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HUMANITIES 433 North of America is a valuable addition to the field of American letters and Canadian Studies. Occasionally repetitive in its format and wording, and oddly restricted in its time-frame (references to Edmund Wilson's 0 Canada and Wallace Stegner's Wolf Willow suggest the significance to be found in twentieth-century material), it offers a comprehensive and scholarly treatment of what is, especially for Canadians, an important subject. In his generic and chronolOgical treatment of the subject, Doyle maintains a judicious balance that lends weight and credibility to his far-reaching scholarship. North of America is an important book the usefulness of which will be evident for years to come. (MICHAEL A. PETERMAN) E. Ross Stuart. The History of Prairie Theatre Simon and Pierre. 291. $24.95 When Ross Stuart first began to research material for his history of prairie theatre, he was intending to fill a major gap in the records of Canadian theatre history on a popular level. Now, nearly ten years later, this work breathes an air of obsolescence which is not entirely the fault of its tardy publisher. Not that the book has been superseded, nor is it likely to be for some time. Rather, it fails to address the real interests of those most likely to read the book, either as popular theatre history or as scholarlyresearch. It is too dull to be popular and too unfocused in its contemporary information to catch the attention of the general reader. The total absence of illustrations is another factor, plus a lack of cultural particularity of either place or theatres. While theatre historians will welcome the accumulation of facts, particularly for the thirty-year coverage of little theatre movements and the account ofprairie theatre-in-education which is unique to the country, they will be disappointed on at least two counts: the inexactness of documentation and, in the final analysis, the incompleteness of information. The recent direction of the still relatively new discipline of Canadian theatre history is properly towards depth before breadth, a principle based on the sensible view that the groundwork in specific areas must be thorough in order to give authority to eventual overviews. For example, Mary E. Smith's Too Soon the Curtain Fell (1981) traces the theatre activity of one city, Saint John, in the nineteenth century; Chad Evans's Frontier Theatre (1983) examines the same period in British Columbia. Closer to Stuart's own subject isJohn Orrell's modest model ofhistorical particularity , Fallen Empires: The Lost Theatres of Edmonton, 1881-1914 (1981). Stuart's The History ofPrairie Theatre, purporting to cover the years 1833 to 1982 for the entire provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, is closer in kind and significance to Murray Edwards's seminal example of 434 LETTERS IN CANADA 1984 the sweeping approach, A Stage in Our Past (1968). This is a work now viewed moreĀ·as a catalyst in its time than as a model for present-day theatre history research. Most scholars have abandoned the view that . something is better than nothing, that monograph publication is the appropriate stimulus for correction and expansion. Like Murray's book, Stuart's appears to be more thorough than it actually is; like Edwards's I eastern' Canada, Stuart's I prairie' is too large for a single study and perhaps for a single researcher. Much individual work on prairie cities and theatres is currently in progress, some published in journals, studies that are already pointing to omission, error, and misrepresentation in The History ofPrairie Theatre. Stuart's book is divided into four major categories: pioneer theatres and touring companies; the amateur era; the educational theatre; and the professional theatre of the past fifteen or so years. The first two sections are divided generically (i.e. theatre buildings and theatre companies) as well as geographically, but the overall structure of the book is a city-by-city and province-by-province breakdown within each of the four sections, a structure that fragments both the historical and cultural perspective of place. The first section perhaps offers the best justification for this structure, since in the theatre of the early years the cities of Saskatchewan and Alberta were outposts...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 433-435
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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