THE MESSAGE

By Jason Sherman
Directed by Richard Rose
A Tarragon Theatre Production. Opened November 14, 2018

Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster and R.H. Thomson in The Message (photo: Cylla von Tiedemann)

Marshall McLuhan was the rage in the 60s¸ when undergraduates latched on to some of his catchiest utterances about media theory, such as “the medium is the message,” “schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy,” “advertising is the greatest art form of the 20th century,” and “I don’t necessarily agree with everything I say.” McLuhan had a wide repertoire of slogans and purr words, such as “the global village,” “the Gutenberg Galaxy,” “the mechanical bride,” and “surfing” as he sought to divide media into “hot” and “cool” categories—much to the consternation and displeasure of other intellectuals with less racy zest but heavier gravitas. He was far more popular among youth than the Don of Canadian Literary Criticism, Northrop Frye, a colleague at the University of Toronto and with whom he had a well-publicized feud. McLuhan’s brilliant career was interrupted abruptly when he suffered a massive stroke that rendered him speechless, though he was known to have suffered periodic min-strokes or petit mal seizures prior to this calamity. A brain tumour the size of a golf ball was removed in what was then the longest neurological surgery in history. McLuhan’s legend grew post-operatively: when he awoke an hour after surgery and was asked how he felt, it was reported that he remarked this depended on what was meant by “feeling.” But this bravado aside, he had, in fact, lost loads of memory but acquired a larger hypersensitivity to noise.

I recapitulate all this simply to rehearse what Jason Sherman’s play also rehearses in its own peculiar way, as well as to suggest how the cart can lead the horse on stage—which is what happens in Sherman’s long one-act drama that shows the heavy burden of its background research. Sherman is one of our best-known and most celebrated playwrights. I have admired his trilogy relating to Judaism, and he often displays a scorching wit in a dual sense of satire and intellectual mettle. However, his gifts don’t save The Message, a play that has had a sad history. Meant to open the Tarragon season in 2003, it was met with strenuous objection by the McLuhan estate and was, therefore, shelved. But 2018 is a different era and nobody thinks any longer of McLuhan (or Northrop Frye, for that matter) in quite the same reverential tones as in the 60s and 70s. But this triumph over delay is a Pyrrhic victory because the play tells us practically nothing new about McLuhan. It is also obsessively repetitive and somewhat crude in its strategies, wavering between expressionism and the broadest, most vulgar vaudevillian comedy, indulging in cardboard representations of women (McLuhan’s wife; his secretary at the Centre for Culture and Technology), and running through some of his ideas on media theory like a de rigueur homage.

The play’s structure is self-defeating because it is necessarily fragmented, beginning in literal darkness (a cliché) with the great man’s massive stroke, and moving via flashbacks through a repertoire of puns, wordplay, and wicked wit well beloved by McLuhan fans. R.H. Thomson plays McLuhan as vividly as he can (“Oh, boy!”), though it is mainly vocal virtuosity for he is rooted or situated in a bed or chair for most of the show. The best epigram in the play is, of course, McLuhan’s “It’s just aphasia I’m going through” that is scribbled on a pad, and the best monologue is a post-surgical rambling monologue that resembles something out of Samuel Beckett and is rendered wonderfully by the actor. (The weird scene with student-disciples dressed as sheep is probably another pun: scholar-sheep, anyone?) Patrick McManus plays an ad man, an NBC executive who tries to get McLuhan to boil down his theories for pop appeal, as well as an empathetic Irish priest (McLuhan was Catholic and loved James Joyce’s writing) with all the clichés of those breeds intact, while Peter Hutt first (as decreed by script and director) overplays the role of Feigen, the American business man who helped advance McLuhan’s career, before showing us the real human being later in the play. I confess that in his trope from bum-waggling, crudely roaring clown to serious confidant, Hutt gave me the most pleasure, apart from Thomson. The two actresses in the ensemble, however, afforded almost none. Sarah Orenstein (usually good) is obviously at the mercy of the script as McLuhan’s Texan-born wife, and there is nothing especially interesting in her acting. Nor is there much of real interest or value in Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster’s pallid university secretary (her lacklustre voice is off-putting), though her cigarette and cigar lady in a topless restaurant offers something to a male gaze, though not much else to anyone’s mind.

Camellia Koo’s set and Charlotte Dean’s costumes don’t add much to anything, though Rebecca Picherak’s lighting does. At one point, McLuhan suggests that the country we belong to is just an hallucination—an idea that appeals to me—though it could also be said that Sherman’s play is a sort of hallucination itself. And a not very engaging one at that because it looks and sounds trite and manages to divorce feeling from idea while attempting to be clever.

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PARADISE LOST

By Erin Shields
Playwrights Canada Press
147 pages, $17.95
ISBN 978-1-7709-933-4

Erin Shields’s five-act play (a re-imagining or re-configuring of John Milton’s epical poem) is nothing if not audacious. It does not contest the prevailing critical view that Milton’s poem is magnificent because (in the words of Harold Bloom) “it is persuasively tragic as well as epic it is the tragedy of the fall of Lucifer into Satan, though it declines to show us Lucifer, light-bearer and son of the morning, chief of the stars that will fall. We see only the fallen Satan, though we behold Adam and Eve before, at the very moment of, and after the fall.” It recognizes that its Miltonic source is (along with the Bible, the Iliad, and Shakespeare’s plays) one of “the building blocks of our Western literary inheritance.” Shields takes the Miltonic source seriously, for her script is preceded by Paul Stevens’s essay “Freedom and the Fall,” that begins by calling Milton’s poem “the greatest single poem in the English language” and which has a massive influence that can be felt from old novels (Frankenstein and Moby Dick) to modern movies (Blade Runner and The Fall). (Stevens was once Shields’s professor at the University of Toronto, and she acknowledges his inspiration and encouragement.)

Where Milton used 12 massive books, all ranging from about 600-1,000 lines apiece, to engage readers who wanted to understand the complexity of evil, Shields’s play is less massive and less epical than that poem (also less Shakespearean and Biblical), though its five-act structure incorporates a deliciously satiric and parodic play-within-a-play and its action occurs in Hell, Heaven, and on Earth, and “everywhere in between,” with Time encompassing Biblical time, the seventeenth century, and the present. Shields nods to medieval passion plays by using allegorical figures of Sin and Death, but most of her dramatis personae play dual roles. For instance, Gabriel is also Beelzebub; Urania is a Stage Manager in the play-within-a-play; Zephon is also Satan; Ithuriel is God the Son; and Raphael serves as Narrator and God the Father.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Shields’s play is its own transgressive literary audacity. I am not referring to the sinewy modern diction and turns of phrase, streaked at times with brief quotations directly from Milton. Nor am I referencing contemporary imagery (waterboarding, the Internet, subway bombs, gas chambers). Nor am I referring to her very amusing parody of actors and theatre (though if her representation is a parody of the proto-typical amateur production, it can’t help being the first professional production as well). Her audacity does include characterization of God the Father that cancels omniscience, replacing it with some incertitude—indeed several instances of a theology that is inconsistent with scholastic philosophy. It also extends to a depiction of God the Son as a figure of reasonable compassion, a figure who acknowledges the need for punishing transgression while also espousing forgiveness. There are striking larger-than-life sketches: Moloch as war-monger, Belial as his antithesis; Raphael as a self-recriminating sort of 17th century Horace who seeks to inform and delight as playwright of the play-within-a-play. Adam and Eve are, at best, the embodiment of a modern relationship. They always speak in the third person, and this diminishes their credibility as human creatures, though their duologue has appeal for its poetic braiding. It is only after the Fall that they throb (pun intended) with ardour and yearning. What I do appreciate is Shields’s focus on sexual arousal and lust as results of eating the forbidden fruit. I have always read that fable as an allegory of both invidious epistemological and sexual temptation, and Adam’s new sexual charge rises to a parody of orgasm.

But all these characters pale beside her greatest character—Satan. Her play exploits the fact (again articulated by Bloom) that “the most Shakespearean of all literary characters, after Shakespeare’s own creations is Milton’s Satan, who is the heir of the great hero-villains—Iago, Edmund, Macbeth—and of the darker aspects of Hamlet.” Shields’s Satan is female, one who is inherently and radically dramatic, light-heartedly irreverent, sly, witty (some of her wisecracks are priceless), flamboyant to the nth degree, self-consecrated as a heroine in a struggle to defeat God and his heavenly creatures, and distinguished by a cold-eyed, cold-hearted clarity about 21st century greed and corruption.

Satan opens and closes the play, and her “bookend” monologues are stunning. She emerges out of pandemonium (darkness, screams of pain and horror) and speaks in vivid terms and with vivid imagery: “I woke up in a lake of fire. /Darkness visible was all I could see/as I writhed in the stench of burning sulfur,/charred flesh, singed hair, and melted wings.” Her arrogance is splendid: “I liberated you from the banality of bliss./I released you from the beigeness of contentment./I freed you from blind obedience/to a psychopathic dictator,/to a deranged monarch,/to a bloodthirsty general,/a bully,/a thug:/you’re welcome.” She boasts, she exults, she demands human gratitude. Her ego is as monstrous as her evil, as she proclaims herself “a freedom fighter,/a champion of the underdog,/liberator of the persecuted,” topping off this self-promotion by personifying herself as a combination of Moses, Gandhi, Mandela, Malala, and Dr. King. Her final monologue is even more demonic, not simply because it represents her defeat as victory but because it represents the ultimate in nihilism. She rebukes mankind, concluding with a prediction of horror and terror for future mankind.

However, she also represents a major problem with the play. Her language, while not consistently grand, offsets that of the other characters who often sound flat or disappointingly rudimentary in speech, as in this example from Eve: “I love you, fruit./I love you, tree./I love that I found you and set your taste free/in my mouth, on my tongue that wants more,/and I feel the knowledge bulging in my head.” This is not the flattest example but it does indicate how the language of the script often fails to match the dramatic energy and power inherent in the characters and action. Imagine what a Tom Stoppard or Joe Orton would have done with the language, but, perhaps, this is being unfair to Erin Shields, who feminist retelling remains wickedly smart as it (as the back-cover blurb phrases it) “questions the reasons of the universe, the slow process of evolution and the freedom of knowledge.” Substantial enough achievement, especially in a Canadian landscape dominated by illustrated academic lectures, half-assed parodies, pop documentaries and ethnically-defined or gender-bent revelations of social and political relevance passed off as finished plays.

