOUSE THEATREFrederick Knott Otto LowyEdward Chodorov Otto LowyMoss Hart Hans HartogMay 31, June 1—4, 1960Tunnel of Love Joseph FieldsFORTIETH SEASON: 1960-61November 17-19, 1960, QETOrpheus Descending Tennessee WilliamsJanuary 1961, INTERNATIONAL CINEMACrime and Punishment DostoyevskyINTERNATIONAL CINEMADear Charles Allan MelvilleMay 23-27, 1961, INTERNATIONAL CINEMAAnniversary Waltz Jerome Chodorov& Joseph Fields1961, YORK THEATREG.B. ShawClifford OdetsSamuel TaylorDenis CannonCarolyn GreenRoy BrinsonOtto LowyHans HartogIL GoidrickJean Glen142FORTY-THIRD SEASON: 1963-64September 1963, METRO THEATREThe Hollow Agatha Christie John ParkerJanuary 14-18, 1964, YORK THEATREClarembard Marcel Ayme Dorothy DaviesMay 5—9, 1964Angels in Love Hugh Mills Jean GlenFORTY-FOURTH SEASON: 1964-65October 23-31, 1964, METRO THEATREThe Time of the Cuckoo A. Laurents D. GoidrickDecember 1964, YORK THEATREThe Princess and the SwineheardNicolas Stuart GreyJanuary 26-30, 1965The Night of the Iguana Tennessee Williams Tony RogersApril 6—10, 1965The Gazebo Alec Coppel Frank CurryFORTY-FIFTH SEASON: 1965-66October 8-16, 1965, METRO THEATREInvitation to a March Arthur Laurents Eileen CavalierNovember 30-December 4, 1965, YORK THEATREThe Father August Strindberg John ParkerJune 2-18, 1966 (beginning of Thurs-Fri-Sat performances only)The Fantasticks Tom Jones & John ParkerHarvey SchmidtFORTY-SIXTH SEASON: 1966-67October 20-November 5, 1966The Tempest Shakespeare John ParkerJanuary 12-28, 1967Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime Constance Cox John ParkerMarch 25, 27, April 1, 1967Red Shoes Robin Short Bob Read143May 18-June 3, 1967Lysistrata Aristophanes John ParkerFORTY-SEVENTH SEASON: 1967-68October 1967Luther John Osborne John ParkerNovember 16-December 2, 1967Ladies in Retirement Edward Perry & Laurie LyndsReginald DenhamFebruary 15-March 2, 1968The Elephant and the Jewish Question John ParkerBeverley SimonsApril 13, 15—20, 1968Sleeping Beauty Chris Wiggins Vincent BurtJune 6—22, 1968Once Upon a Mattress Mary Rodgers John ParkerFORTY-EIGHTH SEASON: 1968-69October 3-19, 1968Dark of the Moon Howard Richardson Bob Read& William BerneyNovember 21-December 7, 1968Wait Until Dark Frederick Knott John ParkerJanuary 9-25, 1969The Offshore Island Marghanita Laski Stuart BakerFebruary 20-March 8, 1969A Taste Of Honey Shelagh Delaney Vincent BurtApril 5, 7—12, 1969The Sadness Thief Leo Burdak Jerry ZawerskaJune 5—21, 1969Tartuffe Moliere John ParkerFORTY-NINTH SEASON: 1969-70November 8, 13—22, 1969King Lear Shakespeare John Parker144January 15-24, 1970Lovers Brian Friel George PlowskiMay 14—30, 1970Your Own Thing Hal Hester& John ParkerDanny ApolinarFIFTIETH SEASON: 1970-71September 26, October 2—10, 1970Private Lives Noel Coward Jace van derVeenDecember 3—12, 1970Bull Durham Jeremy Newson John GrayJanuary 28-30, February 4-6, 1971The Laundry David Guerdon Jace van deryeenApril 10, 12—17, 1971The Strange Disappearance of Ray Logie Jane LogiePrincess GlorianaMay 13— 22, 1971Great Expectations Charles Dickens Jace van deryeenFIFTY-FIRST SEASON: 1971-72October 28-November 13, 1971A Man for All Seasons Robert Bolt Michael BerryFebruary 10-26, 1972Johnny Belinda Elmer Harris Don EcciestonMay 17-June 2, 1972Hotel Paradiso Georges Feydeau & Michael BerryMaurice DesvallieresFIFTY-SECOND SEASON: 1972-73October 25-November 3, 1972That Scoundrel Scapin Moliere Michael BallJanuary 17-February 2, 1973Period of Adjustment Tennessee Williams Michael Ball145March 14—30, 1973The Chalk GardenMay, 1973The HostageFIFTY-THIRD SEASON: 1973-74October 25—26, 1973ImpromptuDevil among the SkeinsNovember 8-24, 1973Mrs. Warren’s ProfessionRattle of a Simple ManMay 23-June 8, 1974Richard IIIFIFTY-FOURTH SEASON: 1974-75November-December 1974Romeo and JulietFebruary-March 1975Love’s Labour’s LostMay 1975Twelfth NightFIFTY-FIFTH SEASON: 1975-76Fall 1975The Maltese FalconFebruary 1976Red EmmaMay 18-June 5, 1q76IndiansFIFTY-SIXTH SEASON: 1976-77October 7—23, 1976The FantasticksEnid BagnoldBrendan BehanTad MoselErnest GoodwinG.B. ShawCharles DyerShakespeareShakespeareShakespeareShakespeareDashiell HammettCarol BoltArthur KopitTom Jones &Harvey Schmidt146R. NewmanLloyd BerryBob WeakesRoyce HillP. BrockingtonBob WeakesJohn ParkerJohn ParkerR. OuzounianJohn ParkerJohn ParkerSvetlana SmithJohn ParkerAlex KlinerFebruary 1977A Thousand Clowns Herb Gardner Michael BerryFIFTY-SEVENTH SEASON: 1977-78February 23-March 4, 1978, DAVID Y.H. LUI THEATREListen to the Wind James Reaney Ian Fenwick147


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