UBC Theses and Dissertations
Theatre Under the Stars : the Hilker years Sutherland, Richard
For nearly a quarter-century, from 1940 through 1963, Vancouver’s Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) mounted annual summer seasons of musical theatre in Malkin Bowl, a converted bandshell in Stanley Park. By the early 1950s, TUTS, now a fully-professional company, had become an enormous popular and financial success, attracting crowds of up to 25,000 per week. For various reasons, the company closed down in 1963, yet so ingrained in Vancouver's cultural fabric had TUTS become, that in 1980 an amateur organization re-appropriated the name for its own summer musical productions in Malkin Bowl. Despite its acknowledged importance in Canadian theatre history, very little research has been devoted to this remarkable company. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to document the early history of TUTS, in particular the years 1940 through 1949 when TUTS was directly funded by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation and dominated by the colourful, if somewhat erratic, personality of its general manager, Gordon Hilker. Material for the thesis was obtained primarily through sources located at the City of Vancouver Archives, supplemented by newspaper clippings and by personal interviews. Archival matter included programs, handbills, photographs, and Park Board records, especially minute books and correspondence files. This study will examine the circumstances leading to the creation and subsequent development of TUTS as a civic enterprise. Although the work is designed to be comprehensive, certain topics receive special attention: the nature of the programming; the evolution and training of Canadian talent; the development of a professional company; political factionalism in the elected Park Board; and the relationship between Hilker and the Park Board which varied from mutual admiration to mutual loathing. Particularly analyzed are the pivotal events of 1949 that resulted in a complete change of ownership and management.
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