THREE BY TANNAHILL

LATE COMPANY
by Jordan Tannahill
Playwrights Canada Press
108 pages, $ 17.95

by Jordan Tannahill
Playwrights Canada Press
212 pages, 18.95

Jordan Tannahill is currently the rage among Canadian male playwrights, and one reason is his fearlessly transgressive theatrical mode that, while not unique in terms of world theatre, is certainly fizzy, provocative, daringly entrenched in a gay sensibility, and unafraid of tackling history, sociology, and sexuality, all through a “queer” lens. He is now in the top rung of Canadian playwrights, and it has been a spectacularly speedy ascent, beginning, perhaps, with his winning the 2013 Herman Voaden Playwriting Competition, continuing with his Toronto theatre company, Suburban Beast, his alternative Videofag run out of his own home, and so on. He has even published a book, Theatre of the Unimpressed, that argues for theatre “predicated on artistic risk and unafraid of the possibility of failure” (according to Production Dramaturg Kirsten Bowen in her Introduction to the double-play collection cited above). But is Tannahill’s bold “queerness” the real reason for his successes, just as blackness, brownness, transgenderism, or whatever the dominant label is currently celebrated in the country? Canada is currently caught up in a syndrome that celebrates “difference,” without proper regard for aesthetic achievement. And yet, again, fashion becomes a prevailing norm. It is very fashionable now to be labelled black, brown, queer, Asian, et cetera because such categories entrench difference. Of course, there is a historical reason for such a wave of fashion: prejudice (of all stripes) has too long defined Canadian society and the arts. It is time for the new, whether it is better or worse than what has come before.

Too many groups in the Canadian mosaic have been long ignored. (I, for one, belong to a group that cuts across East and West, though its differences are hardly the stuff of popular fashion.) Tannahill is a gay writer, and every gay writer of whatever country, of whatever earlier period has had to deal with either stunning indifference or outright bias. As Edmund White has noted, homosexuals have long been shrugged off as “minor retainers at life’s banquet.” No more. In Canadian theatre, we have had Sky Gilbert and Brad Fraser leading the way to alternative “queer” banquets, and now with Tannahill these banquets have been receiving their fair share of praise. Tannahill is not simply militaristic, didactic, or doctrinaire, but he does not present a hostile or inappropriate superciliousness. He knows, as anyone with a brain and a modicum of experience would, that gay lives are different from straight ones. But he seeks to uncover layers of flawed humanity in characters of the past and present in a way that entertains while simultaneously interrogating history, current events, and sexuality. Instead of gay “sickness” he offers queer authenticity, exploring not simply explosive and whimsical appeals of gay sex, but more meaningful affinities such as shared but conflicted interests and lifestyles (Late Company) or terrorising historical records, albeit wildly re-shaped and re-told (Botticelli in the Fire and Sunday in Sodom) with their particular “queerness” turned inside-out.

Late Company is not a major work; it is an apprentice piece in a meaningful sense, nicely set up and thickened by passion, but its debts to Edward Albee and Yazmin Reza are palpable. This is not cited to downgrade it, but to clarify its quality. The set-up is clear: a year after the suicide of their teenage son Joel, who was bullied to his death, Debora and Michael Shaun-Hastings invite the parents and their bully-son to dinner. Each character is succinctly defined, though Michael’s smart-aleck remarks and pretentious phraseology do become irritating. Tannahill shows wit (“Sleeping with Leonard Cohen does not make her an artist”), and What is meant to lead to closure turns into a heated exchange of intentions and passions. The bourgeois setting and its lifestyle is neat, though facile satire on pretentious politesse, but there is ample reason to celebrate the young playwright’s acute ear for dialogue at the outset. But too soon does Tannahill fall into an Albee-trap of worked-up but vague symbolism (“Why do you never hear it? It always sounds like someone’s upstairs.”) Echoes of the unspecific terror that infiltrates the living room in A Delicate Balance. The play falters a bit this way, but seems to find its way again—to the heart of grief, guilt, recrimination, and forgiveness. And the playwright well understands the emotional impact of minimal dialogue and silence at appropriate moments—as when the grieving mother of the dead son cries in the kitchen and away from the “bloodbath” in the dining room. Tannahill ends the drama with a terse but powerful image that I don’t wish to divulge, but which, while seeming melodramatically forced, reveals his acute sense of theatrical effect.

Tannahill extends his range in the dual play collection. The shorter piece, Sunday in Sodom, is (in Tannahill’s own words) “a feminist retelling of the mythic destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as told by Lot’s wife; a story recounted in the holy books of all three Abrahamic  faiths.” First exposed to the biblical version as a young boy, Tannahill now tries to imagine what went through her mind “as she decided to disobey god and turn back to behold his wrath.” Called Edith, she is turned into wife and mother situated in an American town that is both mythically Biblical and contemporary. Lot is old and incontinent, forever summoning her on his cellphone to run errands. Edith is compassionate towards young Isaac, traumatized and mentally unsettle by his father Abraham’s cruel murderous intent. She recounts how Lot welcomed two American soldiers into their house, the fury unleashed in town, and the chain of events leading up to the fateful destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But apart from some wry irony and satire in a modern mode, the most effective twist is in Edith’s long, final monologue with its searing emotional ending.

 

Botticelli in the Fire is the more daring of the two plays, its motive being to rescue a gay hero from remaining a mere footnote in an art-history textbook. But it will certainly shock art aficionados to think of the artist as a mere footnote, though Tannahill means that official histories of the artist fail to locate him at the centre of an alternative history, one that the playwright dares to write in a vividly compelling manner. In Tannahill’s rendition, Sandro Botticelli is an irrepressible libertine, renowned as much for his weekend-long orgies as for his early Renaissance masterpieces. A rampant sodomite, he has a sexual relationship with a young assistant, Leonardo da Vinci (itself a crime punishable by burning at the pyre) but he complicates matters further by an affair with Claire, wife of Lorenzo de Medici, while painting her in the guise of Venus (“The Birth of Venus”). Alas, the adultery is uncovered (in a strikingly sensual and literal fashion), and Botticelli eventually has to consign all his heretical, immoral books, nude paintings, musical instruments, et cetera to Girolamo Savonarola’s bonfire of the vanities in order to save his own life. However, Botticelli does save his most famous (and notorious) painting (the afore-mentioned “The Birth of Venus”) by disguising it rudely. Tannihill poses two ineluctable questions in this drama: Why did Botticelli participate in the horrendous bonfire, and why did he save the single painting?

In language that is rife with modern vulgarisms (“fucking” as an all-purpose word; “shitstorm”; “sit your ass down,” et cetera) and 21st century technology (cellphones, microphones, television talk shows) and media references (karaoke, Cyndi Lauper), with characters broadly sketched but pulsing with stage life, and with flagrant sexuality often on naked display, the play is a crowd-pleaser. What thickens its relevance are the frequent connections made with current events, especially in the U.S.A. of the ultra-right Republican Party and its arch demagogue, Trump. Savonarola is easily represented as a Renaissance Trump for “mostly speaking to the souls of the illiterate and ignorant…where most of his base seems to be.” Facile, perhaps, but necessary when virtually half of the U.S. seems to be impervious to truth and ethics. I enjoyed the play on the whole, while questioning some of its meta-reflexiveness and finding the alternative ending to be a case of wish-fulfillment fantasy.

The collection includes the Playwright’s Note, as well as Kirsten Bowen’s essay, “Re-Imagining History,” both of which are interesting, though limited. Bowen, for instance, links questions posed by Botticelli in the Fire to the 21st century: “Why have pleasure and sexuality been so readily scapegoated for political ends in both of these eras? How does a seemingly progressive, liberal society allow a demagogue to rise in power? What is the artist’s obligation to their community versus their art? If called to sacrifice, which is of greater value—our art or our people?” The answers to the first two seem ordinary enough: it is society that scapegoats for its own selfish ends, and it is the basest among us that permit a demagogue to flourish virtually uninhibited. The third and fourth questions are pricklier. The artist’s prime obligation, it seems to me, is to his art and only secondarily to his community. In the fourth case, who decides the valorization and the sacrifice? If it is the artist, then it is art that is of greater value for it is only through art that “our people” are memorialized and extra value attached to them.

MY C.V. (EDITED VERSION)

Education:

B.Ed. (magna cum laude) (University of Montreal)
‘A’ Diploma for Teachers
Valedictorian

B.A. (high honours average) (Thomas More Institute)

M.A. (Thesis: “The Significance of Extravagance, Mediocrity, and Fire in Hamlet”) (Sir George Williams University)

Ph. D. (Thesis: “‘The Spirit of Place’ in R.K. Narayan and V.S. Naipaul”) (Queen’s University)

 

Experience:

Discussion Leader and Lecturer, Thomas More Institute, 1969–70; 1974 (Bilingual Theatre)

Guest Lecturer, Thomas More Institute, 1981; 1987 (Modern Theatre; Clark Blaise, R.K. Narayan, and V.S. Naipaul)

Language Test Consultant, Department of Education, Quebec, 1973–74; 1974–75

School teacher for 30 years, 1964-94 (Quebec and Ontario)

Assistant Professor, McGill University, Summer 1974 (Canadian and Commonwealth Literature)

Instructor, Concordia University, 1975–76; Summer 1976; 1976–77; 1981 (Canadian and Commonwealth Literature; Modern Culture and Criticism)

Instructor, Dawson College, 1976; Summer 1977 (Commonwealth Literature)

Instructor, Humber College, 1983 (Communications)

Instructor, Centennial College, 1987–88 (Communications)

Instructor, Trent University, 1990–91; 1995 (Modern Drama; Canadian Prose; Modern Irish Drama)

Judge for the English entries in the annual Grand Prix de la Ville de Montreal, 1978

Member, Toronto Drama Bench, 1979–88

Board of Directors, Canadian Theatre Critics Association, 1981

Co‑Organizer of the Fall Conference, CTCA, Montreal, 1982

Script reader/assessor for Marion Andre, Theatre Plus 1983–84; Toronto Free Theatre, 1983

Critic-at-Large, Mississauga Library System, 2000–03, author of Off The Shelf (book reviews) and Spotlight (theatre reviews), www.city.mississauga.on.ca/library. The first such appointment anywhere in Canada

Critic of theatre, dance, opera, and books at www.stageandpage.com, 2003–2018

Judge, Scarborough Arts Council Poetry Contest, 2004

Judge, Dan Sullivan Memorial Award, Durham Valley Writers’ Group Poetry Contest, 2005

Judge, Free Verse Category, Ontario Poetry Society Poetry Contest, 2005

Consulting biographer, Norflicks/CBC film Leading Man: The Life and Times of William Hutt. (Joel Gordon, Producer/Director), 2005

Second Round Judge, Postcard Story Competition, The Writers’ Union of Canada, 2006

Judge (with Aritha van Herk and Su Croll), City of Edmonton Book Award, 2010

Judge (with Renee Abram, Shane Book, Matthew Henderson, and Ania Szado), Ontario Arts Council, Works in Progress Grant, February 2013

Delegate, The Fifth Conference of Writers of Armenian Origin Composing
in Other Languages (“Globalization and National Identity”), Tsaghkadzor and Yerevan, Armenia, July 11-15, 2013

Judge (with Pearl Pirie and Carl Leggo), Gerald Lampert Award, League of Canadian Poets, 2013

Delegate, Literary Forum: Chinese Ethnic Minority Writers & North
American Counterparts (“Our Quilts: One World, Same Dream”),
Renison University College, University of Waterloo, April 23-24, 2014

