Establishing Our Boundaries: English-Canadian Theatre Criticism

Hardcover | June 10, 1999

EditorAnton Wagner

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>Establishing Our Boundaries is a cultural history of Canada as seen through the eyes of twenty-one of English Canada's leading theatre critics commenting on the creation of an indigenous Canadian national theatre and drama over two centuries. Canadians have always had an intense relationship to the theatre. As Canada has transformed from colony to Dominion to independent nation, the development of a national theatre and the public responses to it have both reflected and affected how we know ourselves.

Eighteen essays, written by top scholars in the field, cover the range of influential English-language theatre reviewing from 1829 to 1998, and from Vancouver to Halifax. The word 'critic,' refers primarily to newspaper columnists. The criticism under scrutiny here-much of it only available on microfiche-is generally short (ten column inches) and reflects an immediate, often heated response to the show. Some longer pieces, Hector Charlesworth's (1890-1945) and B.K. Sandwell's (1932-51) work at Saturday Night, are also examined. The editor's extensive introductory essay explains the cultural context for the material considered and suggests a current crisis in criticism.

A forceful and provoking tradition of theatre criticism in Canada developed long before Nathan Cohen's outspoken voice called attention to it-of course his confident and controversial work is given a full treatment here. The call for an indigenous theatre arose simultaneously with the proliferation of Canadian newspapers. Patrick O'Neill's meticulously thorough essay 'From Puffery to Criticism- William Lyon Mackenzie, Joseph Howe and Daniel Morrison: Theatre Criticism in Halifax and Toronto 1826-1857' discusses both the status of journalism and the instrumental roles those three played in creating an actual theatre criticism. Issues such as the creation of colourful personae and the implicated nature of criticism are broached by Douglas Arrell. Gina Mallet's iconoclastic and at times incendiary columns in the Toronto Star, appearing between 1976 and 1984, get an admirably sharp review by Alan Filewod. In 'Establishing Contact between Two Cultures: Marianne Ackerman at the Montreal Gazette 1983-87,' Leanore Lieblein offers a sensitive analysis of francophone / anglophone relations. Robert Nunn speculates on the tricky border between traditionalism and postmodernism in the work of Ray Conlogue at the Globe and Mail. Chapters look at the influence of critics, both on a local and national level, who have held sway over the past 172 years at the Novascotian; the York Colonial Advocate; the Toronto Daily Leader, Mail, Globe, Globe and Mail and Toronto Star; the Montreal Herald and Gazette; Manitoba Free Press, Winnipeg Daily Tribune and Winnipeg Town Topics; as well as the Calgary Herald, Vancouver Sun, Saturday Night, Canadian Tribune, and the Canadian Theatre Review.

The essays on the critics writing for these publications analyse their attempts to stimulate an indigenous Canadian theatre and drama, and their views on religious, moral and political issues, censorship, cultural colonialism and cultural nationalism, government support of the arts, English-French cultural relations, Canadian national, regional, and minority identities, and the preponderant influence of American popular culture on Canadian artistic creation.

Anton Wagner, in amassing this impressive collection, has drawn on his unique combination of practical experience as a producer, an academic background, and political involvement in Canadian theatre in order to meet his mission statement: 'To fill a significant gap in our knowledge of Canadian cultural history.'

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From Our Editors

Examine Canadian theatre as seen through the eyes of our most interesting and important critics. Establishing Our Boundaries contains 18 essays covering the range of influential English language theatre reviews from 1829 to 1998. Little is generally known about this part of Canadian cultural history, so this collection will serve to ed...

From the Publisher

>Establishing Our Boundaries is a cultural history of Canada as seen through the eyes of twenty-one of English Canada's leading theatre critics commenting on the creation of an indigenous Canadian national theatre and drama over two centuries. Canadians have always had an intense relationship to the theatre. As Canada has transformed...

