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LETTERS IN CANADA: 1935 III. DRAMA (List IV) w. S. MILNE In any consideration of creative work in drama, one must remember the difference between it and other literary forms. The book of a novel is the novel; the book of the play is merely a record from which can be recreated the vision of its author, by means of a producer and actors, on a stage, before an audience. Dramatic literature is a by-product of drama. For this reason, the scope of the present survey has been widened to include, as far as possible, copies of all plays by Canadian authors first publicly performed during 1935, in addition to those published during that year. There has been no dearth of material, much of it of merit. The special awards made at the Drama Festival for the best Canadian play and the best production of a Canadian play have borne fruit from the Maritimes to Vancouver Island. Writers and producers are co-operating. That anomalous monstrosity, the "closet drama," 'is now little in evidence, for young writers, seeing their plays in rehearsal, are learning to abandon "literary" dialogue for the rhythms of speech. Many of the plays here can;.. sidered show a mastery of the mechanics of the theatre, an adroitness conspicuously absent from most of the attempts of a decade ago. One indeed feels 'that content has not kept pace with form. That, however, is not too greatly to be deplored. Facility of expression brings with it a facility of ideas. One sees no masterpiece , but the way is being prepared. There never y~t was a great playwright who was not first a man of the theatre. There are few full-length plays in this survey. At present the commercial market need not be considered, and it is obvious that as long as little-theatre groups prefer the short play, competitions intermittent scenes and for the lovely, shimmering background of marsh and dyke and grassland, the book is well worth reading. Dark Acres, by John Heroes McCulloch, is the story, told in a plain, hard Canadian accent, of the depression on the prairies and the devastating havoe caused by the crash of the wheatmarket in 1932. Its harsh sincerity and the compelling interest of the narrari~e make it a notable ~ddition to Canadian fiction in 1935. The Men of Kildonan, by the same author, is an historical romance of the Selkirk settlers and their trek to the Red River Valley. Mr. McCulloch is fairly successful in his attempt to recapture the feeling and idiom of another age. He is completely successful in his descriptions of the country through which the settlers passed and the country to which they came.] 389 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY encourage it, and drama festivals demand it, the one-act play will continue to be the chief output of our native playwrights. It is an excellent form of apprenticeship. One Canadian, however, has actually succeeded in getting professional production of a full-length play. Nicholas Cosentino, a Toronto Italian, now acting in New York, is the author of "Moon Over Mulberry Street," which opened at the Lyceum Theatre th~re last faU. The play has not yet been published and, unfortunately, I have not been able to see a manuscript copy. William Irvine, an ex-member of parliament, is the author of The B,"ains We Trust, a full-length thesis play published by Nelson. Like too many plays of this sort, it presents characters which are mere puppets. The story is unfolded largely through reported action, and much of the dialogue is cliche. It is worthy of mention, however , as one of the few Canadian attempts at a play of ideas, with politics as theme. During 1935, however, Mr._ Irvine has written another full-length play, You Can't Do That, soon to be published, which, while equally pre-occupied with national problems, is as delightful as the other was tedious. He has viewed his theme more objectively, humanized his characters, and retained his sense of humour. As a result, he has written one of the wittiest and most amusing comedies I have encountered for some time. The plot...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 389-395
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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