Judge (with Mishka Lavigne and Michael O’Brien), Playwright Residency, Ontario Arts Council, April 2014 competition

Delegate, Poesys 19, International Festival of Poetry of Curtea de Arges, Romania, July 8-14, 2015

Judge, Saving Bannister Poetry Competition (CAA Niagara), July 2016

 

Awards/Honours:

Lieutenant‑Governor’s Medal for the Highest Academic Achievement, B.Ed. degree, 1964

Department of English Award, Sir George Williams University, 1968

Montreal Catholic School Commission Study Grant, 1971–72; 1972-73

Runner‑up, Nathan Cohen Award for Outstanding Theatre Criticism in Canada, 1982 (Judge: Ronald Bryden)

Ontario Arts Council Writers’ Reserve Grants:

1984 (Mosaic)

1984 (ECW)

1985 (Canadian Forum)

1985 (Irwin Publishing)

1987 (Canadian Forum)

1988 (Mosaic)

1989 (Mosaic)

1990 (Mosaic)

1992 (ECW)

1993 (Mosaic)

1993 (ECW)

1993 (Stoddart)

1994 (Mosaic)

1994 (ECW)

1995 (Mosaic)

1995 (ECW)

1995 (University of Toronto Press)

1995 (Stoddart)

1996 (Quill & Quire)

1996 (Stoddart)

1996 (Mosaic)

2005 (Descant)

2012 (Dundurn)

2013 (Cormorant)

2014 (Guernica)

2015 (Quattro)

2015 (Cormorant)

2015 (Cormorant)

2016 (Guernica)

2017 (Guernica)

 

CUEW Research Grant, Trent University, 1990–91.

CUEW Research Grant, Trent University, 1995.

Mississauga Arts Award, Established Literary, 2000.

Honourable Mention, Scarborough Arts Council Poetry Contest, 2001. “To an Oriental Lover.” (Judge: Robert Priest)

First Runner‑up, Scarborough Arts Council Poetry Contest, 2002. “Venice Beach (2).” (Judge: Margaret Christakos)

First Prize for free verse, The Ontario Poetry Society Annual Contest, 2002. “Ezra Pound.” (Judge: Joan McGuire)

Runner-up, RSVP Poetry Contest, Outlooks, 2003. “Photograph of The Future.” (Judges: John Barton, Norm Sacuta, and Nancy Jo Cullen)

Top Prize, Lakeshore Arts & Scarborough Arts Council, Windows on Words Poetry Contest, 2003. “Photograph of The Future.” (Judge: Barry Dempster)

Honourable Mention, Scarborough Arts Council Poetry Contest, Windows on Words, 2003. “Ezra Pound.” (Judge: Barry Dempster)

First Prize, Haiku, Ontario Poetry Society, 2003. “Yemen at noon.” (Judge: Peggy Fletcher)

Second Prize, Queen’s Alumni Review, Well-Versed Poetry Contest, 2004. “Scarecrow.” (Judges: David Helwig, Cyril Dabydeen, Heather Grace Stewart)

Fourth Prize, Ontario Poetry Society Contest, 2005. “Japanese Garden.” (Judge: Kate Marshall Flaherty)

Longlisted, 2005 ReLit Award for Poetry (Frida: Paint Me as A Volcano)

Honourable Mention, Scarborough Arts Council, Full Circle Poetry Contest, 2006. “Flowering Perennial.” (Judge: Dwayne Morgan)

Third Prize, Dan Sullivan Memorial Poetry Contest, 2006. “Elegy for Derek Jarman.” (Judges: Joe Blades, Rob MacLennan, Ingrid Ruthig)

Finalist, Dan Sullivan Memorial Poetry Contest, 2007. “Family Viewing.” (Judges: Maureen Hynes, Phil Hall, a. rawlings)

Second Prize, Queen’s Alumni Review, Well-Versed Poetry Contest, 2008. “Family Viewing.” (Judges: Cyril Dabydeen, Heather Grace Stewart, Carolyn Smart) $100

Mississauga Arts Award (Established Literary) 2008.

Honourable Mention, Ascent Aspirations Magazine Erotica Issue, Anthology Six (Fall 2008). “Dracula Shares His Secret.”

First Prize, CAA (Niagara Branch) Poetry Contest, 2009.  “Dikranagerd.”
(Judge: Cornelia Hoogland)

Naji Naaman Literary Honour Prize (Lebanon), 2009.

Poem of the Month (November), selected by Parliamentary Poet Laureate,
2009, Ottawa, Ontario

First Prize, Scarborough Arts Council Poetry Contest 2010. “Eros.”
(Judge: Elana Wolf)

Works in Progress Grant, Ontario Arts Council, 2009.

Works in Progress Grant, Ontario Arts Council, 2012.

Cited in Contemporary Authors, Vol. 29

Cited in the International Who’s Who of Writers, 1991.

Cited in Canadian Who’s Who, 1991–current

A winner in the 2010 Dektet Series Poetry Contest, Children of Ararat.
Frontenac House, Calgary, Alberta Canada.

Long-listed, Re-Lit Award for Poetry, Children of Ararat. 2011, Canada

Honorary Lifetime Member, Friends of the Library (Mississauga, Ontario)

Armenia Year of the Book Award, St. Mary’s Apostolic Church,
2012, Scarborough, Ontario

Mississauga Arts Award (Established Literary), 2013, Mississauga,
Ontario

Honourable Mention, William Henry Drummond Poetry Contest,
2013, Ontario. “Clouds I.” (Judge: Allan Briesmaster)

William Saroyan Medal, 2013, Armenia

Canada Council Senior Arts Grant for Creative Writing, 2014.

Third Prize, William Henry Drummond Poetry Contest, 2014, Ontario.
“White Flower.” (Judge: Allan Briesmaster)

Third Prize, CAA (Niagara Branch) Poetry Contest 2014, St. Catharines,
Ontario. “Hands.” (Judge: Laurie Smith)

First Prize, Surrey International Writers Conference, Poetry Award
2014, British Columbia, Canada. “Armenian Elegy.” (Judge: Bernice
Lever)

Shortlisted for Freefall Magazine Poetry Award, 2014, “Old Griefs.”
(Judge: John Vigna)

Honourable Mention, William Henry Drummond Poetry Contest, 2015.
“Sheep in Sun.” (Judge: Kate Marshall Flaherty)

Shortlisted for Gwendolyn MacEwen-Exile Poetry Award for Best Single
Poem from a Suite, 2015. “A True Portrait of Talaat Pasha.” (Judge: Sean
Virgo)

Shortlisted for 2015 GritLit Poetry Award. “The Walls of Diyarbekir.”
(Judges: Natalee Caple, Jeffery Donaldson, Bernadette Rule)

Longlisted for Lerner & Loewe’s ‘My Fair Lady,’ Society for Theatre

Research Award, U.K., 2016

Finalist, Mississauga Arts Award (Established Literary), 2018

Longlisted for William Hutt: Soldier Actor, Society for Theatre

Research Award, U.K., 2017

 

Public Readings/Interviews:

Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library, 2001

Mississauga Public Library, 2001; 2002

Hamazkayin Cultural Centre, North York, 2001

The Idler Pub, 2001

The Ontario Poetry Society, Victory Café, 2002

Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library, April 15, 2003

Dora Keogh Pub, Exile editions, October 14, 2003

Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library, April 13, 2004

Scarborough Arts Council, April 26, 2004

Art Bar reading, Victory Café, July 13, 2004

Writers Workshop, University of Toronto at Mississauga, November 1, 2004

Victory Café, Launch of Frida: Paint Me As A Volcano, November 4, 2004

Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Mount Hope, Launch of Witness: Anthology of Poetry, November 7, 2004

Ryerson Live Poets Society, November 16, 2004

Oakville Poetry Café, Oakville Central Library, November 20, 2005

Art Bar Series, Victory Café, August 8, 2006

Presentation of Frida Kahlo poems for Word Stage, Cervejaria Restaurant, Toronto, September 14, 2006 Presented by Jennifer Dale

St. Catharines Public Library, CAA (Niagara Branch), October 13, 2007

Poetry performance for “We Are What We Have Been Waiting For” fund-raiser for PWA and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre at the Museum for New New Painting, October 15, 2007

Featured reader, St. Catharines Public Library, April 23, 2008

Reading at Launch for Blue, Theatrebooks, Toronto, April 30, 2008

Featured reader, Art Bar Series, Toronto, May 6, 2008

Featured reader, Streetsville Arts Festival, May 24, 2008

Featured reader, IV Lounge, Toronto, June 20, 2008

Book Signing and reading, Mississauga Book Fair, Living   Arts Centre, Mississauga, September 7, 2008

Featured reader, LitLive, Hamilton, September 7, 2008

Featured reader, Proust and Company, Toronto, April 4, 2009

Reading at Mississauga Book Fair, Living Arts Centre, Mississauga, September 13, 2009

Armenian Community Centre, Hallcrown Place, North York,  March 21, 2010

Stanley A. Milner Library Theatre, Edmonton, April 27, 2010

Calgary International Spoken Word Festival, John Dutton Theatre, Calgary, April 28-29, 2010

Amnesty International Fund Raiser, Streetsville, May 9, 2010

Proust and Company, Glad Day Books, Toronto, June 12, 2010

Art Bar Series, Clinton’s, Toronto, June 22, 2010

Hot Sauced Words, Black Swan Tavern, Toronto, September 16, 2010

Dektet Toronto Launch, Revival, Toronto, September 22, 2010

Oakville Poetry Café, Moonshine Café, Oakville, October 17, 2010

LitLive, Sky Dragon Centre, Hamilton, November 7, 2010

The Lyrical Goddess Celebration, Gallery 169, Stratford, April 3, 2011

Art Bar (Paupers Pub), Toronto, July 24, 2012

5th Conference for Diaspora Armenian Writers, Writers’ House, Tsagkhadzor, Armenia, July 12, 2013

Pivot Reading Series, Press Club, Toronto, October 2, 2013

Diaspora Dialogues, 905 Road Show, Guilty Dog Coffee House, Mississauga, Host and reader, March 26, 2014

Diaspora Dialogues, 905 Road Show, Covernotes, Newmarket, March 27, 2014

2014 Literary Forum: Chinese Ethnic Minority Writers & North American
Counterparts. Confucius Institute at the University of Waterloo, at Renison University College, October 24-28, 2014

Quattro Launch, The Supermarket, Toronto, April 7, 2015

Rise Up, Rise Above, Studio 89, 1065 Canadian Place, Mississauga,”
April 12, 2015

Art Bar Series, Black Swan Tavern, Toronto, May 9, 2015

Guernica Launch, The Supermarket, Toronto, June 7, 2015

Quattro Launch, Pressed Pub, Ottawa, June 14, 2015

Cobourg Poetry Workshop, Cobourg, June 18, 2015

St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church, Oakville, September 20, 2015

Plasticine Poetry Series, Habits Gastropub, Toronto, September 20, 2015

Vibrant Voices of Ontario, Word on the Street, Harbourfront, Toronto,
September 27, 2015

“Remembering Through Poetry,” Arta Gallery, Toronto, September 27,
2015

Panelist, “Hyphens and Hybrids,” The Naked Heart Festival, Buddies
in Bad Times Theatre, October 17, 2015

The Naked Heart Festival, David’s Tea, Toronto, October 17, 2015

Canada & The Armenian Genocide, City Hall, Toronto, October 22, 2015

LitLive Hamilton, Homegrown Hamilton, November 1, 2015

Radio interview by Nancy Jane Bullis, “Howl!” CIUT-FM, Hart House, University of Toronto, November 24, 2015

Dead Poets Society, Art Bar, Black Swan Tavern, Toronto, December
15, 2015

Dooney’s Café, Bloor Street, Toronto, January 19, 2016

World Poetry, New Westminster Public Library, Vancouver,
January 27, 2016

Twisted Poets, Cottage Bistro, Main Street, Vancouver, January 28, 2016

Poetic Justice, Original’s Restaurante Mexicano, Carnavon Street,
Vancouver, January 31, 2016

Armenian Genocide Commemoration, Armenian Community Centre,

Scarborough, April 22, 2018. “They Had Some Rugs” read to an

audience, including Premier Kathleen Wynne, Mayor John Tory,

MP Peter Kent, etc.

