This week we celebrate World Theatre Day (March 27th) and last week, World Day of Theatre for Children & Young People (March 20th). It’s a funny business, this business we call “show business”…. according to PBS, in 534 or 535 BC a wandering bard named Thespis leapt onto the back of a cart and recited poetry as if he were the characters involved – and from Thespis came “thespians”…actors.
Here, in what eventually became known as Canada, we have a rich theatrical history of our own. In 2008, Yvette Nolan wrote “before the idea of Canada, long before Vikings set foot on the island now known as Newfoundland”, for perhaps 15,000 years, the Aboriginal people incorporated performance into their daily lives – singing, dancing, storytelling, drumming, using masks and costumes*.
Contemporary western theatre in Canada is much more recent – arguably, it is less than 100 years old. Perhaps the “founding father” is Vincent Massey. In 1922 his article The Prospects of a Canadian Drama, stated we must be actively concerned with "the process of education. We must create our public, and the instrument of its creation will be, of course, a new Canadian theatre". In 1951 his Massey Report sparked the foundation of the Canada Council, among other initiatives.
On World Theatre Day, let’s acknowledge those who came before us, who carved the path we walked today. We stand on the shoulders of thousands of artists who led the way for us.
*Yvette Nolan, http://www4.nac-cna.ca/pdf/eth/aboriginal_theatre.pdf
Whatever you choose to do tomorrow, please take a few minutes to think about live theatre and how it impacts your life. What was the last show you attended? Why did you attend? How did the experience affect you?