Opening Act, The: Canadian Theatre History 1945–1953

The Opening Act: cover

The Opening Act

Canadian Theatre History 1945–1953

by Susan McNicoll


  • Available May 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-113-9
  • ebook ISBN 978-1-55380-122-1
  • PDF ISBN 978-1-55380-159-7
  • 7-1/2″ x 10″ Trade Paperback, 328 pages
  • 45 b&w photos
  • Canadian Theatre History

The conventional opinion is that professional Canadian theatre began in 1953 with the founding of the Stratford Festival. But Susan McNicoll asks how this could be, when the majority of those taking the stage at Stratford were professional Canadian actors. To answer this question, McNicoll delves into the period to show how in fact the unbroken chain of Canadian professional theatre began just after World War Two, when a host of theatre people decided that Canada needed its own professional theatre groups.

Drawing on personal interviews with many of the actors and directors active in the period after the war, McNicoll explores the role of such companies as Everyman in Vancouver, New Play Society in Toronto, Canadian Repertory Theatre in Ottawa, Théâtre du Nouveau Monde in Montreal, and many more. In 1953 the Stratford Shakespeare Festival ultimately showed the world that Canada was ready for centre stage, but the real birth of professional theatre happened in the years leading up to that moment.

The volume includes over 45 photos of scenes from plays of the time and selections from McNicoll’s interviews with such luminaries as Christopher Plummer, Joy Coghill, Amelia Hall and Herbert Whittaker.

“This is a delightful trip through a time when English Canada’s theatre scene mercifully turned ‘pro’ and brought all us eager young hopeful thespians some dignity and recognition on our own home ground.”
— Christopher Plummer

Reviews & Awards:

“A major strength of the book is McNicoll’s letting the players tell their own stories…. This is an indispensible, highly readable compendium of the essential characters of a critical period in our theatrical history.” —BC Studies