Toronto Launch for ‘William Hutt: Soldier Actor,’ Supermarket,

Toronto, May 5, 2018

Guernica Spring Launch, Supermarket, Toronto, May 27, 2018

Art Bar, Cloak and Dagger Pub, Toronto, June 12, 2018

The Secret Handshake Reading Series, Toronto, July 29, 2018

Spoken Ink, Vancouver, Burnaby, B.C., November 20, 2018

Surrey Muse, Surrey, Vancouver, B.C., November 23, 2018

 

Public Addresses:   “Letters To Bless The Eyes.” Hamazkayin Cultural Interviews Centre,
Scarborough, February 23, 2003
“Cultivating Intergenerational Relations: Exploring the Heart of
Adulthood.” Thomas More Institute Convocation, Montreal, June 10,
2003
Panelist, “The Canadian Players 1961 Arctic King Lear.” Sponsored by
Theatre Museum Canada and George Brown Theatre School. Young
Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, November 9, 2007

“On Being an Armenian Who Writes Only in English.” St. Mary’s Apostolic
Church, Scarborough, April 3, 2012
“Traumatic Encounters in The Sandcastle Girls,” Armenian Cultural Centre,
Toronto, October 22, 2012

Radio Broadcast:      “Aural Tapestry.” Chris Chambers with Keith Garebian and Peter Jelavich on German Cabaret and The Making of ‘Cabaret.’   Radio Netherlands, June18, 2002
Interview for Literary Press Group, Book Expo, Metro Convention Centre, Toronto, June 27, 2005
“Howl,” CIUT, Hart House, Toronto, August 10, 2010
Television Broadcast: “Humanism and the Arts” on Vision TV, Dec. 12, 2011
“World Poetry Cafe,” CO-OP 100.5, Vancouver, B.C., January 28, 2016

Publications:

Hugh Hood. Boston: Twayne, 1983.

Hugh Hood and His Works. Toronto: ECW Press, 1985.

William Hutt: A Theatre Portrait. Oakville: Mosaic Press, 1988.

Leon Rooke and His Works. Toronto: ECW Press, 1989.

A Well-Bred Muse: Selected Theatre Writings 19781988. Oakville: Mosaic Press, 1991.

George Bernard Shaw and Christopher Newton: Explorations of Shavian Theatre. Oakville: Mosaic Press, 1993.

The Making of ‘My Fair Lady’. Toronto: ECW Press, 1993.
2nd printing, 1998. Third printing, 2004. Rights sold to Firefly Book Club, Doubleday Book Club, Reynolds & Hearn.

The Making of ‘Gypsy’. Toronto: ECW Press, 1994.
2nd printing, 1998. Third printing, 2004. Rights sold to Firefly Book Club, Doubleday Book Club, Reynolds & Hearn

The Making of ‘West Side Story’. Toronto: ECW Press, 1995.
2nd printing, 1998. Third printing, 2004. Rights sold to Firefly Book Club, Doubleday Book Club, Reynolds & Hearn

The Making of ‘Cabaret’. Oakville: Mosaic Press, 1999. Second printing, 2004. Rights sold to Firefly Book Club, Doubleday Book Club, Reynolds & Hearn

Pain: Journeys Around My Parents. Oakville: Mosaic Press, 2000.

The Making of ‘Guys and Dolls’. Oakville: Mosaic Press, 2002. Second printing, 2004. Rights sold to Firefly Book Club, Doubleday Book Club, Reynolds & Hearn.

Reservoir of Ancestors. Oakville: Mosaic Press, 2003.

Samson’s Hair and other Satiric Fantasies. Toronto: Micro Prose, 2004.

Frida: Paint Me as A Volcano/Frida: Un Volcan de Souffrance. Ottawa: Buschek Books, 2004.

Blue: The Derek Jarman Poems. Winnipeg: Signature Editions, 2008.

Children of Ararat. Calgary: Frontenac House, 2010.

The Making of ‘Cabaret’ (New Revised Edition), New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Moon on Wild Grasses (haiku). Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2013.

Accidental Genius: The Pantheon of Modern American Poets. Toronto: Guernica, 2015.

Georgia and Alfred. Toronto: Quattro Books, 2015.

Lerner and Loewe’s ‘My Fair Lady.’  London: Routledge, 2016.

William Hutt: Soldier Actor. Guernica Editions: 2017.

Poetry is Blood. Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2018.

Against Forgetting. Calgary: Frontenac House, 2019.

Colours to the Chameleon: Canadian Actors on Shakespeare. Toronto: Guernica, 2019.

In The Bowl of My Eye. Work in Progress.

Mini-Musings: Miniature Essays on Theatre and Poetry. Work in Progress.

 

Editor:

William Hutt: Masks and Faces. Oakville: Mosaic Press, 1995.

Tiananmen Flight by Patrick S. Nicholson. Mosaic Press, 2001.

In the Museum of Leonardo Da Vinci by Jeffrey Round. Toronto:
Tightrope Books, 2014. (Shortlisted ReLit Award for Poetry)

Parts of Books:

The Question as Commitment: A Symposium. Thomas More Institute Papers/77 Montreal: Perry Printing, 1979.

The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature. ed. William Toye. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1983.

The Montreal Storytellers. ed. J.R. (Tim) Struthers Montreal:  Vehicule Press, 1985.

Beacham’s Popular Fiction in America. ed. Walton Beacham Washington, D.C.: Beacham Publishing, 1986.

Dictionary of Literary Biography: Canadian Writers Since 1960. (First Series), ed. W.H. New. Detroit, Michigan: Gale, 1986.

The Bumper Book. ed. John Metcalf. Toronto: ECW Press, 1986.

Popular World Fiction 1900‑Present. ed. W. Beacham and S. Niemeyer.

Carry on Bumping. ed. John Metcalf. Toronto: ECW Press, 1988.

The Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre. ed. E. Benson and L. Conolly. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Magill’s Masterplots II: Drama. California: Salem Press, 1990.

Magill’s Masterplots II: Juvenile and Young Adult Fiction. California: Salem Press, 1991.

Das englisch-kanadische Drama. ed. Albert Reiner Glaap Dusseldorf: Schwann, 1992.

Raging Like a Fire: A Celebration of Irving Layton. ed. Henry Beissel and Joy Bennett Montreal: Vehicule, 1993.

Great Events from History II: Arts and Culture. California: Salem Press, 1993. (Fokine’s Les Sylphides; Royal National Theatre Established under the direction of Sir Laurence Olivier)

On-Stage and Off-Stage: English Canadian Drama in Discourse. ed. Albert Reiner Glaap with Rolf Althof. St. John’s, NF: Breakwater, 1996.

Encyclopedia of Civil Rights in America. California: Salem Press, 1998. (The Long Walk Home)

Magill’s Encyclopedia of Propaganda. California: Salem Press, 1998. (John Buchan)

Ready Reference: Family Life. California: Salem Press, 1998 (Male circumcision; Jerome Bruner; Arnold L. Gesell)

Biographical Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century World Leaders. California: Salem Press, 1999. (Robert Laird Borden; Jeanne Sauve; Joseph R. Smallwood; W.A.C. Bennett; Vincent Massey; Mahatma Gandhi)

Magill’s Medical Guide: Pediatrics. California: Salem Press,1999. (Frostbite; Masturbation; Testicular Torsion; Warts; Strawberry Hemangiomas; Hymen)

Racial and Ethnic Relations in America. California: Salem Press, 1999 (Vietnamese Canadians; Refugees: Canadian Policy; African Canadians; Arab Canadians; Racial and Ethnic Jokes and Humor)

The Sixties in America. California: Salem Press, 1999 (The French Connection; John Cheever; Jane Fonda)

Encarta Yearbook, 1998, 1999. Article on Broadway.

Encyclopedia of World Geography. California: Salem Press, 2000. (Gazetteer of Southeast Asia)

Critical Survey of Long Fiction. California: Salem Press, 2000. (Gay and Lesbian Long Fiction)

World Philosophers and their Works. California: Salem Press, 2000. (An Autobiography (Gandhi), Barthes’ Mythologies; Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison)

Magill’s Guide to Military History. California: Salem Press, 2000. (Rajput Rebellion; Guam, 1944; Panipat, 1399; Akbar; Chandragupta Maurya; Edward I; Edward, the Black Prince; Henry V; Montcalm; Petain; Pyrrhus; Tigranes the Great; Charles George Gordon; Vimy Ridge)

Encyclopedia of the Ancient World. California: Salem Press, 2001. (Lucius Apuleius; Chandragupta Maurya; Croesus; Tigranes the Great of Armenia)

Magill’s Guide to Military History. California: Salem Press, 2001. (Akbar; Chandragupta Maurya; Edward I; Edward, the Black Prince; Henry V; Louis-Joseph de Montcalm; Henri-Philippe Petain; Pyrrhus; Tigranes the Great; Charles George Gordon; Vimy Ridge)

Magill’s Encyclopedia of Science: Animal Life. California: Salem Press, 2001. (Cheetahs)

Great Events of the Twentieth Century. California: Salem Press, 2001. (Adrienne Clarkson Becomes Governor-General)

Nobel Prize Winners. California: Salem Press, 2002. (Derek Walcott)

“Introduction” to Inuk (a play) by Henry Beissel. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2001.