Anton Wagner is on staff at the Faculty of Fine Arts, York University.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:456 pages, 8.06 × 6.29 × 1.37 inPublished:June 10, 1999Publisher:University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing DivisionLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0802041159

ISBN - 13:9780802041159

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Table of Contents

Contributors

INTRODUCTION

  1. Establishing Our Boundaries: English-Canadian Theatre Criticism by Anton Wagner (York University)

PART ONE: Editor-Critics

  1. From Puffery to Criticism - Willon Lyon Mackenzie, Joseph Howe, and Daniel Morrison: Theatre Criticism in Halifax and Toronto, 1826-1857 by Patrick B O'Neill (Mount Saint Vincent University)

PART TWO: Reviewer-Critics

  1. The Critic as Reviewer: E.R. Parkhurst at the Toronto Mail and Globe 1876-1924 by Ross Stuart (York University)
  2. The Cosmopolitan, the Cultural Nationalist, and the Egocentric Critic: Harriet Walker, Charles W. Handscomb, and Charles H. Wheeler in Winnipeg, 1898-1906 Douglas Arrel (University of Winnipeg)

PART THREE: Cultural Nationalism

  1. Hector Willoughby Charlesworth and the Nationalization of Cultural Authority, 1890-1945 by Denis Salter (McGill University)
  2. Saving the Nation's Aesthetic Soul: B.K. Sandwell at the Montreal Herald, 1900-1914, and Saturday Night, 1932-1951 by Anton Wagner
  3. Becoming Actively Creative: Dr. Lawrence Mason, the Globe's Critic, 1924-1939 by Anton Wagner
  4. Herbert Whittaker. Reporting from the Front: The Montreal Gazette, 1937-1949, and the Globe and Mail, 1949-1975 by Jennifer Harvie (University of London) and Richard Paul Knowles (University of Guelph)
  5. Criticism in a Canadian Social Context: Nathan Cohen's Theatre Criticism, 1946-1971 by Don Rublin (former chair, Department of Theatre at York University)
  6. In Anger and Hope: Oscar Ryan at the Canadian Tribune, 1955-1988 by Mayte Gómez (PhD cand., McGill University)
  7. The Classical Humanist: Jamie Portman at the Calgary Herald, 1959-1975, and the Southern News Service, 1975-1987 by Moira Day (University of Saskatchewan)
  8. The Archetypal Enthusiast: Urjo Kareda at the Toronto Star, 1971-1975 by Denis Johnston (Shaw Festival)
  9. The Critic as Cultural Nationalist: Don Rubin at the Toronto Star, 1968-1972, and the Canadian Theatre Review, 1974-1982 by Ira Levine (Ryerson, Chair Canadian Association of Fine Arts Deans)

PART FOUR: The Post-Nationalist Period

  1. Subverting Modernisms in British Columbia: Christopher Dafoe at the Vancouver Sun, 1968-1975 by James Hoffman (University College of the Cariboo)
  2. Journalist or Critic? Brian Brennan at the Calgary Herald, 1975-1988 by Diane Bessai (University of Alberta)
  3. The Iconoclast Sceptic on the Beat: Gina Mallet at the Toronto Star, 1976-1984 by Alan Filewod (University of Guelph)
  4. Establishing Contact between Two Cultures: Marianne Ackerman at the Montreal Gazette, 1983-1987 by Leanore Lieblein (former chair of English, McGill University)
  5. Theatre - Transgression of Tribal Celebration? Ray Conlogue at the Globe and Mail, 1978-1998 by Robert Nunn (Brock University)

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From Our Editors

Examine Canadian theatre as seen through the eyes of our most interesting and important critics. Establishing Our Boundaries contains 18 essays covering the range of influential English language theatre reviews from 1829 to 1998. Little is generally known about this part of Canadian cultural history, so this collection will serve to educate readers on the impressive theatre and drama of our country.

Editorial Reviews

'Anton Wagner deserves great praise for the vision to initiate this project and for the industry and skill with which it is brought together. Wagner has identified a developmental impulse shared by Canadian theatre and its criticism over the years, and I expect that this book will prove to be one of the most valuable ever made available about Canadian theatre.' - Professor Richard L. Plant, Graduate Centre for Study of Drama, Queens University