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Literary Criticism Drama

Collective Encounters

Documentary Theatre in English Canada

by (author) Alan Filewod

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Dec 1987
Drama, Canadian
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    Publish Date
    Dec 1987
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Alternative theatre has been one of Canada's strongest cultural institutions over the past twenty years. Coinciding with a major revival of nationalism in Canadian culture during the late 1960s, this strength was in evidence throughout the country, and provided fertile ground for the growth of an important dramatic genre: the collectively created documentary play. Typically inspired by a distinctive community or a political issue, these plays are created through a process that begins with a group of actors researching a specific issue or distinctive community, and ends with a performance aimed at a specific audience. Some of the works thus created represent the most popular plays ever staged in Canada.

In this study of the genre as it has developed nationally, Alan Filewod examines six landmark examples in terms of their impact on their respective theatres and their role in Canada's cultural development generally. The plays include Theatre Passe Muraille's The Farm Show, Toronto Workshop Production's Ten Lost Years, Globe Theatre's No. 1 Hard, Twenty-fifth Street Theatre's Paper Wheat, The Mummers Troupe's Buchans: A Mining Town, and Catalyst Theatre's It's About Time.

Each of these six plays represents an aspect of the documentary genre. Together they evoke a period of unprecedented activity in Canadian theatre and the wide range of social, political, and cultural issues that have driven it.

About the author

Alan Filewod is professor of Theatre Studies and director of the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph, Ontario. His research fields include Canadian theatre history, radical political theatre and masculinist performance in war play and re-enactment. His books include Committing Theatre: Theatre Radicalism and Political Intervention (2011), Performing Canada: The Nation Enacted in the Imagined Theatre (2002), Collective Encounters: Documentary Theatre in English Canada (1987), and, with David Watt, Workers' Playtime: Theatre and the Labour Movement since 1970 (2001). He is a past president of the Association for Canadian Theatre Research and of the Association for Canadian and Quebec Literatures/Association des littératures canadienne et québécoise, and is a former editor of Canadian Theatre Review. As a theatre activist he was a member of the Mummers Troupe in Newfoundland in the 1970s, and in the 1980s was a founder of the Canadian Popular Theatre Alliance. Honours include the Ann Saddlemyer Book Prize (twice), the Richard Plant Essay Prize (both from the Canadian Association for Theatre Research), the President’s Distinguished Scholar Award at the University of Guelph, the University of Guelph Distinguished Professor Teaching Award, and the Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations Teaching Award.

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