If the content you are seeing is presented as unstyled HTML your browser is an older version that cannot support cascading style sheets. If you wish to upgrade your browser you may download Mozilla or Internet Explorer for Windows.

Ashley, Audrey

Theatre critic for the Ottawa Citizen 1961-1985, Audrey Ashley was also the Citizen's Music and Drama editor from 1961 to 1977. During this period she covered professional companies such as the Town Theatre (1967-69), Theatre Aquarius (1970-72), the Great Canadian Theatre Company (1975-), Penguin Productions (1978-83), Theatre 2000 (1979-83), and companies at the National Arts Centre (1969-) as well as amateur groups such as the Ottawa Little Theatre and the Orpheus Society.

Born Audrey Harris in Birmingham, England, on August 1, 1927, she married James Ashley who ran a repertory company in the city in 1948 and moved with him to Ottawa in 1951. She succeeded Lauretta Thistle as the Ottawa Citizen's Music and Drama Editor in October of 1961 and for twenty-five years served as the paper's theatre critic. In addition to her Ottawa beat, she regularly covered the Stratford Festival and Shaw Festival, as well as occasional productions in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and New York. Following her move to Stratford, Ontario, in 1985, Ashley continued to review on a free-lance basis for the Ottawa Citizen and the Stratford Beacon Herald. Her biography of Mervyn (Butch) Blake and his 42 seasons with the Stratford Festival, With Love From Butch - A Stratford Actor was published in 1999.

In his analysis of Ashley's reviews, James Noonan writes that she "looked for those things in a play that revealed the universally human, and for those qualities in the directing, acting, and the technical aspects of a performance that enhanced the human elements in a play." Noting the much shorter tenure of Audrey Ashley's successors at the Ottawa Citizen, Barbara Crook (1986-91), Michael Groberman (1991-94) and Janice Kennedy (1994-99), Noonan adds that "no woman in Canada has been a regular theatre critic longer."

In 2005, the Capital Critics Circle in Ottawa established a theatre award in Ashley's honour. She died August 16, 2010 at the age of 83 in Stratford.

Readings: "The Making (and Breaking) of a Regional Theatre Critic: Audrey Ashley at the Ottawa Citizen 1961-1985," James Noonan, Theatre Research in Canada, Vol. 17, No. 1, Spring 1996. Establishing Our Boundaries: English-Canadian Theatre Criticism, edited by Anton Wagner, University of Toronto Press, 1999.

Last updated 2020-02-21