Masterplots II: Poetry Series, Rev. ed. California: SalemPress, 2002. (Audrey Lorde’s “Rooming Houses Are Old Women”)

Cyclopedia of Literary Places. California: Salem Press, 2002. (Henry IV, Part I; Measure for Measure; Merchant of Venice; Patience; Private Lives; “Tevye the Dairyman”; Twelfth Night; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Henry VIII; King John; The Lady’s Not For Burning; The Merry Wives of Windsor; A Mid-summer Night’s Dream; Timon of Athens)

Critical Survey of Drama: 2nd Rev. ed. California: Salem Press, 2003. (Charles Ludlam; Yasmina Reza)

Rocks and Rhythm (An Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Poetry), ed. Lenny Everson. Toronto: Beret Days Book, 2003. (“Blue is a Hole” and “Prospero”)

Cherish Our Heritage (Recueil bilingue de poesie). ed. Katherine L. Gordon. London, On: HMS Press, 2004. (“The Lake”)

Witness: Anthology of Poetry. ed. John B. Lee. Mississauga, Serengeti Press, 2004. (“Revelations”; “Madness and Thirst”)

The Seventies in America. California: Salem Press, 2005.

(Literature in Canada; Jaws (film); Mon Oncle Antoine)

And no one knows the blood we share (Poems from the Feminist Caucus), ed. Katerina Fretwell (Living Archives of the Feminist Caucus, League of Canadian Poets, 2005) (“Eve”)

Great Lives from History: The Nineteenth Century, 1801­1900. California: Salem Press, 2006. (Susanna Moodie)

Great Events from History: The Nineteenth Century, 1801­1900. California: Salem Press, 2006. (1894‑1897: Armenian Massacres)

Love the Main Course. Thornhill, ON: Beret Day Press, 2005. (“Cabanel’s ‘The Birth of Venus’”; “Dracula Shares His Secret”)

Seminal: The Anthology of Canada’s Gay Male Poets, ed. John Barton and Billeh Nickerson. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007. (“Sapphic Interlude,” “The Life of Art in Thievery,” “Untitled Sound Poem”)

Arms Like Ladders: The Eloquent She (Poems from the Feminist Caucus), ed. Katerina Fretwell (League of Canadian Poets, 2007) (“Cabanel’s ‘The Birth of Venus’”)

The Saving Bannister (Niagara Poetry Anthology, Vol. 22) (“Thaya Whitten’s Red Horse”)

Garden Variety (An anthology of flower poems), ed. Lily Contento. (Thornhill, On: Quattro Books, 2007) (“Orchids”)

Great Events from History: The 20th Century, 1941–1970, Robert F. Gorman. California: Salem Press, 2007. (On the Waterfront Wins Best Picture; Saroyan’s The Human Comedy)

Ascent Aspirations, Anthology Seven (Spring 2009). (“Teotihuacan”)

Naji Naaman’s literary prizes 2009. Maison naaman pour la culture (Lebanon). (“Death in Five Segments,” “Teotihuacan,” “The Last Queen of Hawaii”)

The Saving Bannister (Niagara Poetry Anthology, Vol. 24) (Dikranegert” and “July in Diyarbekir”)

The Saving Bannister (Niagara Poetry Anthology, Vol. 25) (“Caryl in ICU” and “The Ice Storm”)

Implicate Me: Short Essays on Reading Contemporary Poems. Elana Woolf. Guernica, 2010. (“On Cabanel’s ‘The Birth of Venus”)

Indian Voices, ed. Jasmine Da Costa. Forty-two Bookz Galaxy.   2011. (“The Retreat”)

Crave It (Writers and Artists Do Food). Red Claw Press, 2011 (“Okra” and “Peas”)

The Saving Bannister (Niagara Poetry Anthology, Vol. 26) (“Homage to Vermeer”)

The Saving Bannister (Niagara Poetry Anthology, Vol. 27) (“My Father’s Shoes”)

Seek It (Writers and Artists Do Sleep). Toronto: Red Claw Press,  2012 (“Masturbation”)

Poet to Poet. Eds. Julie Roorda and Elana Wolff. Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2012. (“Desire and Illness”)

Two Letters…And Counting! Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2013. (Essay: “Tony Nardi’s Rough Theatre.”)

“Blue Jasmine” (poem), (Rampike, Vol. 23/No.1)

“Camera Work” (poem), (Rampike, Vol. 23/No. 2)

“Armenian Elegy” (poem), Surrey International Writers’ Conference
Writing Contest Anthology, 2014

Erotic Haiku: Skin to Skin, eds. George Swede and Terry Ann Carter. Windsor, ON: Black Moss Press, 2017. (Haiku poem)

Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees, ed. Lesley Strutt. Toronto: Poets.ca, 2018. (“Fallen Tree Sequence”)

Academic Articles:

“Strategy and Theme in The Art of R.K. Narayan,” Ariel, Vol. 5, No. 4, October 1974, 70–81.

“Desire as Art: Leonard Cohen’s The Favourite Game,” Le Chien D’Or/The Golden Dog, No.4, November 1974, 29–34.

“V.S. Naipaul’s Negative Sense of Place,” Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Vol. X, No.1 (August 1975), 23–35.

“The Real Course of Life: The Novels of John Buell,” Canadian Literature, No. 67 (Winter 1976), 74–84.

“’The Spirit of Place’ in R.K. Narayan,” World Literature Written in English, Vol. 14, No.2 (November 1975), 291–299.

“Narayan’s Compromise in Comedy,” The Literary Half-Yearly, Vol. XVII, No.1 (January 1976), 77–92.

The Financial Expert: Kubera’s Myth in a Parable of Life and Death,” The International Fiction Review, Vol.3, No. 2, July 1976, 126–132.

Surfacing: Apocalyptic Ghost Story,” Mosaic, IX/3, Spring 1976, 1–9.

“The Desert and The Garden: The Theme of Completeness in Voss,” Modern Fiction Studies, Winter 1976–77, Vol. 22, No. 4, 557–569. Also excerpted in Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 9, 563–566.

The Swing In The Garden: Hood’s Pastoral.” Paper delivered at The Commonwealth in Canada Conference. Concordia University, Montreal, October 19, 1978.

“Don Gutteridge’s Mythic Tetralogy,” Canadian Literature, No.87 (Winter 1980), 25–41.

“The Grotesque Satire of A House For Mr. Biswas,” Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. 30, No.3, Autumn 1984, 487–496.

The Deflationary Structure in Metcalf’s Novellas,” The Malahat Review, No. 70, March 1985, 118–130.

“In the Aftermath of Empire: Identities In The Commonwealth Of Literature,” Canadian Forum, Vol. 68, No. 780, 25–33.

General/Theatre Articles:

“Why is English theatre in Quebec becoming politically irrelevant?” Performing Arts in Canada, Winter 1978, Vol.XV, No.4, 29–32.

“Alexander Hausvater’s theatre of political shock,” Performing Arts in Canada, Vol. XVII, No.1, 48–50.

“Guido Tondino: a first-rate designer in a third world theatre,” Performing Arts in Canada, Vol. XVII, No. 4, 41–43.

“Production Log of Spinoza,” Performing Arts in Canada, Vol. XIX, No. 1, 47–54.

“The dramatic art of Brian Bedford: Unravelling the mystery from the text,” Performing Arts in Canada, Vol. XX, No.4, 33–38.

“The Rise and Fall of London’s Grand Theatre,” Performing Arts in Canada, Vol. XXI, No.2, 25–29.

“The Mythology of Hockey,” Canadian Forum, Vol.63, No. 727 (April 1983), 6–9.

“The Importance of Being Hockney,” Canadian Forum, Vol. 65, No. 755, 31–33.

“The Magic Craft: John Murrell’s poetic theatre,” Canadian Forum, Vol. 66, No. 759, 35–38.

“Comus Music Theatre,” Canadian Forum, Vol. 66, No. 762 (October 1986), 40–42.

“The Play’s the Thing: The Morality of Rewriting,” Canadian Forum, Vol. 66, No. 764, 24–28.

“Trying to Get Home: A Profile of Heath Lamberts,” Canadian Forum, Vol. 67, No. 768 (April 1987), 33–36.

“The Peter Moss Solution,” Canadian Forum, Vol. 67, No.770 (June/July 1987), 45–49.

“Enter Stage Centre: Can Toronto Build a National Theatre?” Canadian Forum, Vol. 67, No. 771, 24–29.

“Robin Phillips Reascendant,” Canadian Forum, Vol. 67, No. 773 (November 1987), 29–35.

“An Actor’s Impressions: 1964–1980 (Barry MacGregor),” Canadian Theatre Review, No. 30 (Spring 1981), 14–17.

“Eduard Kochergin at the Shaw,” Canadian Theatre Review, No. 61, Winter 1989, 13–18.

“The Goldby Touch,” Theatrum, April/May 1992, 8–12.

“Carver’s Web,” Theatrum, June/July/August 1992, 16–20.

“Shaw, Our Contemporary,” Theatrum, April/May 1993, 16–20.

“Casting Light on Stage Narrative,” Theatrum, Summer 1994, 13–17.

“Being God’s Fool: Heath Lamberts on Comedy,” Theatrum, Winter 1994–95, 13–17.

“Bringing Hamlet Home,” Canadian Forum, June 2000, 16–19.

“Murderous Indifference,” Literary Review of Canada, Vol.9, No. 3, April 2001, 11–14. Also posted on http://www.groong.com.

“Celebrating Stratford’s Fiftieth,” Books in Canada, Vol. 31, No.7, October 2002, 18–23.

 

Poetry:    the third eye, Quarry, Antigonish Review, Impulse, Inscape, Pocket Poetry (Florida), Echo, Aurora: Canadian Writing 1978, The Malahat Review, Tributaries, Surface & Symbol, The Ontario Poetry Society Newsletter, Literary Review of Canada, Outlooks, Rocks and Rhythm, Exile, Witness, Queen’s Alumni Review, Verse Afire, Ascent Aspirations, Humanist Perspectives, The Saving Bannister, The Lakeview International Journal  Of Literature and Art, Armenian Poetry Project, Rampike, Freefall Magazine, Destine Literare

Book Reviews:   Canadian Literature, Books in Canada, Canadian Forum, Quill & Quire, Quarry, Modern Fiction Studies, Chimo, CACLALS Newsletter, Journal of Canadian Fiction, Scene Changes, Canadian Theatre Review, The Gazette, The Montreal Star, Montreal Calendar Magazine, The Toronto Star, Queen’s Quarterly, Maclean’s, Essays on Canadian Writing, Metropolis, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Literary Review of Canada, Surface & Symbol, World Literature Today

Theatre Reviews and Features:  Scene Changes, Performing Arts in Canada, Journal of Canadian Studies, Queen’s Quarterly, Canadian Forum, Theatrum, Toronto Tonight, Theatre News, Royal Alexandra Theatre house program, Stratford Festival house program, Forever Young, Gaiety.ca, Lifestyles Magazine, The Canadian Encyclopedia, Shaw Festival house program

Acting (for film):     Homeless (2006). Pastor Harris. Produced, written, and directed by Horace Chan. 15 min. 30 sec. HDV (colour)

Spy City (2007). Councillor Keith Edwards. Written by Robin Dillon. Produced and directed by Horace Chan. HDV (colour)

