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Eight Men Speak

A Play by Oscar Ryan et al.

Alan Filewod, Oscar Ryan, Edward Cecil-Smith, Frank Love, Mildred Goldberg

Publication Year: 2013

This volume comprises a reprinting and gloss of the original text of the 1933 Communist play Eight Men Speak. The play was banned by the Toronto police after its first performance, banned by the Winnipeg police shortly thereafter and subsequently banned by the Canadian Post Office. The play can be considered as one stage – the published text – of a meta-text that culminated in 1934 at Maple Leaf Gardens when the (then illegal) Communist Party of Canada celebrated the release of its leader, Tim Buck, from prison. Eight Men Speak had been written and staged on behalf of the campaign to free Buck by the Canadian Labour Defence League, the public advocacy group of the CPC. In its theatrical techniques, incorporating avant-garde expressionist staging, mass chant, agitprop and modernist dramaturgy, Eight Men Speak exemplified the vanguardist aesthetics of the Communist left in the years before the Popular Front. It is the first instance of the collective theatrical techniques that would become widespread in subsequent decades and formative in the development of modern Canadian drama. These include a decentred narrative, collaborative authorship and a refusal of dramaturgical linearity in favour of theatricalist demonstration. As such it is one of the most significant Canadian plays of the first half of the century, and, on the evidence of the surviving photograph of the mise-en-scene, one of the earliest examples of modernist staging in Canada.

Published by: University of Ottawa Press

Series: Canadian Literature Collection


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-6

Table of Contents

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pp. v-8

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pp. vii-viii

Working on this edition of Eight Men Speak has been a labour of love for me, and I hope some of my passion for it has rubbed off on the graduate student assistants who have been invaluable researchers, proofreaders and commentators. I offer thanks and appreciation to Lee Baxter, Robert Dawson and Samantha Dawdy, who helped me immensely with the manuscript, and to Siscoe Boschman for...

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Critical Introduction

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pp. ix-57

Eight Men Speak occupies an ambivalent place in the canons of Canadian dra-matic literature. It is at once a play, a Communist Party leadership pageant and a political campaign; a text and a text event. It is better known for the controversy it generated and the bans and censorship to which it was subjected than for its dramatic...

Eight Men Speak

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pp. 1-4

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pp. 5-8

Why are the Canadian authorities afraid of this play? Why do they move heaven and earth to prevent it being presented for a second time? Why has the order gone out from the Ontario Parliament Buildings that any theatre which is rented for the showing of eight men speak shall at once lose its license? Why did the Winnipeg police and the Manitoba Government...

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Act I

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pp. 9-18

The scene is the lovely and expensively “landscaped” garden of the Warden of the Penitentiary, Stone. To the right of the stage can be seen part of the Warden’s house. Steps lead from the door of the house on to a terrace on which is arranged attractive garden furniture —two or three easy chairs and a small wicker table. The table bears the neces-sary utensils for the “cocktail” hour. Steps lead down ...

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Act II

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pp. 19-26

In this scene, the stage is in complete darkness. The voices come from prisoners in their cells. 2nd voice (sarcastically): The government’s doing all it can, boys. Can’t you be 3rd voice (sarcastically): For heaven’s sake...

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pp. 27-34

The scene is the Workers’ Court. At the right rear is a raised Judge’s dais, draped with red. Seated on this dais is the workers’ judge and his two co-judges. They are wearing black sateen shirts, open at the neck, and black sateen trousers. Around their necks, a red kerchief. (The uniform of the Workers ...

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Act IV

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pp. 35-40

...shadow of this, together with the shadow of the bars, is thrown onto the backdrop alongside the head and shoulders of Buck. The sound of five shots is heard. At each shot Buck is seen flat-tening himself against backdrop, crouching out of the way of the bullets. The curtain drops The scene is the interior of a large cell. Across the entire...

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Act V

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pp. 40-53

The scene is the same as Act III. —the Workers’ Court, with one exception, a bench at rear of stage, between Prisoners’ Box und the Witness Stand. After giving their evidence, the various witnesses take a seat on this bench. When the curtain goes up, all are in their respective places —the Judge and Co-Judges on the raised dais; the Clerk at his table; the c.l.d.l. at her desk; Guard X sitting in the...

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Act VI

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pp. 53-56

The curtain rises slowly on a street scene. The raised Judges’ dais, draped in red, is at the rear centre of stage. A painted banner covers almost the entire backdrop and depicts a crowd of workers, bearing banners. The three Worker Judges are in their places on the dais. To the right and left of Judges’ dais are levels, grouped on these are workers. The Clerk of the Court and his table and chair are missing in this scene, as is also the Witness Stand. At the extreme right, front, is the c.l.d.l., sitting...

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Dossier: Documents, Reports and Reviews

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pp. 57-92

...4. Response from the Student League: The Varsity, 6 December 1933.13. Toronto Daily Star, continuing report on ban, 15 January 1934.15. Mass Meeting Resolution on the Freedom of the Stage in Canada.16. E. Cecil-Smith condemns the government response. 1934 (March–April). 19. E.W. Harrold reviews the published edition of Eight Men Speak, Ottawa Citizen, ...

Explanatory Notes

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pp. 93-102

Textual Notes

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pp. 103-106

Works Cited

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pp. 107-113

E-ISBN-13: 9780776620749
E-ISBN-10: 0776620746
Print-ISBN-13: 9780776607962
Print-ISBN-10: 0776607960

Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 5 Illustrations, black & white
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Canadian Literature Collection