Canadian Theatre History

The year is 1989 and the Wasserman Commission is soliciting briefs from people involved in Canadian theatre on the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two. The Commission’s terms of reference are to investigate the state of Canadian theatre since the war and its prospects for the future. They have approached you to get your views on the pros and cons of Canadian theatrical development in the past half-century or so. They don’t want gushing patriotism or uncritical boosterism, but rather a clear, incisive analysis of the history and development of Canadian theatre since 1945, its strengths and weaknesses in 1989, what has gone well and what remains to be done better in the Canadian theatrical scheme of things.

With specific reference to plays and playwrights, the introductions in Modern Canadian Plays and your own research, write about 1500-2000 words (5-8 typed pages) on the subject. I suggest that you spend some time discussing the specifics of at least one play: for example, what makes it theatrically interesting or compelling or unique; how the play speaks of and to Canada and Canadians; how the play is a product of its time and place in Canadian theatre history. Don’t hesitate to be critical regarding areas of the Canadian theatrical landscape you think might need improvement—Stratford, the regionals, playwriting, actor training, whatever. Remember, this should not be simple boosterism. Your credibility as an authority depends on your appearing objective, recognizing that at this point in its history and development Canadian theatre is still very much a work in progress.

You should of course use secondary sources (e.g., the bibliographies in MCP), be sure to cite them properly, and provide a List of Works Cited at the end. I envision this as an essay, perhaps framed with a brief address to the Wasserman Commission. But if you wish to try an alternative format (as Davies did for his submissions to the Massey Commission—a letter or a dialogue, for example), feel free, as long as it is an effective means of conveying your facts and ideas, and you didn’t use the same format for a previous assignment.

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