***Numerous citations in many international books of literary criticism, theatre studies, academic essays, theses, dissertations, and biographies, such as:

Dikran Abrahamian, Minas Kojayan, and Jirair Tutunjian’s Keghart.com 2012-2014

Ernesto Acevedo-Munoz’s ‘West Side Story’ as Cinema

Fawzia Afzal-Khan’s Cultural Imperialism and the Indo-Anglian Novel: Genre and Ideology
in R.K. Narayan, Anita Desai, Kamala Markandaya, and Salman Rushdie

Shehla Ali and Alka Gopal’s Themes Prevalent in the Novels of V.S. Naipaul,” The Criterion

Alexandre Badue’s “Comedy Tomorrow, Tragedy Tonight: Defining the Aesthetics of Tragedy on Broadway” M.Music, University of Cincinatti, 2007

Misha Berson’s Something’s Coming, Something Good (West Side Story and the American Imagination)

John Francis Raymond Ashworth’s The Catholic Ethos in the Novels of John Buell.” (M.A.
Thesis, University of British Columbia)

Bibliography of Criticism of Indian Literature in English (1970-1990)

Geoffrey Block’s Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from ‘Show Boat’ to Sondheim and Lloyd Webber

Kerstin Lind Bonnier’s Furniture and Possessions in A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul” (Dissertation, Stockholm University)

Donna Bontatibus’s “Reconnecting with the Past: Personal Hauntings in Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride,” Papers on Language and Literature

Christopher Bram’s Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America

Stephen Brock’s A Travelling Colonial Architecture: Home and Nation in Selected Works by Patrick White, Peter Carey, Xavier Herbert, and James Bardon. (Ph.D. dissertation, The Flinders University of South Australia)

Diana Brydon and Irene Rima Makaryk’s Shakespeare in Canada: A World Elsewhere

Douglas B. Buchanan’s “The Canada Council, The Regional Theatre System and the English-Canadian Playwright 1957-1975”

Cordelia Candelaria’s Encyclopedia of Popular Latino Culture, Vol. 2

S. Chelliah’s “Gandhian Heroes’ as portrayed in Raja Rao’s Kanthapura and R.K. Narayan’s Waiting for the Mahatma: An Appraisal”

Robert Cooper’s Musical Austrian Jewish Exiles

Susan Copoloff-Mechanic’s Pilgrim’s Progress: A Study of the Short Stories of Hugh Hood

Sukhendu Das’s “Intercultural Dialogue: A Study of Patrick White’s Voss and A Fringeof Leaves,” IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science

Dan Dietz’s The Complete Book of 1950s Broadway Musicals

Robert D. Denham’s Poets on Painting: A Bibliography, Encyclopedia of Asian-American Literature

Jaydipsinh Dodiya’s Perspectives in Indian English Fiction

Nancy E.L. Earle’s “Writers-in-Residence in Canada, 1965-2000,” (Ph.D. Dissertation,Simon Fraser University, B.C.)

Wayne E. Edmonstone’s Nathan Cohen: The Making of a Critic

Thomas L. Erskine, James Michael Welsh, and John C. Tibbett’s Video Versions: Film
Adaptations of Plays on Video

William Everett’s The Musical: A Research and Information Guide

William Everett and Paul R. Laird’s The Cambridge Companion to the Musical

Erin Fallen, R.C. Feddersen and James Kurtzleben’s A Reader’s Companion to the Short Story in English

William Farina’s The German Cabaret Legacy in American Popular Music

Sarah Alexandra Ferguson’s Canadian Feminist Directors: Using the Canon for Social Change

Jacqueline Finch’s “The East Indian West Indian Male in Naipaul’s Early Caribbean Novels,” Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 32, No.1/2

Jason Fitzgerald’s “I Had a Dream: Rose’s Turn,” musical theatre and the star effigy

Caryl Flinn’s Brass Diva: The Life and Legends of Ethel Merman

Benjamin Forkner’s “Short Story Cycles of the Americas, A Transitional Post-Colonial
Form: A Study of V.S. Naipaul’s Miguel Street, Ernest Gaines’s Bloodline, and Gabriel
Garcia Marquez’s Los Funerales de Mama Grande” (Ph. D. Dissertation, Louisiana State
University)

Noralee Frankel’s Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee

Raymond Jean Frontain & Basudeb Chakraborti, eds. A Talent for the Particular: Critical
Essays on R.K. Narayan

Jane Frugtneit’s “F.O.O.D. (Fighting Order Over Disorder): An Analysis of Food and Its Significance in the Australian Novels of Christina Stead, Patrick White and Thea Astley”(Ph. D. dissertation, James Cook University)

Sabine Freyling’s The Sum of No Equation

Marjorie Garber’s Shakespeare and Modern Culture

Wes D. Gehring’s Genre-Busting Dark Comedies of the 1970s: Twelve American Films

Barbara Godard’s “A Literature in the Making: Rewriting and the Dynamism of the Cultural Field. Quebec Women Writers in English Canada”

Katharine Goodland and John O’Connor’s Shakespeare in Performance since 1991: Vol. 3: Canada and the U.S.

Robert Gordon’s The Oxford Handbook of Sondheim Studies

Sherill Grace’s Making Theatre: A Life of Sharon Pollock

Bridget Grogan’s “’Abject Dictatorship of the Flesh’: Corporeality in the Fiction of
Patrick White” (Ph.D. dissertation, Rhodes University)

Rainier Grutman’s “Refraction and Recognition: Literary multilingualism in translation,” Target

Judith Lynn Hanna’s Gypsy: The Art of the Tease (book review)

James M. Harding and Cindy Rosenthal’s The Sixties, Center Stage: Mainstream and Popular Performances in a Turbulent Decade (Univ. of Michigan, 2017)

M.C. Hawkey’s Imagination and Empathy in the Novels of Janet Frame

Rachel G. Hile’s “Disability and the Characterization of Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew,” Disabilities Studies Quarterly

Colin Hill’s “Leonard Cohen’s Lives in Art: The Story of the Artist in His Novels, Poems and Songs,” (M.A. Thesis, McGill University)

Warren Hoffman’s The Great White Way: Race and the Broadway Musical

 Indian Armenians: Armenians in India

Douglas Ivison’s “A Reader’s Guide to the Intersection of Time and Space: Urban

Specialization in Hugh Hood’s Around the MountainStudies in Canadian Literature

Deborah Jowitt’s Jerome Robbins: His Life, His Theater, His Dance

Dr. Badal Kariye’s A Book of South and North American Writers

W. J. Keith’s A Canadian Odyssey: A Reading of Hugh Hood’s The New Age Series

W.J. Keith’s God’s Plenty: A Study of Hugh Hood’s Short Fiction

C. Kern’s Changing Gender Roles and the Pygmalion Motif–Shaws Pygmalion and the
Musical
My Fair Ladyin their Contexts

Christel Kerskens’s “Escaping the Labyrinth of Deception: A Postcolonial Approach to Margaret Atwood’s Novels” (Ph.D. dissertation, Universite Libre de Bruxelles)

Chhote Lal Khatri’s R.K. Narayan: Reflections and Re-Evaluation

Raymond Knapp’s The American Musical and the Performance of Personal Identity

Sarah E. Kolat’s “Stripping the Veneer and Exposing a Symbol in Mendes’s ‘Cabaret’” (M.A. Thesis, University of Washington, 2015)

Aleksander Kustec’s “The Fusion of the Imagination and the Material Universe: Hugh Hood, Flying a Red Kite,” Acta Neophilologica

Jennifer Lawn’s “Trauma and Recovery in Janet Frame’s Fiction” (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of British Columbia)

Irving Layton’s Wild Gooseberries:The Selected Letters

Linda Leith’s “Quebec Fiction in English During the 1980s: A Case Study in Marginality,” SCL/ELC

Margaret Atwood: Vision and Form (eds. Kathryn van Spanckeren and Jan Garden Castro

Mary Z. Maher’s Actors Talk About Shakespeare

Fraidie Martz and Andrew Wilson’s A Fiery Soul: The Life and Theatrical Times of John Hirsch,

Masculinities in Twentieth-and Twenty-first Century French and Francophone Literature (ed. Edith Biegler Vandervoort)

Pamela Matthew’s “Native Theatre in Canada (A Report Presented to The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples by Native Earth Performing Arts Inc.) July 1993

Julius Maximilian’s “Kanadas Gesellschaft im Spiegel des Familiendramas” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wurtzburg)

Derek John McGovern’s Eliza Undermined: The Romanticisation of Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion’

Gaile McGregor’s The Wacousta Syndrome

Stephanie May McKenzies’s “Canada’s Day of Atonement: The Contemporary Literary
Renaissance, The Native Cultural Renaissance and Post-Centenary Canadian Mythology,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Toronto)

Katherine McLeod’s “’Oui, Let’s scat’: Listening to Multi-Vocality in George Elliott Clarke’s
Jazz Opera Quebecite,” Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal

Katherine Marikaan McLeod’s “Poetry and Performance: Listening to a Multi-Vocal Canada”

Scott McMillin’s The Musical as Drama

Susan McNicoll’s The Opening Act: Canadian Theatre History, 1945-1953

Kavita Nandan’s “V.S.Naipaul: A Diasporic Vision,” Journal of Caribbean Literature

W.H. New’s Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada, Contemporary Writing of Atlantic Canada

Shelley Newman and Sherrill Grace’s “Lill in Review: A Working Bibliography,” Theatre Research in Canada

Burkhard Niederhoff’s “The Return of the Dead in Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing and Alias Grace,” Connotations (A Journal for Critical Debate)

Reingard M. Nischik, eds. The Canadian Short Story: Interpretations

Rob Nixon’s London Calling: V.S. Naipaul, Post-Colonial Mandarin

Alba Olmi’s “Janet Frame: Uma Escritora de Ficcao e a Ficcao de Uma EscritoraL Os Multiplos Processos da Autobiografia Estetica” (Ph.D. dissertation, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul)

Beth Osnes’s Acting (An International Encyclopedia)

Alice Marie Palumbo’s “The Recasting of the Female Gothic in the Novels of Margaret Atwood” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Toronto)

Angela C. Pao’s No Safe Spaces: Re-casting Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality in American Theater (Univ of Michigan, 2010)

Jeong-Seon Park’s “An Exploration of the Outsider’s Role in Selected Works by Joseph Conrad, Malcolm Lowry, and V.S. Naipaul” (Ph. D. dissertation, University of London)

Violet Mary Penistan’s A Short History of the Canadian Players: 1954-1966

L. Monique Pittman’s Authorizing Shakespeare on Film and Television: Gender, Class Ethnicity

Nora Polley and Shawn DeSouza-Coelho’s Whenever You’re Ready

Kerry Powell and Peter Raby’s Oscar Wilde in Context

Arthur Pritchard’s Rev. of The Making of Cabaret, Theatre Research International, Vol. 39, Issue 1

