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534 LEITERS IN CANADA 1997 Ann Saddlemyer and Richard Plant, editors. Later Stages: Essays in Ontario Theatre from the First World War to the 1970s University of Toronto Press. xiv, 498. $6o.oo cloth, $24.95 paper In this fine collection of essays, Ann Saddlemyer and Richard Plant are to be congratulated for continuing the important work begun by Saddlemyer in 1990, in Early Stages: Theatre in Ontario 18oo-1914. At a time when discussions of 'history' and 'histories' are frequently a forum for heated debate, this handsomely printed volume illuminates and develops our understanding of a cultural past. Later Stages: Essays in Ontario Theatrefrom the First World War to the 1970s held for me (born and educated in Ontario) half-remembered stories as well as countless new and fresh lines ofinquiry. It is a volume rich with vignettes and scenes from Ontario's 'adventures in theatre/ spanning almost an entire century. Depending on individual researcher's needs or interests, the specific chapters will hold different attractions. For this reviewer, Eric Binnie on 'Theatrical Design' and Anthony Stephenson on 'Theatre Criticism' were of particular interest. Binnie's chapter on design takes the reader from the early designers, mainly trained in fine arts, to the impact of the establishment of the Stratford Festival in 1953. Binnie argues persuasively and with ample detail that Stratford, an institution not always held up as an nntarnished model, was a profitable training ground for designers who now work across the conntry. Stephenson contextualizes the shifting role of theatre critics and criticism over the years. From the anonymous reviewers/reporters of the late nineteenth century to reviewers of the 1980s, Stephenson charts the various voices who responded to their contemporary cultural world. Early reviewers tend to be dismissed or, more problematic, become firmly linked to Stephenson's assessment of 'personality.' However, as the century passes and more reviewers emerge, Stephenson begins to centre his narrative specifically on theatre criticism itself. By the postwar period, reviews and reviewers begin to proliferate until the familiar faces of Robertson Davies, Herbert Whittaker, Nathan Cohen, Mavor Moore, and Oscar Ryan appear on the scene. It is in his assessment of this exciting time in criticism that Stephenson is most compelling. With these voices and others, there is a clear shift in the direction and aims of theatre criticism. However, these two chapters are only two out of nine. In Robert B. Scott's 'Professional Performers and Companies' we see the shift from touring companies to the very different cultural milieu of the postwar years. In fact, the changing years become the common thread in this collection . The editors indicate the pattern thatis unveiled in each chapter, and most telling is their image of a wheel, 'each spoke representing a different critical approach, history continually turning back on itself while pointing to future events and ambitions.' Each chapter, of course, stands on its own. HUMANITIES 535 David Gardner's meticulous research on ;Variety,' Ross Stuart's thoughtful response to 'Summer Festival and Theatres/ Martha Mann and Rex Southgate 's more personal acconnt of 'Amateur Theatre,' Alexander Leggatt's selective but persuasive 'Plays and Players,' and Heather MacCallum's reportage of 'Resources of Theatre History,' are all in themselves complete. Individual chapters begin to resonate as recurring figures appear at different points in the various narratives. Saddlemyer and Plant have drawn together an impressive body of material. As their preface makes clear and as Heather McCallum's closing essay reminds us, however, this is but a partial story of these later stages. In their preface, the editors point out gaps in the wheel, spokes still to come. Specifically, they acknowledge the dangers of historical research where a hierarchy of standards and values is passed from generation to generation, from reviewer to researcher. They acknowledge, for example, that the contributions of women are largely absent from their pages, as is the 'theatre created in non-English immigrant communities, as well as among our Native people and in the Franco-Ontarien community.' McCallum closes her essay with a recommendation she made first in 1973: 'the responsibility of the Canada Council should include the requirement that all funded theatre companies deposit copies of relevant printed...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 534-535
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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