Mohit Kumar Ray’s V.S. Naipaul: Critical Essays, Vol. 3

Dieter Riemenschneider’s “’The Train Has Moved On’: R.K. Narayan’s The Guide and
Literary History,” Asiatic

T.F. Rigelhof and Gabor Szilasi’s This is Our Writing

Mark Robinson’s The World of Musicals: An Encyclopedia of Stage, Screen, and Song

Marvin Rosenberg’s The Masks of Antony and Cleopatra

Rachel Lee Rubin and Jeffrey Paul Melnick’s Immigration and American Popular Culture: An

   Introduction

Julie Sanders’s Shakespeare and Music: Afterlives and Borrowings

Jaina C. Sanga’s South Asian Novelists in English: An A-Z Guide

Yukio Sawabe and Dr. Eijun Senaha’s An Annotated Bibliography: Vikram Seth’s Works, and Related Criticism, with a Background Study of Post-Colonial Literature and Modern Indian History and Culture

Krishna Sen’s Critical Essays on R.K. Narayan’s ‘The Guide’

Peter Simpson’s “The Trick of Standing Upright”: Allen Curnow and James K. Baxter

Sydney Singh’s Caribbean Bibliography of Critical Writing on the West Indian Novel

Cynthia E. Soldan’s “The Ghosts of Margaret Atwood and Henry James: An Analysis of the Relationship Between Surfacing and ‘The Jolly Corner’” (M.A. Thesis, Lakehead University)

Alex Spence’s Gay Canada: a bibliography and videography, 1984-2008

Teresa Stankiewicz’s “Performance, Playwriting and Pedagogy: Teaching Devised Theatre
In the Digital Age,” Theatre Arts

Larry Stempel’s Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theatre

Richard Stirling’s Julie Andrews (An Intimate Biography)

Nathan Stith’s “Creating West Side Story: An Investigation of the Sociopolitical Backgrounds and Collaborative Relationships of Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim in the Creation of the Original Broadway Production of ‘West Side Story’” (M.A. Thesis, University of Colorado at Boulder, 2011)

Fraser Sutherland’s “Hugh Hood’s ‘The New Age’ and the Canadian Style” in Images of Canada: Interiors and Exteriors, ed. Yugoslav Association for Canadian Studies

Neil Sutherland’s History of Canadian Childhood and Youth: A Bibliography

Aya Suzuki’s “Deconstructive Analysis of Sally Bowles as an American: Fake Femme
Fatale in Cabaret

Peter Szaffko’s “The Hungarian Connection: Hungarians and the Theatre in Canada”

Sushma Tandon’s Bharati Mukherjee’s Fiction: A Perspective

Millie Taylor and Dominic Symonds’s Studying Musical Theatre: Theory and Practice

Frances Teague’s Shakespeare and the American Popular Stage

Brian Trehearne’s Canadian Poetry 1920 to 1960

Jeff Turner’s “Cabaret: Play Guide.” Theater Latte Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust.

Brian Uzzi and Jarrett Spiro’s Collaboration and Creativity: The Small World Problem

Amanda Vail’s Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins

Elizabeth Wells’s West Side Story: Cultural Perspectives on an American Musical

Jeffrey Aaron Weingarten’s Lyric Historiography in Canadian Modernist Poetry, 1962-1981

Alan Whitehorn’s The Armenian Genocide: The Essential Reference Guide

Matt Windman’s “The Roots of Tradition.” rev. of Wonder of Wonders: A cultural History of

   ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ Theatre News Online

Gina Wisker’s Margaret Atwood: An Introduction to Critical Views of Her Fiction

Stacy Wolff’s A Problem Like Maria

Megan Bollander Woller’s A Place for ‘West Side Story’ (1961): Gender, Race, and Tragedy in Hollywood’s Adaptation

Megan Bollander Woller’s ‘Happ’ly-Ever-Aftering’: Changing Social and Industry Conventions in Hollywood Musical Adaptations, 1960-75

Carolyn Quinn’s Mama Rose’s Turn

Peter Szaffko’s “The Hungarian Connection: Hungarians and the Theatre in Canada,” Central European Journal

BAWTREE MEMOIRS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


AS FAR AS I REMEMBER
(Coming of Age in Post-War England)
By Michael Bawtree
Like No Other Press
374 pages, $24.95 (paper)

THE BEST FOOLING
(Adventures in Canadian Theatre)
By Michael Bawtree
Like No Other Press
366 pages, $25 (paper)

One of the salient things in the two Michael Bawtree’s memoirs under review (there is a third volume yet to come) is a sense of fortuitous “accident” and self-fashioning.  Bawtree (who has had a long career as playwright, director, journalist, educator, and actor) conducts us down a long memory lane with many twists and turns, without in any sense wearing out his welcome because his writing is eloquent, amusing in an understated way, and instructive. Born in Newcastle, Australia, in 1937, to an English father (Raymond) and an Australian mother (Kathleen), he grew up in England, when it was deep in its rather rancid class-consciousness. Bawtree’s father ran a gamut of professions (bookkeeper, failed pig farmer, country hotel proprietor of sorts with his resourceful wife, and the creator of a failed farm service operation), and his father’s ancestors came from a superior artisan class, with some being Dissenters (and, therefore, ineligible for entry to Oxford or Cambridge). No one before his father’s generation had university degrees, and of his five uncles, only two received higher education that led in their cases to ordination in the Church of Scotland.

However, although dissent is in his family history, Bawtree doesn’t really register as a maverick except when (in The Best Fooling) he espouses a middle-class anarchism (by way of academia) and a weird, self-defeating ideology of “un-led theatre” in his career as director and artistic director in Vancouver and Ottawa. Both volumes of his memoirs reveal how he transcended his family working-class background and how England and, eventually, Canada made him. Bawtree’s fine way with language gives his writing a sheen that speaks to his boyhood in boarding schools, and education at Radley College and Oxford (where his talents for languages, photography, and music came to the fore). Distinguished names (Peter Cook, Laurence Olivier, C.S. Lewis, Christopher Ricks, Bill Glassco, et al) are dropped into the narrative—sometimes too briefly—but never simply for snob value, although many of these names would probably be unfamiliar to readers unfamiliar with English cultural history of Bawtree’s youth and early adulthood. Glassco, however, should be on the mind of any Canadian familiar with the Alternative Theatre Movement, and Glassco becomes a crucially important figure in the second volume that carries us into Bawtree’s occasionally turbulent involvement with Canadian theatre.

It was the three years at Oxford that gave Bawtree a chance to decide whether he and his peers would be “loners or bons viveurs, idle or industrious, self-deprecating or arrogant, showy or reserved, respectful or contemptuous.” The university was “a pressure cooker of activity” because of the shortness of the three terms (8 weeks each), and the standard of scholarship was far higher than that found in North America: an undergraduate degree could be earned only after a candidate’s successfully writing nine three-hour papers in four and a half days, covering the entire gamut of English, from Anglo-Saxon poetry to 1910. The cut-off year, however, betrayed an endemic snobbery, a condition once described by Anthony Burgess as “a tradition of wariness of approach to the study of contemporary letters…It is in the European academic tradition to stick to the safe past, and the past is a couple of days before yesterday.” It was a snobbery that also tainted such venerable Canadian institutions as McGill and the University of Toronto for the longest time.

As Far As I Remember encompasses its narrator’s family vacations to the seashore, wanderlust, and two years of British military service, when he came face to face with British imperial politics and experienced some of the civil war in Cyprus. But as amusing or as instructive as these sections are in his chronicle, an equally serious undercurrent in the narrative is what he calls his “secret malaise,” first recognized in adolescence and then deepened in youth. This is the love that he hardly dares to name explicitly, but one that is felt as something dangerous yet essential to his real nature. Bawtree’s fleeting encounters with a few women end in disappointment, as he maintains a protracted, secret battle between his two selves. The “malaise” gets more explicitly exposed in The Best Fooling, a more “Canadian” narrative because it settles questions for Bawtree about life and career in his adopted country where he is free to fashion himself more definitively than in post-war England.

How Bawtree came to Canada marks one of the most significant happy “accidents” in the second memoir, that is, possibly, less charmingly nostalgic than its predecessor but far more pungent. He and Bill Glassco (“extremely modest, even diffident in his manner”) were part of the Worcester Buskins at Oxford, where Glassco dazzled Bawtree and others as a pianist and composer. In the early 60s, Glassco excited Bawtree with a glowing report on the burgeoning radical changes in Canadian culture and theatre through such things as the CBC, National Film Board, the Crest Theatre, and the Stratford Festival. Bawtree was seduced, gratefully accepted Glassco and his wife’s generous hospitality, and gained entry to a circle of influential cultural figures, such as Robert Weaver and Esse Jungh. It also helped that Glassco’s father was wealthy and was able to hire Bawtree as an editor for the Royal Commission report he was preparing on the CBC.

Other happy accidents occur in the course of the second volume. Bawtree befriends actress Helen Burns, who was married to Michael Langham, and this leads to Langham’s appointing Bawtree as dramaturge, and later commissioning him to write a new play (The Last of the Tsars) after Langham’s deep dissatisfaction with Nicholas Romanoff by American writer William Kinsolving.  Later, Jean Gascon offers him the position of literary manager at Stratford, but Tom Hendry decides to remain rather than leave his post, so Bawtree seems to be completely out of luck until Gascon gets Hamilton Southam (Director General of the National Arts Centre) to hire Bawtree as artistic director of the experimental Studio Theatre, where Bawtree fails with his risky selection of a decidedly non-Canadian subject for his maiden play: the Spanish-American War of 1898 in Cuba!

The Best Fooling (with its very title drawn from Shakespeare) provides important insights into attitudes and practices concerning Canadian theatre. This volume substantiates some of the principal complaints of our ultra-nationalists about colonial romanticism—the syndrome that infects any colonial society that looks to Colonial Headquarters for approval. The Stratford Festival is summarized as an institution devoted to “the world of the classics—to the old English culture that had been nurtured in me from my schooldays.” This honesty extends to Bawtree’s depictions of Langham as “the consummate Englishman in his manner and clothes” and of Helen Burns (actress and Langham’s wife at the time) as someone “capable of spouting off some fairly arrogant comments about the parochial place she found herself in.” Such arrogance is, of course, resented by the likes of John Colicos and Douglas Rain in particular. Langham is acknowledged, of course, as a brilliant director, but Bawtree identifies a major flaw in him and other British guest directors: “The fact is that Stratford had been run for years by directors (including Michael Langham) who had a faintly colonial attitude towards their Canadian company, and [who] did not particularly expect or encourage creative participation on the part of their actors.” An ironic fact is that Bawtree’s most successful artistic ventures at the festival came with British designers (Leslie Hurry, Desmond Heeley) and casts (Tony van Bridge, Jane Casson, Nicholas Pennell, Pat Galloway, Barry MacGregor, Carole Shelley, and Mary Savidge) mainly in Restoration and 18th century comedies, so while his generalization may well be accurate, it omits another point of view: the plain fact is that without these “fairly colonial” Langhams and others, there would have been no Stratford, and Canada would still be mired in retrograde nostalgia for a cultural nationalism devoted to documentary plays and collective collaborations, performed in basements or backspaces. Moreover, an astute observer would well note that Canada today is far more open to the neo-colonial influence of the United States than to the older ways of England.

Cultural icons appear in the narrative, some serving as heroes (John Hayes, William Hutt, and Gabriel Charpentier), some as villains (notably William Wylie and Robin Phillips). Bawtree records his admiration for John Hirsch, a talented man who, to me, was always a contradiction of artist and hack, cultural commissar and sinister politician—a devious figure who fattened himself off the foment of nationalism. Robin Phillips, on the other hand, is summarized as “that cold, elegant angel-fish,” who manages (in Bawtree’s account) to “charm” his way with the acting company, intimidate the Board, and skilfully sabotage Bawtree’s tenure at the festival by a sort of benign neglect. Bawtree is certainly within his rights to colour his memoir by his own perspective on things, and Phillips is no longer around to contradict him. What is more important to the general reader than any “villains” or personality clashes is Bawtree’s rather loose aesthetic. He recounts how he became radicalized by a visit to Colombia where he witnessed “dangerous” political theatre, and subsequently dreamed of “a ‘dangerous’ Canadian theatre.” The rest of his memoir gives an account of his flirtations and eventual disillusionment with this dream that could, perhaps, never be realized, given that it had no real plot, no story, no shape.

More accidents, more failure. At newly-founded Simon Fraser University (where he is appointed professor), his gamble with the Centralia Incident proves to be “unfinished business” that is never really finished. Ultimately, even his tenure at this university (where John Juliani and other radicals hold sway) ends in fatigue and disillusionment. There is a savage god at work, indeed, as there is in his long, turbulent relationship with Colin Bernhardt (the love of his life), and Bawtree does not scant on his emotional pain and confusion about this somewhat Shakespearean drama. Yet, once again, there are happy “accidents”: a creative friendship with Maureen Forrester that helps with Bawtree’s founding of Comus Music Theatre; and American generosity south of the border that cannot be matched in Canada where artists are prone to encounter grudging recognition, minus pleasure in “ambitious energy.” The contemporary case of Robert Lepage and the whole absurd controversy over cultural appropriation can be entered into evidence.

The ending of The Best Fooling is tinted with pathos but leads to a new beginning. Bawtree discovers painfully how theatre politics can break your heart in more ways than one. He loses his status, job, and home in Stratford, and anticipates losing his lover, Colin, long bedevilled by various psychological distresses. But in 1977, Bawtree is on his way for the first time to the Banff Centre, where he will play a major role in the following decade. And then, we know from his biography that Nova Scotia beckons as well. That fortune awaits us in his third (as yet unfinished) volume.

JEFF ROUND REVIEWS ‘WILLIAM HUTT: SOLDIER ACTOR’ ON GOODREADS, JULY 24, 2018

William Hutt: Soldier Actor 
by

9020606

Jeffrey Round‘s review

Jul 24, 2018
it was amazing

 

WILLAM HUTT SOLDIER ACTOR by Keith Garebian (Guernica) reviewed by Jeffrey Round

Critic Keith Garebian has illumined the life and career of William Hutt, in print, since his 1988 William Hutt: a Theatre Portrait, followed in 1995 by a collection of essays written by Hutt’s colleagues, Masks and Faces, and now with William Hutt: Soldier Actor.

Garebian’s assertion is that, despite maintaining a career anchored in Canada for more than five decades, Hutt was one of the greatest actors of his time and comparable to the likes of Laurence Olivier (Garebian’s favourite thespian.) Indeed, the consensus of both critics and colleagues is that Hutt was a man too big for his time and place, but who went on to enlarge the scope of both with his considerable talents.

As a biography, Soldier Actor is more than comprehensive, with a dazzling array of photographs and personal documents, including letters and notes on Hutt’s craft, some of which Garebian calls “unprinted ramblings” made available only after Hutt’s death in 2007 at the age of 82.

As evidenced in many ways in this book, Hutt the man was an individual of notable personal integrity. As a soldier, he went to war and earned a medal of honour without firing a shot. (He was in the medical corps, where his bravery was considered exemplary.) What the war taught him, Hutt contended years later, was “the inestimable value of a single human being.”

He was also actively homosexual in a time when being openly gay was difficult, if not downright dangerous. His integrity, however, demanded honesty in this as with other regards, and Garebian does not shy away from revealing details of Hutt’s personal life.

The body of the book, of course, deals with Hutt’s career, from his beginnings as an unschooled actor who went on to work on some of the world’s most famous stages alongside many of the most acclaimed actors of his time. The text fairly sparkles with names and anecdotes, but this is not a tell-all exposé. Rather, it is a recounting of the life of a remarkable actor as it unfolded alongside Canada’s nascent theatrical scene.

Hutt worked during the debut season of Stratford and was there for many seasons. He was said to have giggled on first hearing that Shakespeare was to be presented in small-town Canada. At the time, Stratford was so small that Hutt had to find a map to locate it, having “heard rumours that it was in Ontario, but that was all I knew.”

His colleagues at that auspicious beginning included people like Christopher Plummer, Kate Reid, William Shatner, and Tyrone Guthrie, one of the founding lights of Stratford. The names are impressive and the list grows as Hutt’s career flourished and his creative genius expanded with each role he took on. Yet somehow he remained indelibly Canadian and famously never gave up his Canadian accent, even while performing Shakespeare, a revelation in its time.

In what lay his genius? Garebian calls it Hutt’s “rare ability to absorb audiences within his circle of illusion,” painting a clear picture of how Hutt not only thought as an actor but also how he appeared onstage. Garebian minutely examines Hutt’s ability to mine roles for depth and a fresh approach, whether it be in giving Hamlet’s Polonius more respect than is often accorded him or in giving Long Day’s Journey into Night’s James Tyrone a more sympathetic turn as a man brought down by his failures as a human being. It is at this point, Garebian writes, that “acting ceases to look like acting.”

On meeting the author, and learning he was writing a book on Hutt, actor Sigourney Weaver told Garebian that he “couldn’t have a better a subject.” She might just as easily have said that Hutt couldn’t have had a better biographer.

Jeffrey Round is an award-winning author. His latest book is The God Game (Dundurn).

WHENEVER YOU’RE READY

(Nora Polley on Life as a Stratford Festival Stage Manager)
By Shawn DeSouza-Coelho
ECW Press
394 pages
$22.95 (paperback)

Nora Polley’s very long tenure as a Stage Manager at the Stratford Festival was a distinguished one. Daughter of Vic Polley, administrative director for the Festival, she certainly had an easier entrée into the organization than many others, but she proved her mettle and deserved all the praise and special honours she eventually received. Polley evidently kept a diary, from which portions are used in this rather peculiar biography. Not strictly an “as told to” book, it presents a challenge to readers who need to persevere through many unnecessary devices and flat passages to reach a few valuable revelations.

After a Prologue in 1969, in which she breathlessly recounts how she fetched coffee for Nathan Cohen during his visit to Trinity College Drama Society, followed by an offer from Jean Gascon to become stage manager, the narrative wobbles and staggers for a long time. Overly generous quotations from Shakespearean scripts (sometimes repeated three times in one fell swoop) with parallel descriptions of technical cues for sound, lighting, and scene changes slow the rhythm. In one instance, the quotations run for the equivalent of six full pages, succeeding in little other than trying a reader’s patience.

There is a great deal of name-dropping (which is, perhaps, inevitable in a long career), but only trivial information as to why many of the dropped names are important. Polley’s capsule comments are frequently restricted to trivial adjectives about looks and coiffure: Leo Ciceri is called a “handsome actor from Montreal”; Barry MacGregor “a handsome British actor with lush black hair”; Rory Feore (brother to Colm) is described as having “short wavy hair and a constant vibration,” though it is not at all clear what he is vibrating to. Often only first names are used, and, for instance, only real theatre fans or scholars can determine who the visiting American actress (simply called Kathleen) was who walked out of a production because she couldn’t cope with Robin Phillips’s way of working. (It was Kathleen Widdoes.)

The narrative is highly idiosyncratic in other ways, exposing the lack of good editing for this book. Sometimes allusions are made to a character in a play without reference to the play’s title. There is also a strong sense of death that lingers as Polley recalls the passing of many family and theatre figures. There is a dramatic instance when Eric Donkin drops dead during a rehearsal, but there is also one strange episode where Leo Ciceri’s death is recounted in the middle of a description of a family turkey dinner, without any family member apparently having second thoughts about pausing over a wing or leg or gravy.

Fortunately, there are nuggets in the book. These are not usually the photos, which are generally too small and indistinct to be of much value to anyone other than an earnest archivist. What is of more interest is that Nora Polley reveals her vulnerabilities and antipathies on and off the job: a failed marriage; the deaths of relatives, friends, and colleagues; her triumph over breast cancer; some special friendships; a distaste for theatre politics (especially as manipulated by John Hirsch, who exacted his revenge against anyone who liked Phillips); her love-hate relationship with actors over their “bullshit political games” (to which I can relate with deep-down sympathy, knowing as I do that the bullshit has a whole lot to do with unjustified egomania); her genuine sentimentality for respected or beloved artistic directors (such as Phillips, David William, John Neville, Richard Monette); and her true feelings (not all positive) about her vocation and the direction of the Festival.

The best parts of the book are the glimpses into the sometimes quixotic, perplexing, unsettling natures of genuine artists. We learn that Maggie Smith wears only custom-made sable fur false eyelashes. We get to spy on Robin Phillips banging on timpani to pace actors or his fiddling with sliders on a dimmer board to set the mood. We also learn how he elicited marvellously spontaneous discoveries from actors in rehearsal. We discover the professional loyalty and consideration of Martha Henry and Seana McKenna who refused to sign new contracts unless Stage Managers had their own issues settled first. We learn yet again of William Hutt’s dry humour, Richard Monette’s early shyness about his body, and John Neville’s first duty as artistic director to rehire company personnel who hadn’t been asked back by Hirsch. Each reader will probably have his or her own favourite moments. Mine include Polley’s shocking discovery of and her pathos for the physical and, perhaps, mental deterioration of Robin Phillips shortly before his death, and, more tenderly, a vignette of Sara Topham reciting lines from Juliet as she sits beside Richard Monette’s grave.

While far from truly coherent, the book is the product of Nora Polley’s love for her vocation. A propos her career, she claims that “If anybody notices you doing your job, you’ve just made a mistake.” Polley is hard on herself for one big mistake she once made years ago, but she missed only two performances as SM all her career, and never through her own fault. She calls herself “stupidly lucky” to have worked with Phillips. She is too modest. The Festival has been stupidly lucky to have had her services for over half a century. And, ultimately, theatre lovers may feel lucky to have a book of some of her cherished memories.